Chemical weapon

June 29th, 2006 at 1:07 pm by james

A friend I haven’t heard from in a very long time got hold of me yesterday (cunningly not disclosing his email address – perhaps I should downgrade his status to acquaintance). Still, he reminded me of one of the highlights of the time I spent working in an office at Monument.

It was late May and warm, as the blistering summer of 2003 started to get underway. The London ricin plot had been uncovered and the emergency services were practicing full decontamination drills at the local tube station. The building I worked in had bomb-proofed windows that we couldn’t open and downstairs security who would have liked nothing better than to have a phalanx of determined intruders – preferably in full armour – to deal with on a quiet afternoon. All mail coming into the building was x-rayed as a matter of course. If you got through the front doors you had security, an electronically operated barrier and keycard operated lift to negotiate before you could get anywhere remotely useful. There’s some question as to whether there actually was anywhere useful to get to in that building, but we were clearly Very Valuable People in our T-shirts and jeans on the 5th floor.

Anyway, I was sitting at my desk minding my own business when I got a cryptic call from the ground floor spycatchers:
“Hi James. Are you expecting anything from someone called Nick?”
“Ummmm. Nick who?”
“It just says Nick.”
“Don’t think so, no. Why, what is it?”
“Well … it seems to be a test tube. Were you expecting anyone to send you a test tube?”
“[deafening pause] … No, pretty sure I haven’t ordered a test tube from anyone.”
“OK James, we’ll take care of it.”
“OK, thanks. Oh, and please don’t send it up here …”

Ten minutes later an embarassed security guard brought me a padded envelope (somewhat the worse for wear) containing a cigar tube and a note from Nick congratulating me on the birth of Josie. I later heard that the security team had braved the risk of imminent horrible death crouching behind a row of cabinets in the x-ray room while one of them gingerly opened the package.

It was a good cigar …

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