Stan Hey: If you can't get down to the pub, try the internet

'I have yet to receive a copy of the "Bradley & Claire" e-mail, the apparently salacious correspondence between a London lawyer and the PR executive he had a fling with.'

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It has been so widely circulated that his firm is seeking corporate vengeance on its creators and transmitters. If anyone out there has a copy, my address is attached below. This is of course a professional obligation rather than a prurient indulgence, because if the uproar doesn't die down soon, the Government is going to step in and appoint an e-mail tsar to monitor computer traffic, a "Dirty Mac", if you will.

It has been so widely circulated that his firm is seeking corporate vengeance on its creators and transmitters. If anyone out there has a copy, my address is attached below. This is of course a professional obligation rather than a prurient indulgence, because if the uproar doesn't die down soon, the Government is going to step in and appoint an e-mail tsar to monitor computer traffic, a "Dirty Mac", if you will.

I don't want the job. On the contrary, I'm here to argue for the unfettered transmission of smutty jokes and nudge-wink gossip, whether from work places or from private residences. There isn't a business institution or home-based worker that hasn't consumed or sent such material at one time or another over the past five years. The internet has become the easiest forum for the joke, a replacement for the pub banter that we used to enjoy when boozy lunches were still allowed, or before we were forced to work solo with nothing more than a noisy, brightly crested cockatiel for company. ("Shut up, Kramer, can't you see that I'm bloody working?")

That this should have become a necessary process is due to the arrival of such liberating technology as the Internet, and to the increasingly oppressive practices of corporate capitalism. We are expected to work harder than a decade ago, to put up with open-plan spaces so that all human contact can be monitored. We are timed-in and timed-out of the building, assuming you have the right pass or the correct entry-code, and displays of occasional drunkenness or lust are strictly prohibited.

Workers have always sought an escape from the mental burden of factory or office. When I worked in a tobacco factory in Liverpool's docks, the sole means of "escape" was the smuggling out of small quantities of cigarettes or tobacco.

An exotic game was played out between security staff and workers on a daily basis, and it made the stifling, noisy, inhumane environment bearable. By "parachuting" parcels of baccy off the roof to waiting accomplices on the canal-bank, the workers were borrowing the defiant catch-phrase from the TV series of the time, The Prisoner - "I am not a Number, I am a Free Man!"

In my first "media" job, at a cheaply run London radio station, the long hours were relieved by excursions to pubs "out of hours" and there was the first recorded example of "Ugandan discussions". Our racing correspondent used to turn up in top hat and tails, well-oiled but still able to broadcast. Later, at a trendy London magazine in a warren of run-down offices, flagrant assignations and trips to the loo to, er, "powder the nose" were the two usual means of self-expression during the working day. With working behaviour so much more controlled today, e-mail jokes are the contemporary equivalents of these escapades.

I receive an average of five jokes a week by e-mail, 50 per cent of them being about David Beckham, and they have little shelf-life because they are distributed so quickly - a stand-up comedian on the internet would be soon out of material. Some are funny, some crude, some devoid of humour, but I like getting them because it "humanises" my day.

So, did you hear about the Year-5 school-trip to the races? A young lady teacher is charged with helping boys if they have difficulty in the lavatory. One shrimp complains that he can't reach the urinal because it is too high for him. The teacher lifts him up by the armpits and is shocked to glimpse a sizeable Percy being pointed. "Are you really in the Fifth?" she asks. "No, I've only got rides in the first and second races, thanks."

stanhey@aol.com

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