Bring back the floppy disk

Peter Livingstone

I’ve been threatened many times as a principal, and it’s not of the physical threat type, though that has happened twice.

No, the most common method is if I don’t get what I want, I will take it higher or public, or both.

So I’m in a quandary because the auditor appointed to produce our annual accounts by May 31 hasn’t delivered and I am really not bothered by that, but if it was me who hadn’t produced a report that is a legal requirement then I bet I would have been threatened with “next steps” action.

Should I publicly name this Timaru-based company that begins with a guy’s name that rhymes with fartin’ and ends with a name similar to snakefield, or should I just not worry about it?

It brings back memories of the day I used a floppy disk as a desk jockey’s way of giving a faceless organisation the proverbial middle finger salute.

Back in the day when I was a teaching principal at Maruia School, Buller District, I had to send in a bus audit for the school.

Now the entire valley consisted of only 70 houses and the school sat in the middle.

The bus would pick up and drop off one half of the valley kids and then do the other half.

It just drove up and down one road, making it the world’s most simple bus run.

Every year the exact same information was sent to the contractor who passed it on to the ministry.

So right in the middle of all of my other duties I got the request to fill out pages of questions and a map that located where each and every pick/drop off point was.

Naturally it was ignored as its importance to me and the children was minimal.

Weeks went by and I didn’t do anything about it, then I got a reminder letter.

I ignored it and another month went by when I got a phone call.

The very serious and earnest person wanted to know why they hadn’t received this life-saving information about where 32 children get on the bus.

I said it was on my “eventually” list and only once I had had a donut and coffee.

This didn’t go across very well and the polite pencil-pusher decided to remind me that there were consequences for not completing this world-changing questionnaire.

Of course I had to ask what would be the punishment – any boy does.

It’s better to know how severe the punishment is before going ahead with the rule breaking behaviour anyway.

Well, I was in for a treat!

There were two serious, serious, very serious consequences, said pious box ticker.

First, the school may have its operation funding withheld at the next quarterly instalment date.

No worries, I replied, we actually have enough in the account to last a year, so that won’t worry us.

Then, the second would be the tabling of the school’s name in Parliament!

Oh yes, please!

That would be the pinnacle of my career!

You see no-one knew where our school was.

Could you imagine the leader of the opposition thumping the bench in front of them and demanding the member for Buller explain why Maruia School had not submitted an Excel spreadsheet and a map showing where a little 28-seater bus trundles along State Highway 63!

Our school would be world famous in Wellington.

I actually laughed when told this consequence, much to the disgust of the uptight bus auditor.

Then I relented and agreed to supply the data, which was to be on an Excel spreadsheet and emailed.

So in a fit of passive aggression I opened up the oldest computer in the school – an Apple Mac LCII.

I loved these machines, they took floppy disks and we still had them in the school.

I then proceeded to open Appleworks and create a spreadsheet.

It was saved on to the floppy and safely posted by horse and cart over the Lewis Pass and on to Christchurch.

I giggled every now and then thinking of the righteous bus master gleefully opening the parcel, knowing they had finally got their way, only to discover a floppy disk.


The Big Kahuna of Maruia strikes again!

So not surprisingly, there was a phone call later that week.

I ignored it, because by then I had created a spreadsheet and had it waiting to email.

A few days later I did send it, with a map that I had added some special features to.

There was a signpost showing which way to Parliament and a tiny picture of The Magic Schoolbus – with me as the driver.

– By Peter Livingstone


Peter Livingstone is the principal of Tinwald School. The views expressed in this column are his and do not represent the views of his school, the Ashburton Guardian or the Mid Canterbury Principals’ Association.