Keep your fingers to yourself

Too many fingers can have an effect on your typing and your appetite, as a young temp discovered in Perth.
In 1985 I got a temping job as a secretary at police headquarters in Perth. About 12 of us were sent to the Criminal Investigation Bureau (CIB) to process the state’s criminal records onto the computer system.
Getting in and out of the building was like the opening sequence of Get Smart. The bureau had its own lock-down section within the HQ and it was difficult to use the kitchen and toilets because the doors locked behind you and we didn’t all have the right passes, so we’d have to get an officer to accompany us. Everyone was completely straight-laced and several of the temps were fired and no reason had to be given, due to the nature of the work. Usually, it was because they’d made a joke about friends who’d smoked dope.
It was an exciting section – one day they brought bomb debris into the office for examination and another time I got to hold a hatchet that had been used in a murder.
There was one phone in our area and it was permanently guarded by a uniformed police officer. We had to ask permission to make a call and then every word was monitored to make sure we didn’t pass on any records information.
The detectives had a black sense of humour and were very sociable. They held events at each other’s houses and once I went for a ride with the police sirens blaring. The detectives also had a billiards room. All the cues were lined up on the wall and padlocked as they’d had problems with someone stealing them.
Hardly anyone in the bureau used to go to the canteen, as it was too difficult to get out of the lock-down section and the only exit to the canteen was lined with stomach-churning murder photographs.
After a couple of weeks in the lock-down area, I was whingeing about there being no chocolate or soft drinks and the detectives told me they had half-price Kit Kats in their fridge, which was padlocked. I handed over the money, they unlocked the fridge and said “OK, get one.”
I reached in and there were severed fingers in plastic bags next to the Kit Kats. “What are those fingers doing in the fridge?” I asked, and they said it was something to do with checking fingerprints: “We only keep them for three days.”
That was it – they were men of few words. I went back out to the records area and didn’t say anything, but I never ate that Kit Kat and never again did I buy one from them.

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