Things have been a bit stressful at work lately. Not quite six weeks ago, I completed a very high profile project. There were a few minor glitches, but things overall went fairly well.

Before that project was even complete, I was already being pulled onto another project, also very important, and also with a very high profile. We’re evaluating several complex software packages to replace a highly customized mission critical application, we’re doing it on a very short schedule, and it turns out that there were some bad assumptions early on about the level of effort required for the evaluations.

This past week, the inevitable happened.

An office with caution tape across the doorway and what appears to be a chalk outline on the floor.

No, no, no. Nobody died. Just a case of a sense of humor coming into play.

Friday a week ago, I was intensely working on the project and to minimize distractions had kept the office door closed most of the day. (Interestingly, most people assumed it was my officemate who didn’t want to be disturbed. Either way, the effect was the same.) Around 5:30, I noticed the silhouette of someone standing outside my office door and upon opening it, discovered my boss taping a piece of yellow Caution tape across the doorway.

I laughed and even obliged by collapsing on the floor. As my boss snapped a photo, a passerby commented on my performance, “He dies well.”

The caution tape stayed up over the weekend confusing both the cleaning staff and several co-workers. By the end of the day Monday though, the boss hadn’t done anything with the photos and then sent out an email saying he would be out for the next few days.

When he returned on Thursday morning, he laughed to find the caution tape across his door. When he found the “chalk” outline (actually done with masking tape) he needed several minutes to stop laughing. His favorite part was a touch an accomplice had added (it’s difficult to mark an outline of yourself) where the outline ran over (and fastened to the floor) an envelope which had been slipped under the door. He even laid down on the floor for a photo of himself in the outline.

My boss, surrounded by a chalk outline.

Inevitably, somebody who hears this story will comment that I have too much spare time. To me, this seems like a fairly reasonable use of five minutes. It certainly beats letting the stress get to the point where someone in a more “official” role is drawing outlines.