Deciding what it means to be grown-ups.

Saturday, 22 December 2007
by tony
filed under About Us
Comments: 17

I feel the need for an addendum to Max’s post about our new office feature. Not least because Max didn’t use the above blog subject, which we’d decided to use in the first place! xkcd, thank you so much for planting the seed in RJ’s head, and for being one of the best web-comics evar.

I’m sure a few people are wondering how we got from discussion to actually going ahead with it… well, here goes….

22:30 Thursday Evening: RJ and Laurie joined IRC, with one thing in mind – Randall’s new ball pit.
22:40: Laurie attempts to call McDonald’s Head Office to find out where they buy their ball pit balls from – they’re closed.
22:50: We do a little creative googling, and it quickly becomes apparent that all the suppliers of playpen balls are US based. Our plan is balls, in pit, by 5pm the next day; buying from the US isn’t going to work.
23:00: After even more creative googling, Alex and I simultaneously find that bags of 100 and 400 balls are available from toys ‘r’ us; however, they close at 10pm, and don’t open until 8am, and their website is about as useful as a chocolate skillet to locate stock at stores, or indeed, locate your nearest store.
23:15: Jackpot! I find Euro-Matic – Purveyors of fine… balls.
23:30: I book a Streetcar Van, so that we have some way to transport balls around. At this point, we’re working under the slightly warped assumption that toys ‘r’ us will have enough balls.

Between now at 8am, there’s a blank patch in my memory, it involved mistaking radius for diameter, however, which lead to a severely reduced estimate of the number of balls we’re require; sadly, it did not involve sleep.
We had at this point decided to buy a rigid swimming pool, to fit what is currently the music practice room, and then fill that with balls.

08:30 Friday: I send RJ a text message letting him know that “Operation Ball Pit is go” (I’m ex military, sue me.)
09:00: After a discussion on IRC, we decide that the best option is to turn the whole room into a ball-pit, as we can’t source a swimming pool that doesn’t require water in it to stay ‘erect’. The practice room measures 15×10ft – 150 cubic ft. Based off that, we figured we needed 283 cubic ft of playpen balls…. or 23,000 in real terms. As we’d expected the night before, toys ‘r’ us had in total (across the 5 stores I called) ~6000 balls.
09:05: RJ spoke with a woman at Euro-Matic; unfortunately, their sales office in London isn’t a warehouse… their warehouse is in Birmingham; Tamworth to be exact… 121 miles away.
09:10: We do some research on vehicle type, and find our little Streetcar VW Transporter Van to be sadly lacking in the cargo containment column — many many cubic feet lacking. I’d at best have to do two runs to their warehouse to be able to get the balls we’d need; which would add overhead expenses, as you only get a certain number of miles included with the van. On top of this, I’d have to average ~90mph to be able to get there and back, then do the second trip and be done before 5pm. Desperate times call for desperate measures – I call Sixt car rental, and ask for the longest wheel base van they have – cargo capacity == 450 cubic ft. Perfect. It should just fit all of the bags of balls.
09:30: I call Euro-Matic, put the order request through, they’re happy for me to drive up to collect it, and just need the license plate for the van I’ll be driving.
10:00: I’d chosen a Sixt location about 6 miles away from the office, so we needed to drive up there with the current van, drop me off with the larger van, and Laurie would have the small van for sundries during the day; unfortunately, Laurie hadn’t arrived yet, so I set off to pick him and Muz from their place.
10:15: A bus hits the drivers wing mirror and doesn’t stop. I’m no longer able to see down one side of the little streetcar van, and the glass is cracked to hell.
10:20: We set off for our 6 mile journey, through London traffic, going in completely the wrong direction than I would have gone if I’d thought about exactly where we were going before blindly following the GPS. A 20 minute journey turned into a 40 minute journey.
11:00: I take possession of an LDV van. I drove these back in the military too. They haven’t improved. 3.5 liters of TDi engine, and they have issues getting up to 80mph.
12:00: After working my way through traffic, road works, someone piling their car into another car, and a detour, I’m on the open road, in 5th gear, foot to the floor, attempting to make up time. My schedule means that I have to be at the depot no later than 14:00; if I overrun, I may as well call it quits then and there.
13:00: Downhill, with a tail-wind, the max speed of the LDV is about 87mph. Fortunately, the roads are relatively good, not too much congestion, fewer idiots per mile of road than usual, and I’m making good time – 40 miles to go.
13:45: I pull into a huge shipping interchange, pass through the main gate, and get into the queue of trucks and vans who are waiting to Load/Offload. My scheduled loading time is 1 hour, so I’m good until 15:00.
14:30: After locating the Logistics guy I needed, he moved a couple of storage units full of ball bags (the bags pictured in max’s post).
15:00: The rear of the van is now completely packed with bags (I’m very very disappointed that no-one took a picture of it when the doors were first opened when I arrived back. The awesomeness of 22,500 balls in the back of one van is, well, awesome. Yes, I had 500 balls in the front of the van too – they wouldn’t fit in the back.
15:10: Finally leaving after signing collection slips, logistics slips, and getting a pass to leave the depot. (I always had a dream of being a trucker; in a way, I think I’ve lived my dream of that for now) Spoke to RJ on the phone to let him know I was on my way back, and find out that we’d selected a different room for the ball-pit, as we’d rather keep the practice room too. Laurie and Muz were going back and forth between many many places to pick up everything else that was required – perspex, etc.
16:20: Back on the motorway, and approaching the M1 roadworks, I find out that Sixt didn’t refill the washer bottle for the van, and the road is dirty. As I filter into the single lane that runs on its very own, with cones on one side, and a nice, big metal railing on the other, my visibility is getting obliterated by the bits of dirt and crap that I’m unable to get rid of. About a mile into the more-miles-than-i-care-to-think-about section of single carriage death-road, that has no lane markings, no reflective aids, nothing marking the outer limits of the road, I pretty much totally lose visibility out of the windshield. I spent the next 40 minutes or so driving by watching what cars in front were doing based off their headlights, and judging my position on the death-road by glancing out of the now fully down windows (yes, they were dirty as hell too). After this, I took a 10 minute rest break to get food and refill the water bottle.
16:50: Picking my way through London traffic heading back to the office, my ETA is looking at ~17:10-17:20. The stop-start-stop-start nature of it is enough to make the baby jesus cry.
17:25: Finally, I pull into the office car park, and people pour out of the emergency exit to help unload the precious cargo.

At this point, I had to go return the van to Sixt; Laurie and I again set off in convoy, me driving the large one, Laurie in the streetcar-van. I decided, foolishly, to detour in the heart of London to find fuel (Sixt charge a bomb per liter to refuel, as compared to gas stations). This lead to Laurie being driven into by a coach… and damaging the wheel-arch of the streetcar… on the opposite side the bus had murdered earlier. Yet again, the coach driver proved that so many people these days have no scruples at all when it comes to driving, as he just drove away after Laurie pulled over to exchange insurance details.

We eventually made it back to the office in one piece, to wallow around in the newly constructed ball pit, for the next several hours.

Total time to get a ball-pit up and running from planning to completion: 19 hours.


  1. Paul
    22 December, 20:04

    I…I don’t have any words.

    I’m just in awe.

    This should be made into a movie.

    Paul – 22 December, 20:04
  2. Tony Dodd
    22 December, 20:23

    I know. I really wanted the whole thing to be recorded, unfortunately, due to technical issues and lack of time, we weren’t able to. =(

    Tony Dodd – 22 December, 20:23
  3. Vincent
    22 December, 20:47


    Vincent – 22 December, 20:47
  4. Ricardo
    23 December, 01:21

    Awesome. Absolutely awesome!

    Ricardo – 23 December, 01:21
  5. Campbell
    23 December, 02:44

    So many things to go wrong in there it isn’t funny, surely people can’t be that … poop … drivers can they?

    Campbell – 23 December, 02:44
  6. Rob Szarka
    23 December, 04:02

    Why am I not surprised to find that the good folks at are fans of xkcd?

    I don’t think I’ve ever read a blog post with the word “balls” repeated so many times, though. I can only imagine the Google searches you’re going to be attracting… ;)

    Rob Szarka – 23 December, 04:02
  7. mattgcn
    23 December, 06:01

    I adore the XKCD reference, and of course the fact that your office is now full of balls.

    mattgcn – 23 December, 06:01
  8. markus
    23 December, 11:12

    You really are crazy people! :D I love it!

    markus – 23 December, 11:12
  9. Jens
    23 December, 14:45

    Crazy, lovely kids. Any idea what we are doing with the balls afterwards? My suggestion is distributing those balls to 23 kindergartens. :)

    Jens – 23 December, 14:45
  10. Tony
    23 December, 15:34

    “Afterwards”? Wtf kinda crack are you on man? There is no afterwards.

    Tony – 23 December, 15:34
  11. Muz
    24 December, 04:35

    @Jens: The balls are staying there, the Ball Room is to be a permanent feature of the new wing of the office!

    Muz – 24 December, 04:35
  12. Jens
    24 December, 23:11


    Jens – 24 December, 23:11
  13. jhimbob
    25 December, 10:08

    damn you guys. and your balls.

    i doubt enough jokes have been made in reference to that

    it’s like wii. the stream (of jokes) is endless

    jhimbob – 25 December, 10:08
  14. Richaod
    25 December, 13:46

    You guys have officially surpassed Google as the most ridiculously awesome place to work…

    And taking inspiration from xkcd! Brilliant.

    Richaod – 25 December, 13:46
  15. bram
    27 December, 16:24

    this is even better than 24 :-)

    bram – 27 December, 16:24
  16. attila
    9 January, 17:58

    now i am sitting inside the ball-pit and feel like i just cannot imagine any better place to work at. awesome :D

    attila – 9 January, 17:58
  17. kaklong
    21 January, 22:49

    what it feels to grow up for me is..

    to be able to get married right now without having to ask too many permissions.. Urgh..

    kaklong – 21 January, 22:49

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