Imagine that your job was so unimportant that you could suffer a massive stroke in your office and no one noticed. For five days.

Although no one seems to be talking about it in quite that manner, that is apparently what happened to a Computer Specialist at the University of Southern Maine last month. He suffered a massive stroke in his office on October 5th, but was not discovered until 5 days later, on October 10th. According to police records, 45 year old David Norton, of Portland, was barely alive when USM police found him in his locked office. Unfortunately he died Oct. 15th at the Maine Medical Center.

The biggest irony is that while he lay disabled and immobile in his office, with no one noticing his absence, his car was ticketed three times for illegally parking overnight on campus.

Norton was an employee of the University of Maine System, working as a senior communications specialist on computer networks across different campuses. He was not found until after a co-worker reported he’d missed a meeting and couldn’t be reached.

His mother, who is understandably distraught, is asking university officials to require the school police to check every university office every day. While I sympathize with her loss, I am not sure that is a practical solution. The campus apparently has 75 buildings, 1,300 offices and nine police officers. Assuming it took just 2 minutes to check each office, it would take 5.5 officers, or 56.1% of the force, roughly 8 hours to complete the task every single day – and that is without a state or federally mandated meal break. Of course we must bear in mind that these campus police are the same wizards who kept ticketing his car while he lay helpless inside his office.

A more practical solution would be to require every employee to wear a large bell, so someone down the hall could hear them when they hit the floor.

No, I think the true problem is that no one should have a job where they can go 5 days without being seen nor heard from and no one thinks anything of it. If you can do that in your position today, here is a clue. You are expendable. Look for work elsewhere, because you will likely soon be cut.

University officials are apparently reviewing the school’s policies and procedures to determine if changes are warranted. Maybe they should look at their overall staffing needs. After all, they have shown that having too many people with nothing to do can be positively fatal.

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