How We Defeated the Evil Permanent Marker

Posted by admin on March 13th, 2012 filed in Hacks

“Flow, you newbie…!”


“Is that permanent marker? What does it mean anyway??”

As every noon, we are sitting in the break room eating take-out. (We call it “lunch at Google’s”, because the room has fancy soft seating and gaudily colored glasswalls. It’s supposed to be relaxing and inspiring — or so they say — I don’t know, I don’t work for Google.)

scribbles on whiteboard

The junior is still glaring at the white board. The cryptic exclamation standing above other meaningless scribbles has been there since before I started working here. I always assumed it referred to a hard-to-remember project working title. Nobody remembered who wrote it or why, and nobody had ever managed to erase it. “You’d need a spray… it’s permanent…”, the seniors shrug wearily.

Another colleague on his way out casually adds:

“Or grab a non-permanent marker, write over each word, and then erase it. I do it all the time.”

He leaves us dumbfounded. What did he just say? It almost made sense… But… What…?

With everyone stunned, I walk over to the whiteboard and put the claim to a test. The original scribble is black, my non-permanent marker is green. I single out a permanently black spot and doodle a big green dot over it. I swipe it with the eraser and — the dot is gone! What magic is this?! I give another spot the same treatment. He was serious: An average non-permanent marker can erase a permanent marker. :-o

Another colleagues picks himself up and joins me. While he writes green over black words and erases them, we get more and more bemused about how clever we are. OMG! Finally something we can submit to the company innovation project!

One of the QA managers walks by and watches us through the glass door. He smiles and it’s clear that he appreciates our enthusiasm for what it is — totally bat shit crazy. I call out to him that, although it may look as if we were re-writing permanent scribbles, the truth is, we were erasing them.

“Sure” he says with the same frozen grin on his face, and absconds.

Well, just another normal lunch in the “Google” room…

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