Friday, 22 May 2009

my pen > ur pen

In a previous blog I lamented my desire to have a nice pen, and that my attempts at buying one ended in failure. Well I got a second-wind today and thought I'd give it another go. On Fridays at work we get to "dress down" so I didn't have smart clothes on, but I was still at work so I wasn't that badly dressed down.

I had looked up all of the information on the net regarding the exact pen I wanted (name, materials, type and product code) and wrote it down on a PostIt note. Alas one bit of information I couldn't get was the price…they don't list that on the site. I loitered outside of the shop for a while, pretending to look at the window goods but actually seeing if the shop was busy or not. I couldn't see any customers but it seemed quite light on staff too. I went inside anyway.

First problem…door was locked and needed to be opened by the security guard inside. Just what I needed. I hoped he didn't lock the door when he saw me lurking. Luckily he opens it and I gain entrance with no ado, no ID required, no pat-down or rectal cavity search. A sales girl looks up and utters "Can I help you?" I approach and tell her I am looking for a specific pen and she guides me to a nearby table, the type you see in minister's rooms on television. Dark, polished wood with leather surface, atop it a mirror in case you're buying jewellery. Or maybe a very expensive razor.

Sat at an identical table a short distance away is a woman who probably thinks that Keeping up Appearances is a documentary. In matching green floral dress and hat she watched me from the top of her nose as I sat at my own table. After producing my PostIt note the salesgirl went to get some brochures and some help from a colleague. After thumbing through a glossy brochure I helped the colleague locate the exact pen I wanted while the salesgirl held the brochure that contained the prices at an angle guaranteeing I couldn’t see. She reached for an oversized calculator and, after a few taps, got past the delivery of the "bad news" as quickly as she possibly could, as if even having to tell me the price meant she had to add bleach to her bathwater when she got home. Before the price had even reached my ears she was calling the manufacturer to ensure stock and delivery times. Putting the phone down she tells me "7 to 10 days, ok?" I got the impression that this was not an establishment where you said you'd "have to think about it".

Commission firmly in the bag, the salesgirl then began to schmooze me in a way that I am sure I would have been schmoozed beforehand had I have been a fat businessman in a suit, making sure everyone could see the Rolex up my wrist. With me, in my T-Shirt that came from a pack of three and dirty jeans, she needed to see the colour of my plastic before she was willing to even start her usual script. As the delivery of my writing instrument (please don't be so crass as to call it a "pen") was being arranged by the colleague, the salesgirl enquired about my weekend plans and probed a little into my reasons for buying the writing instrument, taking the time to laugh at all my jokes along the way. I would normally have been happy with her laughter, but now that I knew how much this writing instrument cost I think she should have laughed harder and for longer. Returning to the glossy brochure, the one I was allowed to look at, she remarked at what other writing instruments would perfectly compliment the one I'd just bought and would be an asset to my collection. Now it was my turn to laugh at her joke.

I soon found out she wasn't joking.

Grasping my A5 sized receipt I left the store with the promise that they'd call me when my writing instrument was available for collection. I shall ensure that I pick it up at the weekend just to see their faces when I walk in in my "usual" attire.

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Isn't it ironic?

I have a "friend" at the moment who I started spending time with when we decided to work on a project together. It started off quite well and we met up and got a fair amount of work done. We'd also meet up at the weekends sometimes. This was when he was between years at university and when he went back to do his final year we'd still meet up but the project took a back seat and I spent my time helping him with his coursework.

Now I'm a pretty generous person I think, even with my time. I don't mind helping people but I soon started to learn that computers weren't this guy's thing. No matter how often I'd tell him something he'd never learn it. I wasn't helping him with his coursework, I was doing his coursework. At times I'd deliberately leave things half done and gave him direction and advice about how to finish them but he never would, he'd just hand in what I'd done, half finished and all. He promised he'd work on things through the week but never did. I began to really resent it as I could be having down time or doing overtime myself but instead I was giving up my time for nothing. Then he'd start putting all these pressures on me if he had a deadline and would want my help more and more. Then times I'd go to help him and he said he couldn't be bothered working that night so we'd just watch TV or something instead. Why couldn't he tell me these things before I went over? I was often putting my own things off to give him my time.

After his course was over we'd still see each other at weekends, but when we started working on the project again he'd always arrange to meet and then cancel on the day, and I only saw him when we were working on the project. Now he has a job himself and I give him advice and stuff, but now when I go over to work on the project he wants me to do his work! Work he is being paid for! He doesn't want to let them know he can't do the work so thinks he can get me to do it for him and him pass it off as his own. I showed him some stuff this week and he still doesn't understand any of the basics, he hasn't learned a thing in all this time. He sent me a message saying he could really do with my help this weekend. In other words, he went to work after I showed him what I did and he couldn't advance it on his own so needs me to give up my weekend to do his job for him.

The truth of the matter is that I've kind of had enough really. Yeah it's ok seeing him at the weekend some times but he only does it to keep me sweet, and sometimes brings his laptop for me to "show him some things". I could do without giving up the little spare time I have during the week when I'm snowed under with my own work and could do with doing overtime instead. I can do without him begging me to give up my weekend for him when I need to use the time to relax instead. I'm fed up helping him and him never learning.

What I really need is to sever the whole friendship but I know I won't be able to. Usually I can't keep a friendship going for the life of me, but now I have one I can't shift. I know it's not really a "friendship" though; I know he is just using me and wants me around as I have a purpose. I know that if I just broke off contact he'd keep calling, emailing and texting asking what’s wrong and can we meet up. And I know that I'd relent because I'm weak.

So basically I need some form of exit strategy. I'll try repeatedly cancelling our arrangements and see if he gets the message but I'm sure he won't. As I said, he needs me to do his work so I'm sure he'll be quite persistent.

Thursday, 7 May 2009


To give you some brief background, at work we tend to "do something" or "go somewhere" for lunch on Friday. One of the chaps who works with us is Sri Lankan and a Sri Lankan restaurant opened not far from work so we started going there for lunch. Sri Lankan service concepts such as taking food orders, delivering food then taking drink orders and making you wait until your spicy curry is burning its way out of your mouth before finally getting around to serving you a drink isn't quite what we're used to…but we let it slide.

One fateful day we each got what we usually do, however all patrons of a certain dish came down with food poisoning. Now I wasn't so bad cos I'm made of stronger stuff, but one guy was ill for a few days and one guy was off work for a week. Needless to say we stopped going to that restaurant, but after the food poisoning was over with I couldn't help but laugh when my Sri Lankan work colleague lamented that "I won't be going back there for a while". For a while?

I did sometimes wonder that maybe we should have done something about it like inform the local environmental health or something, but instead I just settled into the British way of not wanting to cause a fuss.

Fast forward to today and I'm walking back to the office after collecting my sans poison lunch and the manager from the Sri Lankan place spots me and runs across the road to speak with me. He commented that we haven't been to his restaurant in a while. I lie and tell him that we tend to rotate what we do for lunch and are currently going to a place "over there" and I gesture vaguely with my hand to somewhere I become conscious does not actually contain any restaurants. The manager says he knows sometimes the service wasn't great and he has always apologised and that things are improving and he wants to offer us a free meal and yadda yadda.

Now….I've been watching a lot of "Curb Your Enthusiasm" lately which is something you should check out. The humour is very Asperger's related (in my mind) with the protagonist, Larry David, struggling with his interpretations of social norms. All of a sudden I felt the spirit of Larry descend into me. I wondered to myself…."What would Larry do?"

So I cut the manager short in his stride…."You know…if you want me to be honest…you gave us all food poisoning and that's why we don't go to your restaurant any more. So there you go."

Doing it actually felt pretty…pretty…pretty…pretty good. We just don't complain enough in this country and we're always so willing to just lie down and get shafted and accept poor service with never a cross word. I'm sure in future I shall revert to type and never complain about bad service again, but at least today I did something…I fought back.


Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Life is sweet

I pick up my new home cinema system on Saturday and tonight I descaled my shower head.

Does life get any better than this?

Saturday, 2 May 2009


Well it's taken almost two months, but my DVD is not economical to repair. It's a DVD with built-in 5.1, so what I'm going to do is buy a stand-alone 5.1 system so that I can plug any 5.1-enabled device into. For example I can use it for my xbox, and rather than get a new DVD player I'll just play DVDs on the xbox too and when Blu-Ray players come down in price I'll get one. Then all that will remain is to replace my TV with an HD one and that'll complete the xbox experience and let me watch high-def movies too.

I've been doing some research and it seems there are cables etc I need to buy to plug the xbox into the system but I expected that.