Tuesday, January 27, 2009

A sad farewell to Colleague

If, in this time of economic upheaval, the worst should happen and a friend, colleague or countryman pushes or is pushed to get out of there job the whole workplace enters a period of uncertainty. Often this can be due to people questioning whether there own job is safe, questioning who will steal the office chair first and finally who has to take responsibility for the leathery plant that seems to be the only greenery for a few kilometres.

But the other thought that start to plague people and makes people watch each other like hawks is when the required envelope goes around for the “farewell present” that work has decided that it can’t afford. And while the office personal assistant hovers over you watching your hands move inside you’re almost empty wallet you have to put the right note in without seeming like a stingy bastard or put too much to seem overly generous. It’s a fine balancing act between nasty and generous that will invariably land you in trouble unless it matches in with the workplace requirement. The rules of the desk jungle that no-one speaks about but everyone is meant to know. So to all you new workers who are looking in there coffee coins I’ll put down a few notes that will hopefully help you.

On first inspection of the envelope never ask ‘how much is expected’ as that will raise the ire of said personal assistant who will then send it round in an express email to all the other assistants and slow your important stationary order for a couple of month. This kind of question is never said out loud even though it’s valid and only muttered occasionally under a cone of silence. This kind of question is considered an ‘attitude’ that is only seen as being a benefit in an accountant or politician.
A good way to go about this is to mention that you still have to draw money out for the day, though you may still get a scowl, and you can then watch how much others put into the pot.

But I wouldn’t be making my money from this blog without recommending a figure or at least a few figures that should roughly give you an idea how much is right to hand over for some poor unknown worker from the other end of the building who has decided to start his own Origami business. The magical starting figure is $10 and that’s just for your run of the mill, ‘good morning, how are you’ colleague that you chatted to once about beekeeping. If you happen to have a liaison with them at one point or another it might be a good idea to add an extra $10, especially if you have included a deep and meaningful conversation at the Christmas party about your one true love. If this happens to be a close partner of an illicit nature then bump it up to $40 to $50 and if you are already married to them leave it at $50 but add a shopping list to the note especially if they get to leave earlier on that day.
If you are the owner or manager of your section it’s best to match the highest person and if you put in too much, you will be hated for showing off how much more you earn or derided. It can’t be helped as if you didn’t you’d be loathed for putting in too little, so it is best to grin, make a bad joke, insult someone then shut your door loudly.

Now, the recession is apparently about to hit our economy like a cyclone, so I’m going to have to shore up my illegible farewell note script, keep my collection of $10 notes handy and not talk to anyone wanting more than a quick hello about beekeeping.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The dangers of unfavourable work (or The trains are crap in warm weather.)

To live in such a wonderful city as Melbourne you have to be able to understand a little about the climate. Or more to the point it’s unpredictable nature. In this city I call the centre its rainfall seems to be about as predictable as the roll of the dice at a craps table, invariably it won’t be to your liking. And the more you live in Melbourne the more you love the fact that it can be 4 seasons in one day, or at least get to be used to carrying a jacket and umbrella in 42° Celsius heat just in case it’s going to change to be a thunderstorm.

To weather the storm we try to rely on our local weathercasters who have the respectability of a car salesman, the insurance premiums of Evil Knievel and the public respect of a parking inspector. Needless to say they have short careers before moving on to things like Teleprompter readers (possibly known as News reporters.) after they make too many bad predictions. Said predictions are actually based more on the feelings they have, the abusive letters they receive from yesterday and rolling dice in the office. And at one point or another they are often names as being most hated public professional in Melbourne.

To put it mildly, I don’t envy their job at all.

But, they are being overtaken by at least one group who want to be vilified as the most hated in Melbourne and that is ticket inspectors.

On days such as this scorching hot 37° Celsius day the current Melbourne train company is spitting out spin doctors words like it’s having a fit, declaring that should anything happen today to cancel a few trains that they have no responsibility and it has no bearing on the fact that the system is barely capable for the crush of people at the best of times.

And then, to make their presence even better they have a public outing of the grey trench coated inspectors at each station ensuring that you pay your dollars to them so they can pack you into a sardine tin to bake in the body odour of others while the platitudes of a computer voiced speaker tells you that you still have an hour on this lunchbox ride of hell. If only the inspectors seemed a little more helpful.

I know that we, as a community tend to deride our infrastructure systems for its failings and look for the devil in the system but do they have to treat every person as though they were about to commit acts of terrorism by buying a two hourly ticket instead of a daily ticket, they might have a little better public image. Regardless of whether the punk in the jeans that are sitting on his ankles has his concession card on him or not, if you slam him up against a wall, he’ll still get his Toorak based parents to sue you the very next day. So maybe we should look at a better alternative, maybe teaching the inspectors some courtesy, and occasionally letting people off with a warning.

There is a way for them to get a little better public image and I’ll elaborate, so read on to the end to understand. If a commuter happens to miss out on buying a zone 1 and 2 ticket they then recieve a $100 dollar fine for a difference of about $1.50. If that is truly the penalty for that much error in expenditure, the brand new ticketing system (because that will, of course, help the trains mechanically work better, less packed and on time) that was meant to cost $500 million dollars but is now at $1.5 billion dollars(a difference of a scant billion dollars) I expect a ticket inspector at the door with a good sized $60 billion dollar transit fine soon enough, maybe even in novelty sized for the photo opportunity. We all love to see a useless company get a bit of a fine for stupidity occasionally.

Now I have to run so please excuse me while I get the deodorant.

I’m going to do my bit to alleviate the other passengers inside my sardine can.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Fraser Island - A guide to misadventure. Part 1

In the first place I must make it absolutely clear. Fraser Island is absolutely stunning. It has vistas that are amazing, stupendous waterways and sand so clean and smooth you can almost see your face in it. The hard part is that the promise of all this is fulfilled as long as you can get through terrain that make Mountain Goats quail in their boots.

Fraser Island has a wonderful capability of being almost entirely inaccessible to all vehicles indicated as 2WD, AWD and almost all but the hardiest of 4WD.These roads are not designed for the Sunday driver with his black SUV and alloy wheels at all and the smoothest one of all is really a picturesque beach on the east side with stupendous views between the diesel swilling hulks that glide across the waterfront and the occasional plane landing.
So you won't see any sub height four wheel drives tentatively worrying about rolling over gravel here unless they're dropping in and out at the resort carpark to the waiting ferry and the closest you'll get to an urban wax and wash is a hose on a stand wating to fill an overheated radiator.
If you have something that hasn't seen anything worse than dust on the AWD badge I'd steer it clear of the whole place let alone the local grocery markets curb.

Like bulls in a china shop these actual all terrain overblown vehicle look like they could take on a herd of wilderbeast and win. If you're really lucky, you get to see a miniturized version in a Suzuki Jimny, that is about a quarter the size and tenth the power, and is used to transit an extra one or two passengers behind a whale of metal, like an elephant calf trailing it's mother revving that much extra just to keep up. I can only think that if it did break down it could just sit on the roofrack back to the nearest resort.

But I do recommend you go there. It's definitely worth the fun but get a chiropractor to check you're neck beforehand especially if you're heading in as a passenger, as will need to know how good your back was before it was twisted into knots. The roads make the travel bumpy and moving at a rate of about ten kilometers an hour seems even worse when you're travelling for a good eighteen across the island sitting in the center back seat.

And the views here are stunning. You can't take a step without wanting to whip out your camera and record the days lunch with everyone still eating and a goanna eyeing off your meal. My own face now has tan lines indicating how long I pressed the eyepiece to my eye and burnt the skin off. And the best part of having a digital camera is that the place looks great behind the screen. Just remember to look occasionally without the camera as some of the most dangerous creatures do exist in the region and in no way does it help to limit yourself to tunnel vision.

So the real four wheel drives are the way to go for this haven of tourists and the sights are truly worthy of two panoramic office like photographs at once. The one real eyeopener for the whole trip was that on the drive back, the workhorse vehicle we'd been pushing through the island decided that it's clutch would give out, and though it wasn't the best time, I'm just glad we weren't in a region where the locals recommend you defend yourself aggressively(which could mean something like carpet bombing) against the local fauna as they are proudly on the top ten most dangerous shows regularily. Thankfully out there the only dangerous things are the locals, the tourists and the ants.

As well as this we were all within phoning distance that made it a whole lot easier.
So the driving was enjoyable, the stopping was not so dangerous and the chiropractor is now happy he's back on my quick-dial register.
Now please excuse me while I disinfect a bite on my arm, I'm still looking for a german tourist anti-venom.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Love and service

Many of us at one point in our life will have had a crush or fantasy on a waitress or waiter. But be wary of this kind of option of relationship as this kind of crush is fine as long as it stays a crush. Should it eventuate into anything serious the whole cafĂ© – client power play will be in jeopardy.

These staff are kept in pristine condition by minutes of hiring, seconds of training and years of verbal haranguing from the clientele. So should someone make a personal connection between staff and one of the public, the whole balance of helper and payee may be ruined and the world might collapse into a little ball of hydrogen (no real connection between the two, but it just might).

The reasons for the staff being as distant as they are is a truly dastardly secret.
You may think that the wait staff are their to help you have food and drink but the owners have other ideas. They really select there waiters and waitresses to ensure maximum return on there client and the point the owners (who coincidentally are all evil overlords inhabiting volcano’s) ensure their staff know is that they have to stay alluring yet aloof. Many owners are wary of this and attempt various displays to ensure that the clientele remain a little distant to the staff by hanging funny sayings on the wall over the tips jar to promote the idea of working staff insanity. Their whole point of the wait staff is for guilt and guilt alone.

If you’re not there for your regular decaf double choc soy lemon infused flat white on the dot at 10:39 am the waitress checks a mirror to ensure her most heart wrenching pout is visible when you do finally push the door past the annoying bell. Why else would any sane minded Legal Director visibly empty her wallet into the tip jar if not for the waiter making sad puppy dog eyes at her for declining a second coffee at lunchtime. And heaven help you if you’re actually sick. I recommend that, short of a coma, you be sitting at that rickety death-trap stool half smiling with a hand calling them over. If you are actually in a coma, send a nurse.

But we shouldn’t be cowed by such displays of emotional blackmail. These waiting staff are still human (some may be questionable) and we need to use our own measures to get back at them. If they start to wield the power away from us too much we need to strike back with our own blackmail. Some people do know the truth and make there best efforts to be surly, unhelpful and abusive to helpful wait staff because they KNOW THE TRUTH(I can’t think of any other real reason personally).

Anyway, to ensure the balance is kept you don’t have to yell rants of abuse about insufficient foam, just make sure you aren’t addicted to your personal large frappe or chai and keep a random schedule.
But I can’t go on right now, I have to run.
I need to get my Latte from across the road.
I think I might be a little late.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Resolutions for a new me

So now is the time for the old us to be wheeled out in a cart and the new us to be dropped into the mess that is our lives. And with all this wheeling and dealing it is said to be time to have some kind of resolution of what you are meant to do in your life.

But New Years resolutions are not to be taken lightly. They need to be thought out carefully, measured, allowed for and most importantly allowably attainable for the husk of the person who made it past 2008. This is where most people fall into a screaming mess. Now, if I was a halfway decent support column I'd recommend certain aims for people to have and visions for people to attain but I'm not, so I'll just write up my own list of what I won’t do with some descriptions and if they change your life I have failed at my task.

What I will not do in 2009
I will not be the person who bore the life out of other people at a party. Despite there feigned interest in the movement of the planets they don’t really want to hear about them, or that my opinion on star wars is that it’s an allegory for… well you get the idea. I can’t say that I’m that good at mutual conversation but I am going to brush up on sudden opinionated bursts to keep conversations arguementative. If people are showing too much interest in my collection of rubber stamps from Peru in 1940 then I really have to evaluate whether they are on something really good or just plain freaky like myself.

I will not buy useless electrical items of unknown frivolity that has not real use apart from making people go ooooooooo once then turning away. These are not the best way to start conversations and do not make my house feng shui oriented but clutter up the already small place as well as building up my credit card bill exponentially as they are invariably only available online from Iceland.

I will not attempt to join a gym. Considering there policies are written by the devil, the machines are made by demons and the music track is by a DJ(much much worse than the other two) the whole place could be seen as some kind of hell. The instructors seem to get too much fun out of making unfit people burn through calories and almost collapse across the bars of the machines. I should already have learnt my lesson twice(yes twice) but I must keep away from the polo shirts of shame.

I will not start arguing on an internet forum post, regardless of whether the person posting on it has a name like arguer4530 or spambot265 the argument will only leaving me crushing plastic cups and biting the desk(which is expensive when I finally do get to the dentist.) The whole exercise is fraught with idiocy and since I have been known to delve into the occasional fray before it is much better to say some minor opinionated comment to enrage the masses then run off into the sunset, skipping.

I will not try new things, since most new things have been done before, by other people and a lot better. I will just leave myself to do other things that I’ve done before at a mediocre level to ensure that the balance of the world is in good order. Who wants to be the worlds best skydiver(I’m not sure how you do attain it but I presume it’s the one most alive after the fall) and the best bungee-jumper if all it means is that people smile faintly at you after you tell them then move away from you, asking you not to follow them.

I think that should be enough for this year, it’s enough to give me a headache and I’m already five days into the year. If you do think of any others or think that these are not good enough for my resolutions then just post here and we can argue like it’s 2008.