- Telephone helplines where the person reads from a script
Thursday, 31 May 2018
I like to see myself as an easy-going fella who can smile at adversity and not take life too seriously. Yet, over the last few weeks, a number of situations succeeded in triggering annoyance, even rage. Here are five of my most snarl-inducing experiences.
Information technology is awesome, enabling us to access the answer to any question at the touch of a button. In contrast, when it goes awry, it can cause such teeth-grinding frustration. Recently, my Internet connection ceased to function so I rang the provider to speak to an expert technician. The subsequent telephone conversation went something like this:
ME: Hi there. I can’t get an Internet connection. I’ve checked that the cables are all plugged in correctly and I’ve tried switching my router on and off, but I still can’t get online. So could I talk to a technician please?
HELPER: OK – what I’d like you to do first is to switch your router off, leave it for 10 seconds, and then switch it back …
ME: I’ve already done that – can you just put me through to one of your techy people
*Shuffling of papers*
HELPER: Would you now check the cable leading from your computer to the router and ensure that it …
Give me strength! If I was more compassionate I’d recognise what a shit, poorly-paid job it is working in a call centre but, at this particular moment, I want to put my fist through the telephone line and punch him in the face.
2. People who believe they are transparent
There’s a football match I’m eager to watch so I’ve arrived at the pub early in order to obtain a seat with a full view of the television. I’m enjoying my third pint of cask ale when the game starts, and then … some bloke stands directly in my eye line, totally obscuring my view. I wait a while, expecting him to soon realise the error of his ways, but no, he remains oblivious.
After a few seconds of staring at the fella’s back, I shout, ‘Excuse me; could you move to the side so I can see the TV.’
He turns and looks at me with disdain – like he’s just seen me shit on his dining table – and, grudgingly, moves a few millimetres. If I wasn’t such a wimp – and he wasn’t four-foot wide with neck scarring and tattoos – I’d have stood up and confronted him.
Instead, I seethe in silence, muttering into the froth of my beer.
3. Pedestrians who don’t give way
I’m walking along the pavement/sidewalk with Mrs Jones when I notice three people, side-by-side, walking towards me. While my lady and I make some effort to make space for them, by turning to the side or adopting a one-in-front-of-the-other formation, they march on, three abreast, brushing us away from their flight path. Did they not notice us? Did they see us but thought, ‘Fuck you – we’re much more important?’
I vow that when I next meet such blinkered on comers I will stand my ground and shoulder them into the oncoming traffic (that is as long as they are not four-foot wide with neck scars and tattoos).
4. When restaurants run out of your favoured menu choice
Following a detailed inspection of the restaurant’s menu, enticingly displayed in the front window, we enter and are shown to our seats. While the internal hunger monster forces saliva out of the corner of our mouths, we eagerly order our favoured dishes, only for the waiter to say,
‘Sorry sir, but we’ve run out of the goat’s cheese starter and the salmon main.’
Perhaps because he’s noticed my disappointment, he adds, ‘We’ve been really busy today.’
OK, so it’s the previous customers at fault for woofing down my cheese and salmon; the no-shows in the menu have nothing at all to do with the incompetence of the restaurant manager and in-house chef. After all, how could they know that demand might increase a bit on a bank holiday?
5. The blanket coverage of the royal wedding
I have zero interest in the royal family. All that pomp, tradition and elitism leave me cold. So when Prince Harry recently hooked up with some wench called Megan Markle this royal wedding held the same allure for me as hearing about the marriage of a couple of strangers – that is, no interest at all.
Nonetheless, in the days leading up to the ceremony I was forced to endure blanket coverage by the media. Newspapers devoted page after page to the ‘happy event’. The TV news channels dedicated hour after hour to such riveting stuff as who would walk Meg down the aisle, what her wedding dress would look like, and whether Harry would opt for a pre-ceremony bowel movement or wait until after the service – OK, I made that last one up; but now I think about it, his colonic activity would have been more interesting than all the other guff.
On the wedding day itself, Mrs Jones and I decided to escape the frenzy and hysteria by taking a very long walk in the hills that overlook our town. The solitude of the countryside was bliss. But when we opted for a pit stop in a rural village tavern, over the top of the bar was a small TV showing – you’ve guessed it – the royal wedding. Behind us, a group of middle-aged ladies excitedly discussed the wonders of the current queen, princes and princesses. Give me strength!
The sooner the UK morphs into a republic the better.
Photo courtesy of imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Tuesday, 17 April 2018
It is often said that each of us carries a book inside us. I don’t mean an actual oblong chunk of paper swishing around in one’s intestine, but a story – somewhere in the multi-corridors of the mind - that is clamouring to get out and is sufficiently interesting to comprise a saleable novel. Sadly, as I approach my 60th birthday, I’ve yet to find my potential blockbuster.
Instead of producing the next Harry Potter bestseller, what I have discovered is that I’m an expert in procrastination. When I sit down with the intention of crafting my masterpiece, I soon manage to distract myself onto another activity. It seems I have developed a deft range of strategies to impede and sabotage the creative writing process.
Here are my wonderfully effective ways of putting off until tomorrow what you should be doing today:
1st-level strategies: (before sitting down in front of the laptop)
- Convince myself I need to use the toilet – it is amazing how paying attention to the bladder or bowel can evoke activity therein.
- Long for the smell of cocoa beans until there is no choice but to go and make myself another cup of coffee.
- Prod the flesh above my trouser belt to the point where vanity kicks in and I decide to go and engage in 30 minutes of high-intensity exercise on my static bike.
- Wonder if Mrs Jones is in the mood for love.
2nd-level strategies: (once I’ve opened the file titled ‘novel’)
- Decide that much more preparation is required before starting my story.
- Opt to research the history of World War II on the basis that the father of one of my peripheral characters fought in it.
- Reread my multiple ‘how-to-write-a-novel’ books.
- Succumb to the pull of ‘Naughty America’.
3rd – level strategies (Once I’ve started writing)
- Agonise over the third word of the first sentence and dedicate the next half-hour to flicking through a Thesaurus.
- Re-read book on punctuation to decide whether to use a semicolon, dash or comma in 1st sentence.
- Carry out a word count every 60 seconds.
- Succumb to the pull of ‘Naughty America’.
4th – level strategies (Once I’ve written a couple of pages)
- Imagine a potential reader peeing her pants with laughter at what I’ve written (despite my novel being a crime/thriller).
- Decide it’s crap, and press ‘delete’ button.
- Reflect on the possibility that the fact that I loathe anything written by Ernest Hemmingway might indicate I’m clueless as to what makes a decent writer.
- Google how to access treatment for my sex addiction.
Photo courtesy of freeimages.co.uk
Thursday, 22 February 2018
My father had a fall last week and I accompanied him to the hospital, along with my 87-year-old mother. The old fella spent 4 hours in the resuscitation area of the Accident and Emergency Department - part of it in a cubicle, most of the time on a trolley in the corridor. My mother and I sat with him, perched on plastic chairs. Contrary to what you might expect, this extended period of waiting was rarely dull.
My lovely mum is hard of hearing and this long-term affliction, together with some short-term-memory loss, can cause confusion and disorientation. When she speaks she tend to shout, presumably as a consequence of her deafness. Also, as she gets older, she seems to be less inhibited about sharing what’s on her mind. While sitting in the crowded Accident and Emergency Department - surrounded by bleeping equipment, suction machines and the night’s ill and bleeding casualties - she announced the following:
- ‘LOOKING AT ALL THESE POOR SODS, WE DON’T KNOW HOW LUCKY WE ARE.’
- (When an obese nurse walked past and smiled in our direction) ‘GOODNESS, SHE’S A FAT LASS’.
- ‘I HOPE THESE CLICKS AND SQUISHING NOISES AREN’T GOING TO CONTINUE ALL NIGHT.’
I inform her that these noises are from emergency equipment that is keeping people alive. On hearing this, she expresses remorse, and says the Holy Trinity while making the sign of the cross.
(Thirty seconds later) ‘THIS RACKET ISN’T GOING TO GO ON ALL NIGHT, IS IT? WHY DON'T THEY JUST TURN THEM OFF?’
- ‘SORRY, I’VE JUST TRUMPED – IT DOESN’T SMELL THOUGH’
5. (On being told that dad hasn't broken any bones and we can all go home, mum stands over dad and says) PICK YOUR FEET UP NEXT TIME, FAT ARSE - WE'RE NOT BRINGING YOU HERE AGAIN'.
Friday, 19 January 2018
On the tenth day of a fortnight’s holiday in Tenerife, Mrs Jones and I were flagging. A combination of Spanish sunshine, overeating, hefty consumption of San Miguel lager and late-night revelling at the local Irish bars had left us feeling weary. At 58 years old, we don’t possess the same level of stamina as in our young adulthood. We decided on an early night – not with any intention of rumpy-pumpy, as we were too tired for that nonsense; a sustained 30-seconds of pelvic thrusting was way beyond our capabilities. The (smallish) rational parts of our brains insisted that less alcohol and more sleep would re-energise us for the remainder of the holiday.
So at 8.30pm, rather than bouncing into town, we opted for a quiet drink in our hotel bar as a prelude to bed. Perched on a leather settee, we observed our spacious and opulent surroundings: sparkling chandeliers, sturdy-oak coffee tables, mirrored walls, a bar displaying endless varieties of liqueurs and spirits, and bow-tied waitresses - in white blouses and black skirts - attentive to the needs of their guests. And oh so quiet. People spoke in whispers, as if mindful to not corrupt the sumptuous surrounds. The most noticeable sound was the clicking of stiletto on tile, as a waitress scurried to replenish a glass. Mrs Jones and I sat in silence, sipping our lager nightcaps; the heaviness of our lethargy made speech feel too much of an effort.
But then something remarkable happened.
Very gradually, we grew aware of another noise. An intermittent growling could be heard behind us, and we turned to discover the source. A bald headed man, maybe in his 70s, was slumped in his armchair, a half-full glass of stout on the table in front of him. His eyes were closed, his hands clasped in his lap. At the same table were three vacant chairs, the empty glasses in front of them suggesting recent occupation by his companions prior to their desertion.
We watched him closely. He’d clearly been there a while, as evidenced by the viscous spittle forming at the corners of his mouth. Each inward breath evoked a rasping snore followed by a silent pause, this soundless phase extending over several seconds, sufficiently long to evoke our concerns that the old fella may have expired. It was clear that the waitresses’ thoughts were along similar lines, each covertly monitoring him for signs of life as they cleared neighbouring tables. When the outbreath arrived, we could detect a collective sense of relief in the room.
I squeezed Mrs Jones’ hand and we turned to face each other. It seemed our minds were reaching a common conclusion.
‘Life’s too short,’ I said.
Four hours later we could both be found in Paddy’s Bar, each holding a pint of Caffrey’s, screeching a tuneless rendition of ‘The Wild Rover’.
Photograph courtesy of Samandale at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Monday, 11 December 2017
'Fourteen hours cooped up on a plane sounds like hell,’ said Mrs Jones.
‘I’m sure the time will fly past,’ I said, resorting to tame jokes as a way of getting into the holiday spirit.
We were boarding our flight from the UK to Singapore. I’m not a rich man; our allocated positions were in the economy section in the rear of the aircraft. As the only access point was at the front of the plane, we endured the passage through business class - the expanse of space sufficient to trigger agoraphobia - before reaching our seats, thirty rows of nine, resembling a tightly packed battalion advancing towards the enemy.
After the token welcome by the china-doll air hostesses – all lipstick-crusted smiles and pert rumps – we sat and observed our fellow travellers. Our attentions were drawn to a kerfuffle from six rows in front of us. A middle-aged lady was kicking off because there was no room to store her hand luggage in the locker above her seat; the hostess had placed it a couple of rows down. I leaned in to Mrs Jones and whispered,
‘Crikey! Is she worried a sneak thief will snatch and run while we’re at 40,000 feet?’
Last to take their seats were a Chinese couple, each wearing a surgical mask over their mouths and noses. They looked like they had just been dragged out of the operating theatre, in the midst of removing a gall bladder, but I was reassured to note that neither was wielding a scalpel. Is it worth looking like an utter dipstick in an effort to filter out a few contaminants?
Two hours after take-off, and I’m still struggling to activate my touch-screen entertainment located on the back of the seat in front of me. The damn thing seems defective. As I repeatedly prod the glass monitor, the obese bloke across the aisle decides to stand – to aid his circulation, no doubt – and thrusts his lardy arse in my face. My nostrils detect the lurid combination of blue cheese and old sweat. I consider asking the Chinese fella if I can borrow his mask.
Bored, without any film to watch, I try to sleep. Each time I feel I might be slipping into the land of nod, my journey is halted by a toddler shrieking two rows behind, or a fast-moving hostess wafting past my ear.
Four hours into the journey, a major breakthrough: I discover the handset for my entertainment centre located in the arm of my chair – it wasn’t touchscreen after all. After much random button pressing, I stumble upon a back episode of Friends. I steal a few moments of escapism, smiling at Joey and lusting after Rachel, when I’m jolted from my musings by a whack to the head; the woman occupying the seat in front of me had decided to recline, the thrust back so violent it seemed as if she’d taken a run at it. Worse still, the tilt of my entertainment screen was such that the glare from the cabin lights now rendered it unwatchable.
And then the in-flight meal arrived. The pleasant hostess insisted the woman in front return her seat to the upright so as to grant me sufficient room to eat, and the prostrate figure grunted, exhaled loudly and grudgingly complied. Relishing my additional cubic centimetre of space, I peeled back the foil from my food tray to be confronted with spicy chicken noodles – for breakfast! I ordered a large glass of white wine to try and dampen my growing irritation but, at my second slurp, Zsa Zsa Gabor reclined again, causing spillage – with Chardonnay dripping off my nose, I patted her on the top of her over-lacquered head to ask her to return to the perpendicular, evoking more grimacing and muttering.
Resigned to torture, I spent further hours folded into my seat, neck, back and arse all aching to various degrees, enduring that dreadful mix of discomfort and tedium. The fat man across the aisle belched loudly, his wind deriving from the rapid consumption of five cans of Tiger beer. A young couple a few rows down were delivering a decent – or maybe indecent – rerun of the Jack and Rose sex scene from Titanic, with lots of groping, slurping and audible promises of undying love.
Thirteen hours and forty-nine minutes after take-off, we landed at Singapore airport.
‘That wasn’t so bad after all,’ I said.
Mrs Jones’ expression did not require words.
P.S. I'm currently in the process of selling my house, car and body so we can afford business class on our next long-haul flight.
Photo courtesy of satit_srihin at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Wednesday, 13 September 2017
As I approach my 59th birthday, my troubled mind increasingly dwells on a range of imponderable questions. If you can, please ease my mental anguish by suggesting answers to any of the following:
- What possesses some people to pursue a career in chiropody?
- Why are testicles crinkly?
- Why does my soap dish not have a hole in the bottom?
- Why do doctors in the gastro-intestinal department all have fingers the width of telegraph poles?
- Why do restaurant waiters often wear polyester shirts?
- Why does my willy shrivel during a hospital investigation?
These are the crucial questions that torment me. Can you please give me respite by providing some answers?
Photos courtesy of :
1. imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
2. Nat_Sticker at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Photos courtesy of :
1. imagerymajestic at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
2. Nat_Sticker at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Friday, 7 July 2017
I’m good at some things. My Sunday roast propels fellow diners into orgasmic rapture, I’m a more-than-decent public speaker, and the speed of my mental arithmetic makes Sheldon appear mathematically challenged. Nonetheless, it is important to be aware of one’s weaknesses – in the words of Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry, ‘A man’s got to know his limitations’.
So here is a list of my limitations. And I’m not referring to the ‘I’m-not-quite-as-strong-at’ sort of deficiencies – no sirree – these are activities where I demonstrate such stunning incompetence that onlookers assume parts of my brain have gone walkabouts.
- Opening cereal boxes
Mrs Jones begs me to ask for her help when opening breakfast cereals. By the time I’ve prised off the cellophane wrap from my Kellogg’s cornflakes, I’m in no mood to explore the subtleties of the cardboard re-fastening device on the top of the box. Instead, I assault it from the flank, penetrating it with a forefinger and tearing it open. For its remaining shelf life, it sits bloated with its inners exposed, as if opened by a stick of dynamite.
I love listening to popular music, but when it comes to singing I’m tone deaf. When I let fly in the shower with my rendition of the Eagles’s Lying Eyes, Mrs Jones cringes, the local authority sees a sharp rise in reported incidents of noise pollution, and the nightingales self-destruct. My attempts at the high notes have even been known to interfere with my neighbours’ Wi-Fi connection.
Men are expected to shine in the Do-it-yourself department, delighting their ladies with displays of competence around the home and garden. Not this bloke; I’m utterly useless. I’ve no idea how to rewire a plug (all those colours are so confusing), the prospect of putting up a curtain rail causes me sleepless nights, and my sole contribution to assembling a flat-pack wardrobe from Ikea is checking we’ve received the correct number of nuts and bolts (as I’ve said, I’m great at counting).
My level of ineptitude reached a humiliating high last week. Armed with my brand new hedge trimmer, I strutted into the front garden to prune the bushes. Within ten seconds, I was left holding an impotent machine with a limp six-inches of wire dangling; yep, I’d inadvertently cut through the electric cord and short-circuited the house.
- Wrapping presents
For 30 years, the task of wrapping Christmas and birthday gifts has usually defaulted to Mrs Jones. She excels at it. Her dressed parcels always display crisp, symmetrical edges, with a skin-tight paper covering, minimal sticky tape, and a decorative bow.
Unfortunately, it wouldn’t seem right to ask Mrs Jones to wrap my gifts to her (although I have considered this option) and I’ve no choice but to do it myself. On these rare occasions, the end product looks as if it presented a moving target, one I didn’t quite catch up with. Excess wrapping paper loiters at each end of the parcel, forming unsightly bulges, and the (half-a-roll of) sticky tape appears to have been applied via a scatter gun with each piece creased and misshapen.
- Drawing and artwork
I can recall sitting in an art lesson as a child and the teacher leaning over my shoulder and whispering, ‘You’re bloody useless, Jones’. That man was a shrewd judge. If I’m denied the use of words, I’m void of all creativity. My attempts at drawing resemble the scribblings of a three-year-old and, if it’s not painting by numbers, the colouring stuff remains in the box.
- Directional sense
When God was giving out internal radars, he must have skipped my name. Either that or he had a sense of humour, and relished the prospect of me groping around the earth in a permanent state of spatial confusion. My sense of direction is dreadful. In a strange town I can enter a building and, when I exit, I often fail to recall which direction I approached from. Many hours have been wasted trying to find my parked the car. And when driving to a specified destination I’ve sometimes, after hours of futile circling, given up and headed for home - that is, of course, if I can find it.
Thank goodness for the greatest invention of our time: satellite navigation.
Does anyone else care to disclose their ineptitudes?