Sunday, May 27, 2007

One From the Road - Procuring a Telecommunications Device

The frequency of which mundane things rapidly and unnecessarily escalate into something more ‘interesting’ has convinced me that my life should be on television.

But not reality television, obviously, that’d just be dumb. When I speak of televising my little misadventures, I envision it as a kind of spectator sport, where awkward social interactions are analysed, commented on and become a thing that can be won or lost.

I suppose you’ll be wanting an example then? How about this one - after a disastrous day of travel, I found myself stranded in Philadelphia, as my connecting flight to Minneapolis had been cancelled. My phone was dead, and my charger was in the luggage that I had no access to. I needed to call the people on the other side to let them know of my predicament. I also had to join the 60+ people (60 as in quantity, not age) in the queue for customer services, so alternate arrangements could be made.

- A bit of a slow start from the offence here, John, he seems to be stalling at the back of the line.
- He’s biding his time, Tim, it looks as though he’s looking to infiltrate the conversation in front of him.
- Well caught, John - wonderful tactics from this newcomer from Ireland - but need to be on top of his game to get into this three-way conversation.
- So long as he can neutralise Suited Businessman, Fat Blonde Woman and Young Blonde Woman shouldn’t pose much of a threat - remains to be seen how though, they’ve noticed him and if he stays much longer he’ll be blocked out for good.

“Hi - excuse me, you wouldn’t have the time would you?”
- He’s gone for the oldest-conversation starter in the book!
- He’ll have to be careful here Tim, that cliché might start a conversation, but he’ll have to have a good follow-up to keep it afloat. Suited Businessman is going for his watch:
“Yeah - it’s seven thirty-five”
“Cheers - I don’t know because my phone has died and that’s normally how I know these things…”
- Did you see that? Masterful play from the Irish offence. Did you hear that “cheers” John? He’s playing to his strengths and capitalising on his Irishness - no American woman can resist that.
- I sure did, Tim - but he’s also succeeded in announcing his problem - they’re now aware that he needs a phone.
- He has to act fast - if he asks for a phone now, they’ll consider him rude, and this young ambassador for his country isn‘t willing to risk reflecting poorly on his people. He’ll have to make some polite conversation first.
- The trouble with polite conversation is, it gives the defence a chance to bolster their excuses, and shut him out entirely. Wait - he’s making his move.
“So where are you guys trying to go?”
- Very nice! He’s got them all talking - what do you think here, John?
- Well, I think Suited Businessman presents the only threat here - notice how Fat Blonde Woman is nattering away - her guard is down. Young Blonde Woman is also laughing at his quips, but she seems more suspicious of him. Suited Businessman seems to resent the very fact that he is being talked to.
-Good analysis there, John - Fat Blonde Woman has finally shut up about her nephew’s birthday party, and the ball in back in O’Sullivan’s court - let’s see what he’s got up his sleeve?

“Well, I was wondering if I’d be able to borrow a phone from one of you? I need to ask my friends in Minneapolis where I should go, since I don’t know anyone in Philadelphia.”
- And they’re off! All just turned to Suited Businessman - what does he have to say for himself?
“I’d like to, but this is a business phone, sorry”
- Steely defense John! You’d know he’s done this before!
- A great parry alright, he’s deflected the question onto Young Blonde Woman with that subtle turn of his head - the man’s a professional.
- Hang on - she’s taken out her phone, but she’s clicking buttons? What’s going on here John?
- It looks as though she’s buying herself time Tim - her furrowed brow gives away her thought process.

“I’m sorry - I’m not getting any service”
- It took a while to get that out of her, but O’Sullivan finds himself rejected again - All his hopes rest on Fat Blonde Lady, and here comes her offering:

“I’m sorry - I’m… I’m way over my minutes. I mean, I’d like to, but… My minutes….”
- Cracks are showing in the defense here - let’s see what O’Sullivan does to counter this blow.

-He’s not saying anything! Good play from O’Sullivan! He’s picked up on her nervous stammering, knowing full well that she’ll concede defeat in the face of an awkward silence!

“Well, if you really need it, I guess you can make a quick call…”

-He’s done it! O’Sullivan has taken the phone, and he is proceeding to dial the number. The Irish clinching a crucial victory, mere moments before deadline.
-Well, Until next time, I’m John Thompson, he’s Tim Johnson, and this is Mountains out of Molehills - goodnight!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Cartridge World is stealing from me

Okay, maybe not - that is quite an allegation, but three out of three times that I've gone to Cartridge World and presented them with more than one ink cartridge for refilling, at least one of them is never seen again.

Today at work, the fax machine started whining that it needed ink, and while searching for a replacement in the office, I found another one that had been spent. emblazoned with a 'Refilled at Cartridge World' sticker. Seeing as this world of cartridges was just across the street, I thought paying them a visit made perfect sense.

Something about that place just isn't right. After entering, I'm presented with a foreboding door marked 'Private' to my left, and a glass door to the right leading into an empty room with a few cartridges and a cash-register. After strolling through into this vacant space, a bell dings, summoning a minion from the secret lab that lays beyond the secret door.

Scruffy-Beared-Minion takes my cartridges and tells me to come back in a half hour, and I am only too happy to comply. I return to the empty room at the prescribed time to collect my two cartridges, but this time I am greeted by Chunky-Blonde-Minion. She hands me one ink cartridge, and apologetically tells me that the other isn't printing 'finely enough', as an unusually well-cued flash of lightning illuminates the room. After asking for an explanation and essentially getting the same sentence, repackaged with extra sincerity, I find the conversation has hit a wall; calling only for a confused thanks and farewell.

I left without the other cartridge. The other cartridge that had previously been filled at Cartridge World...

I have three theories:

1. The woman was telling her truth, the cartridge was unfit for giving to a customer, and company policy cares enough about the environment so as to dispose of discarded cartridges in an eco-friendly manner.

2. The woman was lying! Her job at the company is to lie to and steal from customers, so they can sell the refilled cartridge to another sucker that costs the organisation mere cents! Think of the profits involved!

3. Cartridge World kept the cartridge. Last time they filled it, they placed a recording device and an x-Ray camera to spy on the company, and our secrets are being harvested from the high-tech device as I type. Soon, they will have compiled enough information on all of their customers to begin blackmailing and generally taking over the world in an evil fashion...

Which do you think is most likely?

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Hooked on Phonics

So I'm back in the land of Saints and Scholars (that'd be Ireland then, for anyone not familiar with that particular idiom), and what an interesting return it is indeed! After an utterly painless flight (well, I had some issues with the moron in front who leaned her seat back onto my knees – but that's hardly worthy of discussion), I found myself standing at the baggage carousel in Shannon, where the first strains of an Irish accent battered my ears for the first time in quite a while.

It is here I realised that to me at least, the Irish accent is filth.

Don't get me wrong though, I don't mean 'filth' as something I would rather not be marred by, but rather the kind of filth that I want to strip naked and belly-flop into, smearing it over my arms, legs and face, feeling the sheer dumb fun of it covering my every extremity as I wallow in the slop.

After months of speaking in an augmented, slightly neutered accent that was gentle on colloquialisms for the sake of being understood by my American brethren, I was worried that I would grapple to get back into the swing of things. When my father picked me up at the airport on Thursday morning, and the use of my voice was necessary, I was reluctant to dive right into the intimidatingly thick bog of linguistic incongruities that is the mid-western dialect. I dipped my toe in, (figuratively speaking of course) by initially slurring my 's' sounds into a 'shhh', and beginning a few sentences with “Ah shur...” (it should be 'sure', but that's no fun). I was careful of course, not to overdo it, for fear my father suspect I was overcompensating to hide any American accent I could have picked up (God forbid!).

By Friday night, my reticence had utterly dissipated, and I was revelling in the simple, inexplicable joy that is talking with passion. Entering a room and saying “Hello everyone” was out of the question. “Howrya dewin' ladssh?” was the greeting of choice. I was unable to reply to a single statement without the prefix “Ah shurr Jaysus...”. Every sentence was a partially digested mish-mash of syllables that were chewed up and spat out as appropriate. “I don't know” became “Ah dunno”, “yes please” was now “shurr why not?”. There wasn't a phonetic construction that wasn't at least heavily splattered by the 'filth' I took such delight in splashing around in.

I'm not quite putting on an Irish accent any more than I was 'putting on' a neutral dialect while Stateside, (and my Pittsburgh friends will vouch that even the 'neutrality' cracked now and again), so I don't want any mid-western Irish people whining at me for slagging the mellifluousness of our Hiberno-English, but rather I want this entry to serve as testament to the fact that I missed it, and look forward to immersing myself in it some more!