I’ve worked for my employer now for around 10 months, and in that time I’ve seen, and been responsible for, a lot of change.
In fact, one of my reasons for being here is to change the culture and working practices to be more customer focused.
So imagine my horror this morning when one of the customer service team slowly turned his chair to face me, looked me dead in the eyes and said, with a face of dread, that things are starting to ‘revert back to the dark ages’.
My heart sank.
The ‘dark ages’ is clearly a reference to the old management regime that caused so much grief and misery. A regime that was responsible for tears, blood and the undercurrent of mutiny I felt when I first walked through the door almost a year ago.
But that regime ended months ago! How could we be slipping back? What could have possibly happened? I’ve worked so hard to maintain a level of motivation and joy in the business and I can’t believe it’s starting to fall apart like an over-dunked custard cream. This is disastrous!
I muster the strength and courage to ask the unaskable question; the question I feared the answer to the most in the world at this moment in time. The only question I could ever ask….
“What do you mean?”
The world goes silent. There’s only he and I now. I can hear my own heartbeat and breath, which sounds to me like Darth Vader after a brisk jog.
I wait for his answer; an answer I dread to hear but I know I must hear.
An eternity passes.
He looks me deep in the eyes now, his face contorted with apprehension. This could potentially ruin my upcoming new year celebrations.
He clears his throat and opens his mouth to speak. Here is comes…here comes the moment of truth.
“This may need to come from you rather than anyone else Dan”, he continues, delaying the moment.
Oh no, it’s serious. It’s so serious that I’m going to have to be the one responsible for managing the consequential impact on the entire business.
“What is it Brandon?” I ask, holding back a mix of emotions.
He opens his mouth to speak again. He we go….
“There are coffee granules starting to reappear in the sugar”
The young Japanese couple who have just sat down opposite me on the train are starting to get on my tits, and they’ve only been sat down for 10 minutes.
Firstly, they’re talking to each other in that baby style adopted by overly sugary couples who call each other honey bunny and cuddly bear, which I now realise is annoying in every language.
Secondly, they haven’t broken eye contact at all, not once; not even to blink.
Thirdly, she keeps flicking his ear, poking his cheeks, running her fingers through his ginger hair (yes, ginger), stroking his nose and grabbing his jaw with one hand so she can use her finger and thumb to force the corners of his mouth up to form a smile.
All of this while sharing a pair of headphones.
I’ve now realised the poor guy isn’t really enjoying his half of this relationship.
Interestingly, whilst writing this, she’d grabbed his hand and was rubbing her own hand with it affectionately.
It mildly suggests YOU WILL FUCKING LOVE ME!!
He pulled away for a second to scratch his nose (I guess from all the stroking) and her tone completely changed. It went icy cold and bitter. She’s now sat there, arms folded, with a face like a smacked arse. In fact, he’s having to lean in towards her just so he keeps his end of the headphones.
Oh, hang on…I think things are ok again as she’s pinching his nose and sticking her fingers up there repeatedly. He seems to be REALLY enjoying that! He threw her a smile that, in my opinion, had tones of “get the fuck off me woman” and she snarled at him. Yes, snarled!
Now she’s playing his overturned hand like a piano, making ‘ding dong’ noises for every finger she presses like a key.
We’re now back to the baby talk and sticky out bottom lip…and plucking an unshaved hair from his chin, or is she picking a spot? All I know is she hasn’t left his face alone since they’ve sat down.
Oh, now shes taking his photo, tugging his earlobes, pulling the corners of his eyes like a western child pretending to be oriental before their understanding of racism, pulling his bottom lip down, sticking her fingers in his mouth (go on, bite down hard!), pulling his bottom eyelid down and pinching his cheeks…
Now I know why samurai warriors would fall on their swords.
Someone’s phone rang on the train very loudly just now and it was a terrible, terrible ringtone. The guy looked at it and let it ring and ring for ages before figuring out he should maybe divert it to voicemail, mainly because he was getting the meerkat treatment from the rest of us.
The rubbernecking bloke sat opposite me at the table turned back from meerkatting to face me once again. I stupidly made a nanosecond’s eye contact with him which was apparemtly invite enough for him to try and engage me in mutual tutting and rolling of the eyes that says ‘bloody ringtones eh?’
Sorry, I’m not getting involved. You’re on your own twatboy.
The situation was exacerbated by the woman sat next to me across the aisle whose phone then rang and she proceeded to explain to her partner which train she was on and where exactly in the journey it was.
Cue more invites from King Tut.
She then spent several minutes looking out of every window with such exaggerated intensity it looked like she was on a rollercoaster without proper restraints. I guess this was to somehow demonstrate to her partner that she was really keen to explain where she was, despite the fact he can’t see her and It’s pitch black outside so all she actually saw was her stupid face reflected in the glass, jerking all over the place like a pervert with a live chicken up their arse.
Anyway, she managed to tell him which station we were at.
At least he now knows how long he’s got before he has to kick her sister out of bed.
Possibly…but consider this; he rang her a further 5 times for a location update whilst I was writing this blog.
I’ve just been out for a lunchtime walk into London town. This was for 2 reasons really; firstly to get some fresh air and secondly to peruse the shops for any January Sales bargains….despite the fact it’s still December.
As I trotted along the street I approached a police car sat by the kerb with its engine running. I quickly adopted my ‘I’m not up to anything suspicious so please don’t look at me’ walk.
And don’t pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about. We all have one. We usually adopt it when walking through the ‘Nothing To Declare’ customs channel at the airport.
Anyway, as I get closer to the car the bright reflection of the sky on the windscreen subsides and I can see that the car is empty. That’s right, I’m stood next to an empty police car idling by the kerb…with no sign of a police officer anywhere.
With this in mind, can someone please explain to me the sudden and overwhelming urge I had to get in the driver’s seat and drive off?
What the hell?
I’m a pretty law abiding citizen with a modicum of common sense, so I know that the moment I get into this car the owners will come running and most likely arrest me; yet I still found it incredibly hard to just walk by!
Moreover, as I walked away I played this scenario over and over in my head and do you know what I concluded? If it had been a private car I wouldn’t have even considered getting in and driving off.
What is wrong with me?
Christmas morning by myself as Justine is working.
Still, I’ve got back to back Big Bang Theory and I’ve eaten like a Hobbit.
Nom nom nom…
Today was the predicted end of the world by the Mayans.
Oops. It looks like you may have been wrong fellas.
Not me and several billion people on the planet.
This pretty much sums it up for me.
I’ve boarded the plane. I’ve had to turn right, which I hate doing, and I head towards the back of the aircraft gleefully looking for my non-upgraded consolation; an emergency exit seat. I look at the row numbers as I repeat mine in my head over and over…
Row 49, row 49, row 49
Ah, here it is. Great.
Im looking at the seat configuration as i’m in seat K which I now see is the window seat. Cool.
I look down and realise that most of the legroom is taken up by the door, so I only have enough legroom for my left leg.
I’m basically sitting side saddle.
Add to this the fact that I have two Americans sat behind me with that valley girl Britney Spears type of accent that goes up at the end of every (dumb) sentence, and my personal hell is complete.
Oh well, at least it’s only for nearly 8 hours.
Since finishing this blog entry, it’s become clear that the people next to me aren’t coming…so now I have 3 seats to myself.
Time to spread out and sleep.
Why are Toblerones such a big thing at airports?
My dodgy stomach has been no fun on this trip. When I finally made it through all the security checks at Orlando International airport, I made a dash to the mens room for the inevitable.
Having negotiated all the same wet toilet seat issues from my blog on the 11th of December, I sat down to my Jamaican attraction; Dung River Falls.
I flushed, stood up, wiped my brow, caught my breath and my balance, unlocked the stall with the massive gaps (11th Dec blog) and opened the door.
Oh no, oh no, oh no.
There was a guy waiting for an empty stall, and I’d just vacated one.
I looked at him with a sense of sadness and guilt. I wanted to hug him and, whilst holding back tears, wish him good luck.
His family are going to miss him.
It’s nearing Christmas, so it’s expected that there would be Christmas songs playing in every shop and mall in the USA, but this is where the Americans get it right.
It’s all songs like “Let it snow”, “Have yourself a merry Christmas” and “White Christmas”. There’s no sign of George Michael, Band Aid or (bloody, f’ing, frigging, sodding) Slade anywhere.
For this I’ll forgive them saying “Happy holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas”.
Whilst in the restrooms at Epcot, washing my hands, I noticed the big, intimidating, scary looking Hispanic dude at the next sink was wearing a pair of Minnie ears.
I didn’t really know how to react.
Laughing was definitely not one of my options though.
Today we visited Disney World in Orlando. It was an expected series of events including a lot of ‘cast members’ with coat hanger smiles, planetoid sized people with huge buckets of full fat Coke and loads of able bodied lazy fuckers on rented mobility scooters; hacking their way through the crowds like the bulls in Pamplona.
But the best part of the day by far was when we were due to get off the car park transfer at Hollywood Studios. We started to slow down and the cheesy American voice announced that we were to disembark on the right.
She then re-confirmed it was on the right.
Ok, fair enough.
Then she re-re-confirmed it was on the right.
Really? I suppose this is for the American market.
She then said “that’s the same side as the sidewalk and the trash cans”
I think my I.Q. just dropped a few points.
Today is 12/12/12.
Worth a mention.
On our drive from Miami to Orlando we decided to stop off at a service station to stretch our legs, although we all knew that the real reason was the driver’s need for nicotine and caffeine. He was threatening to get a little punchy, and no-one wanted that from the man with his feet on the pedals.
We parked up, got out, stretched our legs and proceeded into the air conditioned building filled with far too many kids bereft of guardians.
As our driver made a beeline for Dunkin’ Donuts, I decided to visit the toilet as I’d had a dull ache in my stomach since breakfast that indicated the approach of my own Dunkin’ Donut.
I looked for the restrooms, or washrooms, or bathrooms, despite there not being a bathtub in sight nor anywhere to sit and rest.
Well, that’s not entirely true, so I found an empty stall. I cautiously peered inside and found nothing that resembled an explosion at the Cadbury factory, so I confidently stepped inside and locked the door behind me; not that it mattered considering I could still be seen by anyone walking past. More on this shortly.
I lowered the toilet seat and, yes you guessed it, it was covered in delightful drops of yellow. Why do people use the stalls to have a piss when there are loads of urinals? It’s selfish to those needing to cut off some bum rope as it’s not like we can cop a squat in a urinal is it? If you absolutely HAVE to use the stall at least lift the seat, or get a better aim, or a longer penis.
It was at this point I let out a very audible sigh which would usually cause others, who were possibly resting or bathing, to wonder what I was doing in there.
Not in America.
No, in America the toilet cubicles have a gap between the stall and the door, ranging from half an inch to something you could easily push a cat through. This means the world can see you trembling one out with your dignity around your ankles.
I decided to make the best of a bad situation and grabbed a handful of toilet paper and wiped the seat as dry as possible. Then, with military precision, I started to cover the offending plastic horseshoe with enough streams of toilet paper to make a mummy think “steady on”. This went on for at least 2 to 3 minutes until I was satisfied I wouldn’t come in contact with any part of the seat.
I sat down, facing the ill conceived grand canyon gap and looked out for any peeping toms or cats. Once I was satisfied that no-one gave a shit, I decided that maybe it was time I did. My stomach was still feeling uncomfortable and there was no telling when the next pit stop would be.
The time had come for my big performance.
Here we go.
Oh well, I’ll have a piss instead…but I don’t want to touch the underside of this seat so I’ll just leave it down.
This is a follow on from the last two entries.
It just gets better and better.
We land in Nassau 25 minutes late and taxi to the gate. So far so good(ish); I can probably still make my flight.
There’s an issue with getting the walkway up to the plane door, so we stand there and we wait for another 15 minutes. I’m getting worried now; my connecting flight leaves in 45 minutes!
We finally get off the plane and I power walk towards the baggage claim area like a man possessed, through the newly built wing of the airport.
The security doors are locked and neither of the security staff can open them with their electronic flashy beepy key card passes. Shit! We stand there for another 10 minutes while someone goes and gets what’s called a ‘key’, and hey presto, the door opens! Magical!
With only 35 minutes until my flight, I hit a full sprint…which is great considering we were at the furthest gate from ANYWHERE!
The good news is that my bag is already there waiting for me at baggage claim, with an “oh there you are!” look on its face. Hooray! I grab it and run, with my case hopping from left wheel to right wheel in a manner threatening to capsize at any moment!
A queue for customs. I bite the bullet and, whilst panting heavily and sweating like a whore in church, I ask the line of people if I can jump in front of them as I have a flight in 10 minutes. The woman at the front made it clear she was not happy by looking me up and down and scowling, but the customs lady heard me and beckoned me to go next. Ha! In your face scowling woman! The customs lady asked if I had any alcohol or cigarettes and then sent me on my way. I picked up the sprint where I left off and bolted through arrivals and out into the Bahamian air.
Whew! That is HOT!
No time to stop and catch some rays; I run into departures and straight up to the BahamasAir check-in desk, panting and wheezing like a priest on a whore.
The flight is now closed.
I pull out the big guns; giving the ultimate puppydog eyes, pleading and (which is what I think swung it for me), pointing out that it was THEIR flight that caused me to be late.
It worked and I got my boarding pass! She smiled and said, “now go to gate C51” like they do in the movies when they say “now go get her and tell her you love her!”. I ran my fastest run, knowing my beloved was waiting with wings open wide.
Interestingly, US customs and immigration was a breeze….and unexpected as I thought I would get it at the other end, not in Nassau. Oh well, less hassle in Florida I guess.
I then continued to run; my lungs bursting with the fast pumping of oxygen passing through them.
I can see the Departures board. It’s just up ahead! I’m nearly there! It’s gonna happen! This journey from Satan is almost at an end!
Flight delayed for 45 minutes.
I stood there, looking up at the screen, dripping with sweat, panting so hard that nearby kids were passing out from oxygen deficiency, and I could only do one thing.
I mean I really laughed out loud.
The family next to me were shielding their children from the strange laughing man, but I didn’t care. I just stood there and let out a big hearty laugh.
Brilliant. I couldn’t have ended this story any better. Irony had handed me the perfect conclusion to this episode of my journey.
Looking around me I suddenly realised I was technically in the States; there was a Wendy’s, a Quiznos, a Dunkin’ Donuts and more. But best of all, I was just happy that everything was clean, shiny and air-conditioned. I ventured into the toilet and there weren’t shit spattered bowls, piss covered floors and water-free taps.
I can wait 45 minutes. After all, I’ve got to get my breath back.
How’s this for some scary shit?
I go to check in at Havana airport only to be told that, as I’m going onto the United States, I need to show my completed ESTA (which I don’t have on me mainly because I wasn’t told I needed it as it was all authorised and approved online), Otherwise i cant leave Cuba.
He asks if I can get it up on my iPhone, but I have no Internet and he was less than willing to allow me to access the Internet from a computer in the entire airport. I mean, how crap is that?
Anyway, after much pleading and my best puppydog eyes, he directs me to the BahamasAir office so I can go onto one of their PCs and show them my ESTA online.
I leave the coolness of the terminal, adopting the briskest walk I have, and into the sauna known as Cuba. Then, with heavy suitcase and hand luggage, I climb the stairs to the first floor office.
That was fun.
I eventually find the office which doesn’t have any signs on it and there’s a bitter old lady sat behind a desk who demands to know what I want. I tell her. She seems annoyed that I’ve interrupted her work and beckons me over. As I get nearer I see she’s on Facebook.
Anyway, I access my details (on the ESTA, not Facebook), and she looks at it over her glasses like my old maths teacher used to do. She then writes a compliment slip out for me to take back to check-in to say I do actually have an approved ESTA. Then she suggests I get lost, which sounds sexier in Spanish somehow. With foresight I take a couple of photos of the computer screen as I don’t need a repeat of this in both Nassau and Florida!
I lug my heavy case back down the stairs, through the heat and crowds and back to check-in. The clerk looks at the slip, smiles and then asks if I have confirmation of my flight out of the US, otherwise I can’t leave Cuba.
Are you kidding me?? I swear these people really want me to stay!
No, I don’t have the confirmation of the flight back to the UK as it was being booked this week back in England whilst the girlfriend and I were sunning ourselves in Cuba.
A few more puppydog eyes later I finally get my boarding pass and I’m allowed airside by the (ahem) ‘pleasant and friendly’ immigration staff, and security staff, and just staff generally. Gosh darn it they’re SO friendly.
To top it all off, the flight is now going to be leaving about 40 minutes late as they’ve only just started boarding; 15 minutes after it was due to actually take off! So I’m probably going to miss my connection.
I really am going to miss this place.
So I’m at José Martí airport, terminal 2, waiting for my flight to Nassau, which will connect with my flight to Florida. It’s about a million degrees in the shade and I’m melting because I’ve just spent the last 40 minutes in a custom made metal box with no air, or as the Cubans call it, a ‘taxi’.
I walk through the massive sweaty chattering crowd outside the terminal and peer inside.
It’s empty. I mean there’s no-one but check in staff and an old guy at the entrance with a walkie talkie who just asked if I’m flying today. I guess the huge suitcase and heavy hand luggage I was struggling with wasn’t enough of a clue.
Anyway, he waves me through and I enter the air conditioned bliss.
I look at the screen above every check in desk and they read ‘Miami’. I didn’t think you could fly direct from Cuba to the United States, and yet here is proof that I was wrong. It’s at this point I’m filled with joy and appreciation for my indirect flights (wipes away tears of sarcasm).
So I start looking for screens that say Nassau but none of them do. I then realise I’m 20 minutes early. Better than being late I guess, but hey, at least I’m nice and cool. I’ll just find somewhere to sit in the massive empty terminal building, away from the sweat and noise of the mob outside. Why are they all standing out there anyway? It’s better in here, where it’s cool and fresh and, hey…there’s nowhere to sit! What the hell?
I decide to stand, even though it’s really my only choice other than laying down and airports don’t like it when you do that.
After a few minutes the old guy, lets call him Jobésworth Cuntos, comes over and asks me again which flight I’m on.
I tell him….again.
He then says I have to wait outside, or something to that effect as it mostly consisted of stern jibberjabber and waving his walkie talkie towards the door.
Well, that explains the angry mob outside.
Hang on, this building is empty and can easily accommodate the wilting passengers outside, three times over. So me being me I challenge him.
“But it’s really hot out there!”, I say, pointing outside and then tugging on my t-shirt collar with my index finger to indicate that it’s hot out there.
Stern jibberjabber, walkie talkie waving.
“And it’s nice and cool in here”, I continue, pointing first at the floor to indicate I mean ‘in here’, and then fanning myself with my hand and giving him the thumbs up.
What an arsehole. No wonder people out here are getting increasingly pissed off. All that air-conditioning is going to waste, not helped by Jobésworth here standing in the open sliding doorway causing it to remain open. Or maybe that’s just his way of showing us how empty and cold it is inside; a lot like him actually.
It seems that in Cuba, those who earn power get respect, those who are given power, work at the airport.
I’m not looking forward to meeting the rest of the Cuntos family who no doubt work at customs and immigration in Florida.