Wednesday, 9 November 2005

Diverse Dealings

This week I’ve been frantically trying to fix the multitude of errors in our online database. We operate an ‘issue tracking’ system whereby I can communicate with the creators of the system and inform them of what exactly the problems are with the interface. The people behind Angry Fish offer further proof –if proof were needed- that one must be wary of the I.T-geek crowd. They may look harmless and unassuming but in reality they are like the Borg, cold calculating and utterly ruthless. They possess the ability to blind you with technical terms and bore you to tears with long-winded jargon; this provides the smoke screen they need to sucker you in to an uneven business deal. Even if our I.T phobic staff actually used the system, it probably wouldn’t work. Right now, for instance, the database reporting system is saying that all the unemployed people we got into work in the first quarter of 2005 were all disabled and from ethnic minorities. If this state of affairs were actually the case, it would be the equality and diversity department’s wet dream. However, I feel I’m justified in viewing these statistics with a hefty degree of scepticism.

I decided to get my haircut a couple of days ago. I say ‘I decided’, in fact these decisions are made for me by ‘she who must be obeyed’. When my hair gets to a certain length she begins a carefully planned programme of ridicule, humiliation and rebuke, until finally I overcome my traditional fear of hairdresser and head down to the cheapest barbers. Funnily enough, the cheapest barbers is just round the corner from me, a rather run down looking establishment known as ‘Khizar’s Cuts’. As I walked in the customers looked slightly startled. I was a little taken aback by this reaction, but sauntered over to the nearest chair and buried my head in a morbidly unexciting issue of ‘Autotrader’. Eventually it was my turn for a trim and I walked over and sat down in the chair. The barber grinned welcomingly at me, his English wasn’t too good and it took some considerable discourse before he understood that I wanted a short back and sides.

‘You first guy….look like you come in shop’ he eventually said, after what had been a slightly uncomfortable silence. ‘really’, I replied, not quite understanding what he meant. ‘yes…..only brothers in here’ he added. Having paid him and exchanged pleasantries I left the shop and walked back to my humble abode. It was then that I realised that he had been trying to tell me that I was the first white guy who had ever been in his shop. I had gone for a haircut and accidentally become an unwitting cultural ambassador. From now on, I’ll always be getting my hair cut there, not because I am interested in building cross-community links, but because he does a damn good haircut at a reasonable price.

There comes a point in a man’s life when he must abandon his socialist principles and stick his greedy snout into the trough of capitalism. With that in mind, I have been applying to various companies in a bid to get on the first rung of the corporate ladder. One rule I have learnt over the years is that when attending a job interview, you must aim to get there around two hours in advance; this is because things inevitably go wrong. A few days ago, I stepped out of the Edgware road tube station and discovered that the map I had earlier printed out from the Internet bore absolutely no relation to my immediate surroundings. Feeling a little confused, I decided to seek some assistance from the locals.

I soon discovered that asking for directions in London is very much like trying to fund-raise for Al-Quaeda on the streets of Manhattan. When you greet the average passer by with a cheery ‘excuse me’ they state back with a look of contempt and quicken their pace as if you are suffering from leprosy. Eventually one good Samaritan responded to me and informed me in no uncertain terms that I was at the wrong Edgware and that the place I wanted was on completely the opposite side of the city. Luckily I had sufficient time to hightail it to North London via the morbidly incompetent Northern Line. I had heard bad things about this service, and these were confirmed when our train reached Golders Green and the driver informed us that we all had to get out because the train was ‘terminating here’. After an interval of about half an hour, I and the rest of the hyper-stressed passengers were told that there had been a mistake and the service wasn’t ‘terminating’ at all. As we shuffled angrily back onto the train I began to understand the pain of the average London commuter.

At the end of the eventual interview I was told that I had ‘ticked a lot of boxes’. If these boxes are labelled ‘team-player’, ‘well spoken’ and ‘self starter’, then I’m in with a shout. If the boxes read, ‘sub-human’,‘sweats profusely when answering questions’, and ‘comprehensively obnoxious’, then I’m going to be checking brio invoices for a good while longer.

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