Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Present Presentations

I am not very comfortable in Public Speaking situations, despite being able to talk to any loony, alcoholic, tramp or lawyer on the street.

So, when I was informed that I would be accompanying the commercial director and the marketing manager on their ‘Roadshows’ to present the work I have done on their e-commerce site, my knees wobbled slightly, I paled dramatically and my voice broke like a teenage boy’s.

For weeks, I have fretted about the forthcoming presentations, but resolved to use Power Point to the best of my (limited) ability and put on such a good visual display that they wouldn’t really bother to listen to me and my stammering deliveries.

The boss, a blunt Northerner if ever there was one, hauled me in to go through the presentation with him.

So, what the f*ck’s this mean? Whatcher on about ‘ere? Talk to me in Northern speak, not yer tecky stuff. I only just understand bits of what yer say, so f*ck knows what the rest of them’ll think if yer don’t speak normal.

But, I protested, I have to use these terms because...well...that is their name. Search Engine Optimisation does what it says on the tin. You optimise the site for the search engines. Moves you up the Engine Results Pages...

Look. It’s all boll*cks to me. I know you’re bringing in the sales and I know we’re gettin’ loads of visitors, but I want you to show off to them. Actually, keep talking yer tecky boll*cks ‘cos then they’ll realise that you know what you’re on about and give us a load of online deals. Just make them visuals bigger. Can’t f*ckin’ read anything...

Off I went to make the visuals bigger.

The visuals were then pulled apart again as, unfortunately, we weren’t showing ourselves quite as favourably as the boss wanted in comparison with other sites who’d had an online presence for many years longer than us. I was called in to account for my action as to why I had left one particular slide in which didn’t look brilliant. This was first thing Monday morning, the morning of our first presentation. I had thought of this on the Saturday night and realised I had been a wally about it. Unfortunately, so did the boss.

Get it sorted out, he barked.

Yes, I know, I had thought about this over the weekend, and it was my first job today. Sorry.

S’alright. I don’t have the monopoly on being a tw*t, you know, he informed me, quaintly...

The presentation went OK, I guess. As I stumbled out of the meeting room with knees knocking and lit up my cigarette with fumbling hands, the boss came out after me.

Alright, Tiger? He asked me. What d’yer think of that, then?

I dunno? What did you think of it?

You were OK. You talked your tecky boll*cks and nobody knew what the hell you were on about. That’s fine by me. Just try to tell them what meta information is next time, though. That’s really weird stuff.

The next presentation was on the Wednesday. We were flying to Gatwick from Manchester in the morning, which meant a start of 5am for me. I was most distressed that Mr Parnsip refused to rouse himself from his pit to make me a cuppa as I showered. It is the last time I do it for him when he is travelling at ungodly hours, I have since vowed...(Charles, are you reading this?)

I was told to tailor the presentation for the second supplier by using slides of their products and some of the online collaborations I have supervised. I attempted to get it sorted out whilst rushing around like a headless chicken as my phone rang repeatedly with calls from my colleague in the e-Pharmacy who was having a panic about a knackered refund system which was deciding to credit a customer’s credit card with almost half a million pounds for two tubes of haemorrhoid unguent. I deemed sorting this out with our developers slightly more important than the presentation and thus only had half an eye on it all.

As the boss waddled off to the toilets and passed me as I skulked back to my desk from a sneaky fag, I asked if all was OK on it.

Aye, apart from not screen shooting the home page, and getting the procedure of purchasing in the wrong order. So, apart from it being sh*te, it’s fine. Gerrit sorted.

I did. I got it sorted, and as I went right through the presentation, slide by slide, I realised that yes, I didn’t actually have to take on the mantle of being a tw*t: rather than go right through to the end, the boss had left up the name of the supplier to whom we had presented on Monday. My somewhat sneering query as to whether I should alter it to the more appropriate supplier was greeted with: Stop being a smart*rse! And meet me at Boots in the airport tomorrow. 7.30am. Don’t be late. And don’t forget your passport.

I arrived at 7.15 and parked up in the long-stay car park, to which I had been ordered and where I handed over £19.00 for a day’s parking. It was bitterly cold and there had been freezing fog all the way. I deeply yearned for the warmth of my bed, where I knew Mr P slumbered and pushed out the zeds as his mouth gaped and slobbered across the pillow. I was not happy.

I was even more unhappy that I couldn’t, for the life of me, find Boots. Off I went to the Bureau de Change to ask where it was. Upstairs, I was duly informed.

Upstairs I went. No Boots. Not anywhere. So I then asked Security where it was. Through Departures.

Harumph! I was a bit narked that the boss couldn’t be fagged meeting me before check-in, but I did my bit, got strip-searched, bleeped a few times going through machines and finally got to Boots.

My phone rang.

Where are you?

I’m outside Boots. I couldn’t answer the phone immediately because I was going through security.

Worra yer goin’ through security for? I told you! Meet me at Boots!

Well, I was told that the Boots was in the Departures lounge. That’s what I was told by security.
No, no, no! When you get to the top of the stairs, it’s on your right. You can’t miss it. Got that dirty big sign B-O-O-T-S outside it.

Well, I’m here now. So I’ll meet you at this Boots, eh?

Fifteen minutes later, he and another colleague pitched up. He wouldn’t meet my eye properly and so I asked R where the Boots was.

The silly s*d, she expostulated. There isn’t a Boots on the other side. You found the only one.

The boss had the dignity to look suitably sheepish and blustered about being sure it had once been a Boots but was now trading as WH Smith. It didn’t wash with R who shot him down. She’s a hockey player, so she takes no cr*p from anyone.

We stood and waited...and waited...and waited...

Eventually, the captain came to us and informed us that, due to a technical hitch, the plane would not be taking off and Gatwick was fog-bound.

We were not flying to London that day.

We left Departures, having queued for an eternity to have our tickets validated for refund and headed out.

Right, we’re off this way, said the Boss. Where are you? In Long Stay? Oh. Thought I told you to park in Short Stay where I am?

No, you bloody didn’t, I snarled.

I waited at the shuttle bus for 15 minutes in the icy wind and the -2degC temperatures, shivering in my short skirt and thin suit jacket.

Then I realised that I had left my parking exit ticket and couldn’t leave the car park. I rushed back in to the machines and some kind soul, bless his/her heart, had had the decency to leave my ticket atop the machine. That person will go to heaven one day.

Another fifteen minutes wait for the next bus.

And eventually, I got to the office. I decided not to stay long and made an excuse to slope off up to our internet pharmacy where I sat and drank lovely hot coffee with my opposite number up there until 3pm when she told me to clear off home and put my feet up.

I did.

And in a few weeks, I will be attempting to make the rescheduled Gatwick trip again. Wish me luck...

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

More Shopping Tales...

I, Charles Parsnip, am happily engaged to be married to one Agnes Shirley Bandage Petticoat Mildew - the love and light of my life. Last weekend, she walked out on me...

It was during a completely innocuous shopping trip to the local shopping centre. We had a lovely coffee, and walked arm in arm through the ranks of ill-dressed northern oiks to find something nice for dear Agnes to wear.

After an hour or so, Agnes proclaimed boredom with the whole sojourn and so we began to make our way back to the safety and comfort of the car. No cigarettes in the shopping centre these days: indeed, Agnes remarked that she was considering cutting down on the volume of tar she lines her lungs with which pleased me greatly. We were nicotine free for around an hour. As a smoker myself, I agreed with her decision that we needed to get out into the fresh air and suck some smoke into our lungs tout de suite.

So it was with some surprise that, as we walked past the huge "Sale" signs hoisted in shop windows, I noticed the red neon of the "Anne Summers" shop. Regular readers will note that this is a subject that Agnes associates with some embarrassment and, in an effort to reclaim some form of upper hand, after the Scrabble-annihilating episodes, I nudged her and nodded towards the almost-nude plastic models in the window, two of which were in the process of having sexy air stewardess outfits removed and replaced with latex policewomen.

"Look! Anne Summers...."

It was a strange force of nature that caused me to take her by the arm and guide her towards the doorway. Shop assistants dressed in black nodded and smiled as we walked in, and immediately, I began to look at the wares on display with a sense of wonder akin to a small child given £500 to spend in a sweet shop with no threat of dentists in sight.

Agnes and I have a very strong relationship. There is little we cannot discuss, or indeed have not discussed, so I was confident of her ability to strike down any "looks" with either her dagger-like stare, or razor sharp wit. Failing that, Agnes can deliver a rather painful and unerringly swift roshambo when it is required. As a consequence, I was not prepared for the reaction I received after five minutes of browsing.

I think it was the air stewardess uniform that did it. As I took it off the rack to examine the quality of the material, shaking my head somewhat at the plastic tray and authentic sick bag attached, I turned to Agnes and made a comment. An innocuous enough comment at the time, but I think it was one of those moments similar to when you shout at someone in a pub (in order to be heard over the noise) and the entire place falls silent.

"I think you'd look a bit daft in that don't you?" I said, as I held it up to Agnes' face for inspection. Heads turned, silence reigned supreme, and briefly, I wondered whether I had perhaps once again engaged my mouth before putting my brain into gear.

The response confirmed my fears. In a quiet tone, her gaze flickering from me to the gaudy uniform she uttered a few choice words... "I have to get out of here... I'm leaving".

And with those words, the lovely Agnes left me there feeling rather foolish and unsure of the best thing to do next.

When your loved one walks out of the sweet shop what do you do? Do you dutifully follow them in order to determine what was wrong, or do you look at the £500 in your hand and think "More for me!!". Unfortunately, I am not blessed with an oversized brain.

I moved past the gentleman towering at least a foot over my own six foot frame who was staggering around on crutches examining the various lubrication oils on offer. Every time he moved his crutch, he groaned (an ironic choice of words for a gent in a shop such as this) and idly, I wondered whether some form of sexual deviance had got him into this state. The obese woman examining a "Spank-Me" schoolgirl outfit smiled up at me as I regarded the nurse's outfit which was coincidentally identical to the very same outfit mentioned in this post by Agnes. I imagined the large lady, crammed into the size "10-12" (yeah right!) outfit, on her hands and knees receiving a spanking and the raw potato I'd had for breakfast began to inch its way up my throat. I swiftly moved on. Rounding the corner, a couple were perusing large plastic replicas of male genetilia. The young lady was holding one in each hand, carefully measuring the weight whilst her male companion looked on with a strange look that I could only describe as disdain. I struggled to stifle a snort as I moved past to the darker recesses of the shop.

As I debated the comedic value of purchasing a PVC police-woman's outfit, simply to see Agnes's reaction, I realised that I had now spent Too Long in, not only the bondage section, but the shop proper, and that it was time to leave.

Exiting the premises, I cast my gaze over the hordes of Manchester as they hurried about their business, and out of the corner of my eye caught a rather subversive-looking Agnes leaning casually against a shop window three stores down

Worriedly, I hastened over to her, expecting the same look of derision reserved for my lengthy browses in DIY stores (paint section) and Jessops. Instead, all I received was a tight smile and a slight pillar box red complexion. Grabbing my hand, she frog marched me through John Lewis and out to the safety of the car park, where she lit up with a speed that would make The Stig nod his head in satisfaction.

Agnes was blushing...