Saturday, January 10, 2009

That difficult first week

A few months back there was an advertising campaign for a jobs website that basically suggested that their intention was to find people jobs that would allow them to look forward to Mondays. Now, I like my job, but seriously, only weirdos look forward to Mondays. And yes, I mean you at the back - the one with the wonky eye and and the home-cut hairdo. Weirdo. And the worst Monday of all? The first one of a New Year - the one that comes after almost three weeks of Christmas holiday. The one that disrupts your pattern of sleeping until midday and watching Gilmore Girls in early afternoon. In your pants.

Yeah, THAT Monday. I hate that bastard.

Unfortunately, this week began with THAT Monday.

I'm not kidding when I say I got up ridiculously early on Monday morning; think 5:40am ridiculously early. The reasons for this were two-fold: first, I hate sitting in traffic at the best of times, least of all on the bastard-first-monday of the year, and secondly because I'd been told before Christmas that we were going to be rejigging the office layout and I wanted to make a start on boxing up my stuff and scoping out my new area, which is upstairs. With the important people.

To cut a long story reasonably short, it all went quite well, and during those few moments when it wasn't I just got inside one of the built-in cupboards beside my new desk, shut the doors and took a few moments to gather myself. It was like a rebirthing ceremony when I emerged. And it made people laugh, reinforcing the suggestion that I am 'fun to work with.' Which I am. Just ask Willowc or Watch*Paint*Dry

So yes, the move went very well. And as it turns out, me and my colleague in all things Star Trek actually have quite a bit more room than we did before. We're contemplating filling some of the space with a Fatboy, although I'm also quite liking the idea of a Slanket.

What I didn't mention about Monday was that it snowed, and while it didn't snow on Tuesday it was, I believe the official term is, f**king freezing. Anyway, in addition to my BE LESS COMPLACENT New Year's Resolution, I've also recognised that I need to crank up my running after getting into a bit of a 'two-will-do' per week rut, and despite it being very cold I nevertheless pulled on my running shoes, layered-up, and decided to go out for a run.

And yes it was f**king freezing. 

One benefit of extreme cold, however, is that it makes you run faster because you just want to get the damn thing over and done with as quickly as possible. Don't believe me? I knocked two minutes off the equivalent time and 15 seconds off my per kilometre pace compared to my previous run over the same distance. I was running so fast I'm surprised my Nike+ kit could actually record the data. I thought it might explode. 

That being the case, while I would actually like it to get a tad warmer over the next few days, I'd be quite happy for it to dip back to about minus four when I do one of my longer runs on a Tuesday evening. 

It seems that everyone wants a piece of me this year, with one poor young lady in particular having an unerring ability to ask me if I want to go catch a movie either this week (oops, can't!) or next week (sorry, just made plans!). I hate saying "I'll schedule you in for the week after next" to people, but that's kind of what I ended up saying because I feel awful if I make plans with people then cancel at the last minute to do something else instead. Anyway, Wednesday's plans entailed meeting up with Willowc to go watch The Spirit.

Yes, I said The Spirit. Well *that* got some sterling reviews, didn't it?

The thing is, I like quite a few movies that other people hate; hell, I've spent many a half hour or so defending Star Trek Nemesis. I like Star Trek Nemesis! And I thought it might be a similar sort of thing with The Spirit; I like Frank Miller's graphic novels (*blissfully ignores The Dark Knight Strikes Again*) and I like The Spirit as a character (OK, horrific admission here: I've never read any of Will Eisner's classic Spirit stories; my introduction to the character came through Darwyn Cooke's version a few years back - but that was one of the best comic books I'd read in a long time, so hey-ho). Add the fact that the previous adaptations of Frank Miller's work (Sin City and 300) have both been pretty good, albeit with a few too many slow-motion shots of semi-nekkid chaps swinging their weapons around for my taste in the latter, and I thought The Spirit would be, at worst, a slightly dumb, but rather fun way to kill a couple of hours.


OK, so the evening went a little astray to begin with because I was late in meeting Willowc due to having to wait for my washing machine to finish a spin cycle (anyone ever used that excuse before?). On the plus side, I needn't have worried because in a screen that can seat about 500 people only about seven seats were taken. Anyway, the movie started with a nonsensical monologue by The Spirit that glossed over how he came to be who he is and then just rambled on about how much he loved his city (which was quite frankly a bit weird because you half expected him to start banging a fire hydrant or something), then moved on to a fight sequence between him and Samuel L. Jackson (who really needs to actually start reading the scripts that are passed to him and stop agreeing to do every film that he's offered) that lasted ages and was really boring. As it went on, it became apparent that The Spirit also had a highly suspicious relationship with a number of stray cats (I'm assuming someone misunderstand the use of the word 'pussy' in the script), and Willowc fell asleep. 

I was rather glad when it finished. 

The problem, I think, is that Frank Miller, well, Frank Millerised the concept of The Spirit so it ended up looking less like Will Eisner's original and more like the bastard offspring of Sin City and 300. Those films had a stylised look that was consistent with the source material - this didn't. And quite frankly, without a competent director to reign everything in, this movie just came across as muddied and horribly confusing to watch.

Not even Scarlett Johansson could save it, and she has marvelous boobs.

There was just one moment that I can recall where I saw a glimmer of The Spirit I loved from the comics; in one short, unremarkable scene between The Spirit and Ellen Dolan where it looks like they're going to get it on in a hospital room before being interrupted by her father, The Spirit quickly turns to camera with a comical look of wide-eyed embarrassment on his face. Yep, something as simple as that was my highlight of the entire film.

Shaved my beard into a distinguished looking goatee. It's almost long enough for me to twirl manically now. Resisted the temptation to go back to the Wolverine-esque sideburns look I had for a few months back in 2000.

Played with some sand.

I'm a keen listener of the George Lamb show on BBC 6Music; it's fun, witty, irreverent often ridiculous, and has some great catchphrases (think "shabba!" "ya got ears, ain't ya?" and "wha'say rudegirl!"). This week they've been talking about doing a sort of competition-thing to design a bumper sticker for the show (including the phrase 'RADIO IS BACK!'), and I thought it would be kind of rude not to. 

That being the case, I spent Friday evening doing this.

I don't know why I went for an all-encompassing blue tint, it just kind of happened, but I think it looks OK. Notice how I subverted the 'RADIO IS BACK' thing by having a radio saying "I'M BACK?" That's lateral thinking, people; lateral thinking. 

Anyway, I'll email it into the show next week so we'll see if they like it and whack it up on their website…

So, as I've mentioned probably quite a lot before, I like Minis, and I really like Mini Clubmans. Back in December I went and drove a Mini Clubman Cooper D, which is a really long name for a rather small car, but it was very nice. Soon after driving it, however, a little thing called Christmas hit and I kind of got a bit sidetracked. This week, though, I decided I'd check in on the Mini website and see what was out there. And that's when I saw this. It might look familiar to you - and that's because I first talked about it waaaaaay back in October. And while the spec wasn't quite what I wanted, it had the sexiest wheels I've seen on any car in a long time and I was very tempted to go take a look. Turns out, though, that I couldn't actually be arsed to haul myself over to wherever outside of the M25 it was being kept.

Fast forward three months, though, and it's been moved to a different, far more convenient location, and a whoppingly large figure has been knocked off the price. Um, good times, eh?

That being the case, I dropped the dealership an email and arranged a test drive. Surprising myself, I arrived at the dealer this afternoon bang on time, and ogled the Clubbie for a few seconds before going in to meet the salesman. I know a car's appearance is just one aspect that you should consider when thinking about purchasing a new motor, but it was even nicer in the metal than in the picture. Seriously, it's awesome; aggressive, purposeful … and shiny. Very shiny. And good lord those wheels are bloody nice.

And it got better inside, with shiny piano black trim and a padded red leather strip running across the dash. At one point during the test drive I actually had to bite my tongue to prevent myself from telling the sales guy that I'd intended to move away from red for my third Mini, because I thought that would give the impression that I was seriously interested in this car, and desperately wanted it. Which I, um, did. Oh, and it drove really nicely too (that's kind of important, huh?). So, anyway, we get back to the dealership after a nice 30 minute drive, and I was this close (this close!) to thinking that I might actually start talking seriously with this guy about buying this car. And then one of his colleagues rudely interrupted us. 

While we'd been out in the Clubman, y'see, one of the other salesman had spent some time, with my permission, going over my car to determine how much they'd offer me in part exchange. And when we got back he kicked off, in a rather aggressive (and hilariously camp fashion I might add) about how he'd determined a rather startlingly low figure that is at odds with what I've been offered for it previously. I took an instant dislike to this guy and sat there staring at him while he reeled off a list of things he'd need to do in order to sell mine - all of which were, quite frankly, bullshit. I say this with certainty, because one of the things he cited was that it would need new brake discs which is untrue because it sailed through its MOT just two months ago, and I'm pretty sure if it had needed new brake discs my regular dealer would've made every effort to sell some to me (because Mini dealers, being an offshoot off BMW dealers, like to do everything possible to make you part ways with cash). Another thing he said was that three of the alloy wheels needed refurbishing, which is rubbish because he'd clearly made no effort to look under the horrific amount of dirt they are currently covered in to check their condition; and let's not forget the fact that I'm incredibly anal about the condition of my alloy wheels, and on the two occasions they have suffered minor scrapes I've called upon a wonderful BMW-authorised chap called Trevor to come and tart them up.

So all in all, this guy was both rude and talking out of his arse. So I told him I disagreed with him, stood up, shook the hand of the by this time frankly-embarrassed looking salesman I'd driven the car with, thanked him for his time, and walked out.

I've bought two Minis from my local dealership in the last eight years, and both times - and on the many occasions I've popped in to do test drives since then - I've been treated with nothing less than the utmost respect. Here, though, I genuinely felt like I was being patronised and talked to like I was an utter simpleton (which despite the occasional bout of ridiculousness here and there, I am not). And in the current economic climate, where car sales have dropped by unprecedented levels, you'd think dealers would be clamouring to sell you a car. I hadn't even discussed the possibility of any discounting at the point when this guy launched at me; hell, he told me that they were selling the Clubman at close to a loss like it was my fault! 

Let's put it in perspective: I stopped at some motorway services on the way home because I spotted a Starbucks and I fancied a coffee. I was treated in a more polite and welcoming manner by the barista who served me than I was by the aggressive Mini dealer, and given the difference between a hot drink costing two pounds and a car costing many thousands, I'm thinking that someone needs to give some serious thought to the way they treat potential customers. On the plus side, it's usual for BMW/Mini to call you after a visit to a dealership to find out how you were treated, and I think I've got something to complain about this time…

At the end of the day, though, I look back on this whole incident as a great shame, because I was really very interested in this Mini Clubman. That being the case, when the dealer does inevitably call me back to find out whether I want it or not, I'll be more tempted to push for a bit more money off than I would have been if the guy had just been perfectly polite to me - and let's not forget that it's far easier to haggle with someone you don't like than someone you do. Interesting times ahead…


CyberPete said...

That's a lovely Clubman!

Here, they don't like taking old cars in as part of the deal these days because the price of pre owned cars has dropped dramatically because of this credit crunch.

Your work sounds so fun! I'm quite jealous.

T-Bird said...

Most definitely let your Wolverine rawr fly and totally demoralise and destroy the Mini Rudeman.

Or better still, let his manager know how crap his staff are. I'm sure the other saleman you were dealing with gave him a right serve.

I still want to see The Spirit. Sadly.

Tim said...

Cyberpete - It is, isn't it? I think everyone's struggling in the credit crunch, but then if they want to sell cars - and believe me, the way the bottom's fallen out of the market over here, they WANT to sell cars - they need to be polite and make a good offer.

T-Bird - I should totally unleash my twin ambassadors of pain! Unfortunately, I think he was the manager; still, doesn't give him an excuse to be rude!

You don't want to see The Spirit, T-Bird, really you don't. Save yourself!

the projectivist said...

yeah, nothing like a bit of revenge to make you feel good. i hate those car salesman tactics. he was trying to undermine you so that you wouldn't haggle. but you didn't play ball. that'll show him! can't wait for the follow-up call.

also - can you post some pics of your new office so that we can suggest decorative touches?

Tim said...

Yeah, I totally stood my ground. Then walked off!

Photos of the office? Um, probably not … Most people there don't know I blog (and I don't want them to find out), and I might incur some sort of wrath if they stumbled across them!

Just imagine it this way: it's organised, spacious, quite airy, and hidden away in a corner!

Tara said...

I'd like to have a walk-in cabinet to go to during frantic work moments. The file cabinets are just too cramped.

Inexplicable DeVice said...

If you're not going to post pics of your office, you should definitely post pics of the distinguished looking goatee.

Tim said...

Tara - But with filing cabinets you can be like Hong Kong Phooey!

Inexplicable Device - Too late! I've shaved it off; you know you need to shave it off when you twirl it too much or start sucking on your bottom lip.

Inexplicable DeVice said...

Or when you start to scheme nefariously.

Tim said...

Have you got one?

CyberPete said...

Absolutely! Politeness is essential.

Which is why I don't work in sales.

Inexplicable DeVice said...

Not any more. The scheming got in the way of more mundane, day-to-day tasks like eating and sleeping. Plus, Beaky's scheming was always far superior to mine so I felt a little insecure - The goatee, therefore, had to go!

Inexplicable DeVice said...

P.S. Nice bumper sticker.

Tim said...

Cyberpete - Ha! Remind me never to upset you then!

Inexplicable Device - Are you sure you weren't a mirror universe version?

And thanks!

CyberPete said...

Ah my bark is much worse than the bite depending on what I'm biting of course.

Tim said...

Um, ouch?

missy&chrissy. said...

we vote for the slanket - it seems like it would make for a fun office accessory!

and that's funny that you brought up about using the spin cycle excuse, as we just dealt with the same this past weekend - a friend claimed she couldn't make it over to our apt-gathering as someone took up all the dryers while her clothes were in the wash, and she had to now wait for dryers, so by the time she finished it would be too late to come over. we laughed...but maybe laundry excuses are the hot new ones for 2009?

CyberPete said...

Maybe it will become a classic like washing ones hair Missy?

Tim said...

Missy&Chrissy - Definitely; it would be even better if you said you were watching your slanket!

Cyberpete - I dare you to use that next time you're trying to get out of something.

missy&chrissy. said...

i think if we all start using it, Cyberpete, it will become one a classic soon!

haha Tim - maybe washing our slanket? that combines them all into one!