Thursday, April 30, 2009

Kyle from Time Warner Cable

***Please view before reading. It's only 30 seconds.***

This commercial, featuring Kyle from Time Warner Cable that airs in the LA area really unsettles me every time I see it. It's seems abundantly clear that Kyle is gay and I while I must say I am happy to see a gay guy in a commercial and hope to see more, something about Kyle irks me. When I thought about this, I felt bad, like his gay enthusiasm was too much for me. But I soon realised that that's not it. I love lots of gays like Tim Gunn, Christian Siriano or course, Richard Simmons.

My hero, Tim Gunn, eyes a fashion creation with concern.

So what is it about this commercial that irks me?

I accept a certain upping of enthusiasm from a salesman. It is that carefully measured dose that allows me to buy into what they are saying, even while knowing they are being a little condescending with their unbridled enthusiasm for cleaning products.

Gays are over the top with their unbridled enthusiasm for stuff, but that's a generally accepted trait of many homosexual men. They are as enthusiastic about fashion disasters as they are about fine, firm package. I find it endearing.

Put these two different types of enthusiasm together, and frankly, it's just too much. My feeling is that gay flamboyance coupled with a sales pitch is just off the charts. It's like a wacky cartoon version of a sales pitch. As it is, I am already distrustful of commercials where an employee of a large company that jerks me around, in this case, the cable company, tries to tell me how fulfilling supplying cable service is, dangerously straddling the line of realism. I have already been annoyed by a previous commercial in this series where a girl loves her shitty job way too much to be believed. Add in the gay and this already preposterous premise becomes insulting to my intelligence, more so than the first ad.

The ridiculousness of the Magic Bullet infomercial is a source of entertainment in its own right, not to be confused with any real attempt to trick the viewer into thinking this isn't a piece of shit.

While it's just a part of nature that some people are gay, I don't think I have evolved enough to handle the booster shot of the sales pitch to the existing flamboyancy. A family of two mums arguing about the kids blowing out the phone bill, or dad 1 whipping up a last minute meal with Campbell's Cream of Mushroom soup just before dad 2 gets home is just fine. I just can't take them lying to me about how great Time Warner Cable is. Shit, maybe it's just that it's Time Warner Cable. I KNOW I would love Kyle in an infomercial, coming to thing of it... Somebody hire that kid!

"Equality is the freedom to dislike everyone equally."

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Team Cold

***NOTE*** Temperatures will appear as Celsius/Fahrenheit.

I knew I'd reached new heights of coldness one evening when I stated to my overly warm blooded husband, "I'm cold." "You're cold?" he said, ever incredulous at my low blood temperature, "Well, I'm not cold now, but I'm about to be." I think he deemed it to be the most insane proclamation he'd ever heard: a preemptive declaration of coldness.

We were about to go out and the jacket I wanted to wear was in the car. I knew I would be cold on the walk from the apartment to the car, a state I was concerned to be in, hence I stated it as "I'm cold." I had to hear about it the whole car ride to our destination. Luckily that destination was only five minutes away. Even luckier was that the destination was our beloved Tiki Ti and with all the drink consumed, I was no longer cold.

Coldness is something I have had to deal with all my life. I spent most of my childhood winters watching television in my parent's bedroom, seated over the central heating duct. I'm surprised I took to it as I did after an earlier childhood experience could have scarred me for life. My dad, after fixing his track pants over the duct to warm them up, decided to hide in the bathroom and call out to me in a ghostly voice"Simone....I've fallen down the duct!" When I came into the room and found his pants inflated, resembling legs, I ran out of the room screaming to my mum for help as I really feared for his life. Thankfully I overcame this trauma and the duct and I went on to have a strong and healthy relationship for many years.

If I ever needed a quick burst of warmth, I would pause and take my position over the corridor duct. There is nothing to do in the corridor but walk to your required room or sit on the duct. One night, after my sister had fallen asleep in the living room, my mum attempted to carry her to bed, didn't see me on the duct, tripped on me, hit her head on the wall and dropped my sister. My heat addiction had reached new heights by endangering others.

The earth's core: hell or heaven?

The introduction of an electric blanket into my bed might have been my greatest downfall. That, coupled with the television in my bedroom kept me tucked away while most kids were (gasp) outside. There were a lot of stories about electric blankets causing house fires and my dad was forever on my case to turn it off. But as the blanket took at least 30 minutes to reach its maximum temperature and I fancied naps immediately upon my return home from school, the blanket stayed on all day and all night. I believe it's possible that the blanket remained on its highest setting for up to six solid months. I now have an electric blanket for my bed, an electric throw for the couch and one that plugs into the cigarette lighter for the car. When I go to visit Stephanie in Seattle, given the city's close proximity to the Arctic (close enough for me, anyway) I send a combination of text messages and emails ahead of time to make sure the whereabouts of the spare electric blanket are known. The blanket in question was purchased before my first visit, for my visit.

The car blanket. It's real.

When the glory of summertime hits, what should be the most comfortable days of the year are foiled by the air-conditioning, so a heater runs at my feet under my desk at work. I would have to say that air conditioning is the bane of my existence. Sure, I understand it, and hot dog, I even use it! But what baffles me is that most people apparently spend all winter looking forward to summer, but then it comes and what do they do? Turn on the A/C to temperatures equal to that of a moderate winter. Why make it so cold? I don't understand. It's summer. It's a time to wear light clothing. Why make it so a cardigan is required on a 40/100 plus degree day? When it is hot, I feel like we should be embracing the warmth. Too hot? Then make it about 22/71. I find even that too cold, but I am trying to compromise. Ideally, I would like things to be 27/80 degrees at all times. In bed, I require less what with all the covers, but the rest of the time, that temperature is ideal. I can drop down to 24/76 and work well with others, but these "hotties" are unwilling to work with me.

Hear, hear!

I like nothing more on a sunny winter day to get in the car that has been warmed by the sun and bask in the heat as a relief from the biting cold. But often I'm with some monster who opens all the windows immediately. What's going on?! We were just trying to escape that horror and now you are letting it back in! It's like a suspense movie where the people always go UP the stairs. These lunatics just keep letting the enemy in.

After a long time of feeling isolated with my temperature needs, I would occasionally come across someone who felt the same as I did. What I then realised is that there are two of us and one hot person, we win. The windows remain closed, the heater on and two thirds of a room or car population are happy. I then created an organisation called Team Cold for the express purpose of identification and unification against the powers that keep A/C on and windows open.

One example of Team Cold was getting my sister-in-law on board and agreeing to hold strong against the ridiculous "hot" complaints of her brother, my husband. One day, after a good long exposure to the car heater, I actually started to feel hot. But as a member of Team Cold, I hushed. I presumed Gwynne was cold, so I sucked it up. As it turns out, she was overcooked too, and it was a great relief once the revelation was made, but at least we were both looking out for each other's interests.

One Team Cold member who was on thin ice was my sister, Rebecca. Once a proud and eager member, too much window opening in moving cars caused for some chastising from the president (me, of course) and her membership to come into question. She very much wanted to remain a member, so to assess her commitment, an evaluation was conducted.

Initial assessment form for new Team Cold applicant

Notes taken on my sister as she attempted to be accepted back into Team Cold a couple of years ago.

A pre-creation of what a successful Team Cold can achieve.

As cold as I am, I believe I finally met my match. While Rebecca scored poorly in her efforts to re-join Team Cold, she was awarded points for getting her friend Lisa on the case. Lisa is hands down the coldest person I have known. As we drove home in a car together, Lisa was happiest with the heater on full blast for the entire 45 minute journey. Even I was starting to sweat, but Lisa was only mildly appeased. In the spirit of Team Cold, I did not argue for temperature reduction though I wanted it. It was at this moment that I did what I felt I had to do which was to award the Presidency over to Lisa. Clearly she had what it took to take Team Cold into the future and pass laws for all A/C units to go no lower than 22/72, though perhaps she will foil us all and have air conditioning outlawed entirely. Shit.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Haband: Trust me, you just dialed the wrong number

I work for a fabric designer. We have just one product and that's fabric. So, if someone calls advising me they need to return a pair of trousers or slippers, I know I quickly need to nip this in the bud. I advise them that our numbers are just one digit off as this hapless customer attempts to reach Haband.

From what I can gather, Haband appears to be some sort of mail order and web based store geared to the elderly and fashion unconscious. Please take a moment to visit their site just to get a feel for who their customers might be. The models don't really describe them, but the styles and prices do. They are the type of person who make simply dialing a wrong number, as all of us have done, a harrowing experience which it needn't be.

Haband seems to be a company of poor customer service as I find myself berated by customers who, by a slip of the finger, end up talking to me. Apparently Haband's usual customer service line is automated which proves most difficult for these people who are clearly already suffering some kind of impairments, so judged, simply on the merits that they think it's a good idea to shop there. On the occasion that I, a real live person answer the phone, they are so relieved to finally get some help after whatever Haband has put them through, that I am bombarded with their complaints with barely a chance to explain what they've done. Even after the conclusion of their monologue when I tell them they have in fact NOT called Haband, they seem desperate to make this work somehow. Senility appears rampant among the Haband customer.

The most striking feature of the misguided Haband caller is their insistence that the mistake was not theirs. Why is that so hard to accept after I've told them we are not who they are looking for? Why must the blame be on the number they have rather than a misdial? Clearly it's a common mistake as I usually tell them who they were trying to call before they can tell me. A classic conversation goes like this:

Me: (Company name), how may I direct your call?
Customer: I ordered a brown sweater and you sent me blue and I need to return it.
Me: Oh, were you trying to reach Haband?
C: Yes...who have I called?
Me: (Company name). We just sell fabric.
C: Well, I'm trying to reach Haband and this was the number they gave me. (As though I need to help them anyway because they dialled the number they were given)
Me: Our numbers are very similar, you've just misdialed. (They don't believe it could happen)
C: Is this 1-800-*** 1674?
Me: No, this is 1-800-*** 167 ONE
C: But that's not what I dialed!
Me: Yes you did, the numbers are similar. If you hang up and try again, you should get the right one.

I wont go into the ones that call right back. I use to allow them to engage and manipulate me into their bullshit until minutes of debate had gone by but I realised enough was enough. I had to take the firm approach, state the facts and get off the bloody phone.

After being slightly embarrassed a few times by transferring these calls to other places, missing the cues that this person is lost, I have become quite adept at identifying the Haband individual. If someone simply asks for customer service, they will win as I will instantly patch them through. But if they open with "I'm calling about a return.", if there is a little quiver in their voice, then yes, I confess I am age profiling and marking this individual as a potential Haband customer. "What was it you needed to return?" is my next question, politely putting my feelers out. "Well, I ordered a clock and it doesn't work..." There. They said the magic word. "Clock". The magic word can be any noun that isn't "fabric". Only once has someone gruffly responded "FABRIC!" like "Duh! What else would I be returning?!" but they just don't know what I go through if I don't ask. Any other positive fabric identifications have been polite and that one abrasive reply was worth it for all the time wasting I have saved by controlling the missteps of the elderly.

Here are some treasured Haband examples from the last few months.

Me: (Company name), how may I direct your call?
Customer: Hi, yes I received part of my order and on the invoice it said on it "rest to follow" but I still haven't received it...
Me: Oh, did you speak to someone about it? (Sounds like it could be one of ours, though not likely)
C: No, I haven't, I just got the order with that on it and I didn't complain about it, but I ordered another pair of oven mitts... (Magic words! Oven mitts.)
Me: Oh, were you looking for Haband?
C: Yes...
Me: Oh, well you've called 1-800-***-1671, and misdialed. Our numbers are very similar.
C: Oh no, I've got 1-800-*** 1674, is that you?
Me: NO. We are 167 ONE, you've just misdialed.
C: Oh...

Me: (Company name), how may I direct your call?
C: Is this customer service? (It's not, but since she sounds old and crazy, I say yes so I can screen her a little more)
Me: Yes.
C: Oh good. I'm calling because I saw on the internet a quilted handbag...
Me: Oh, are you looking for Haband?
C: NO! (indignantly) I said HAND-BAG.
Me: Oh, sorry.
C: Is this Haband?
Me: No, you've just misdialed. Our numbers are very similar.
C: What number is this?
Me: There's one number different and you've just misdialed. If you try it again, you should get them.
C: I dialled *** *** 1674
Me: Yes, we are 167 ONE.
C: Oh, I'm sorry.

Me: (Company name), how may I direct your call?
C: I CAN'T HEAR YOU (deaf)
Me: This is (Company name)
C: Is this Habaaaand?
C: What number is this? I dialled 1-800-***-1674
Me: Yes, we're 167 ONE.
C: Oh, sorry.

Me: (Company name), how may I direct your call?
C: Oh! A person! I can't tell you how long it's been since I've heard a person. You don't know how hard it is to navigate your system! Your name is Britney?
Me: Um, no. It's Simone. Were you trying trying to reach Haband?
C: Yes and I now that I have you...
Me: You've actually dialled the wrong number.
C: Oh, I'm sorry!

Customer then proceeded to complain to me about Haband and how they claim they didn't receive her return when she has confirmation that they did and how bad their customer service is. I tell her I guessed as much from all the wrong numbers I get. As she immediately believes me that she dialled the wrong number, I am happy to sympathise with her.

Me: (Company name), how may I direct your call?
C: Is this Haband?
Me: No, this is (Company name). Our numbers are very similar. You've just misdialed.
C: Well somebody ELSE dialled the number.
Me: Oh, well then THEY misdialled.
C: Can you dial the number for me?
Me: Um, no, I can't from here.
C: You can't?
Me: No, sorry.
C: Oh...okay..... (Doesn't trust me)

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Unintelligent Design

I suppose I am easily agitated, but I think there is a reasonable midpoint where I realise the perpetrator of said annoyance didn't mean to do whatever they did, and sometimes the realisation that I've committed the same offense at some point which forces some cold hard humility and I am soon reminded that the world actually isn't set up for the purpose of making my blood boil.

But there are many other instances where, while things may not be set up with the intent of boiling blood, no thought at all is given to that possibility and so cauldrons full of plasma can be found simmering across the globe, a cook off which could easily be avoided. The feeling of empathy seems increasingly distant as we are continually foiled with systems in place in which the planner or designer appears to have never placed themselves in the circumstance in which they expect to place others.

I can't believe it's not borscht!

Here are some examples I've collected over time where I feel practicality has not been considered.

One of the earliest instances of my recognising this phenomenon was on a plane. Traveling back and forth between the USA to Australia has clocked up countless plane meals over the painfully long flight. Being a vegetarian, my meal is often brought out before the main dinner service cart makes its way down the aisle and more often than not, I am long finished with my meal by the time the other people in my row receive theirs. Even without the tray table down, the seat is cramped. I am not overly claustrophobic but this particular set up really pushes my limits of tolerance. When crew member comes to give my row-mate their meal I ask "Could you take my tray?" This has been met, more than once with a resounding "no". So I wait, wishing desperately I could cross my legs or tilt to one side. At the very worst, putting my irritating special meal needs behind, the crew has left the trays of the remainder of the passengers for an entire hour. Adding my 30 minutes prior to that has my confinement to a solid 90 minutes. "Tea or coffee? Tea or coffee? Tea or coffee? Tea or coffee?" they chirp as they walk the aisle, oblivious to our discomfort. "I DON'T WANT ANY FUCKING COFFEE!!! WHO WANTS ANY FUCKING COFFEE WHEN WE ALL WANT TO SLEEP SO WE CAN ESCAPE THIS HELLISH FLIGHT AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE!!! TAKE OUR FUCKING TRAYS BEFORE WE POUR THE SCALDING POT OF COFFEE OVER YOUR FUCKING HEAD!!!!!!!" That's how I feel during the "tea or coffee" mantra. I am baffled by the fact that since crossing over the position of steward or stewardess, they have lost any memory of what it's like to be forced to stay in that position for so fucking long. If anyone needs to use to bathroom during meal service, unless they are in the aisle, are causing near chaos. For over an hour the expect 400 people not the need to go to the bathroom. I can't tell if they crew are oblivious or simply don't care. It's hard to yell at them when come off so attentive, but in holding us hostage like this, they prove they are not. If you urgently require tea or coffee however, you will be well taken care of.

The only pictures I could find of people with their trays down with a meal on it were all in business class. I imagine this is because people in economy are too confined to reach their cameras.

Another tale from the plane involves another whole group of people. The designers of the controller for the personal entertainment systems seem to be designing for good Stepford Wives who sit upright, feet flat on the floor, face forward for the whole 15 hours. I'm yet to encounter such a person on a long flight as people shift, lean and contort in all sorts of ways in a desperate effort to to remain unconscious for as much of this uncomfortable journey as possible. If one's hip or buttock presses against the arm rest, as the controller is stowed in the side of the arm rest, they will find their buttock most illuminating as it presses against the "On" button, causing the screen to turn on and the blinding light forcing you out of the haze you are struggling to stay in. Making it so the controller is disabled while in a place where it can accidentally be triggered never occurred to whoever put it there.

This adequate gentleman need only hiccup to activate his personal entertainment system.

Possibly the second incident of complete tunnel vision occurred to me at work. I work for a fabric designer where the designs are hand painted before eventually being printed onto fabric. The designers work to the end of the day, leaving their work on their desks to be resumed the following day. On instances where we have had people come in after hours to wax the floor, much to everyone's horror the following morning, the cleaners have thought it quite reasonable to lift rubber mats off the floor and place them directly onto original artwork. Now, I don't want to make any assumptions about the intellectual abilities of a floor waxer, but what the fuck? How much fucking brains does it take to identify something of value, something that needs to be protected and know not to put dirty, dusty mats onto them? After this happened repeatedly, for the most recently waxing, everything on the floor in the studio and office was moved into the warehouse and out of idiotic clutches.

I've recently started watching Mad Men. As I missed the original airing, I've been catching up by renting the DVDs. Being very anal about appreciating and enjoying my shows, I desperately avoid spoilers. So imagine my freak out when at the beginning of the season one DVD is a preview for season two? This preview could not be fast forwarded through! They were trying to force me to spoil their own show! I was forced to reduce myself to putting my fingers in my ears and humming with my eyes closed to avoid the disclosure every time I put the first disc in. Did the person who engineered this disc know nothing of spoiler prevention? I learned one little tidbit of the future that I'd rather not have heard, but I wont tell you what it was because I'm not a dick like the person who did that menu.

More in the television vein, I certainly cannot be the first person to have observed for their entire life actors in TV and film ending all phone conversations by simply hanging up the phone without the closure of a "bye". For how many more years must we endure unrealistic phone conversations that end this way? A kiwi guy I knew, upon possibly his first serious encounter with an American asked "So, do Americans really not say 'bye' before hanging up the phone?" I can't figure out if the actors are strictly adhering to the poor planning on the part of the script writers as I would imagine a good actor would, if properly in the moment, feel compelled to end the conversation correctly.

"Great! Don't forget the wine." *click*

On any show I watch regularly, just as I feel sadness that the show has ended, I am tickled by the "Stay tuned for scenes from our next episode" promise. When I miss shows, I download them as bittorrents and stay on top of my shows that way. So imagine my horror when the fool who went to all the trouble of recording, encoding and then uploading that episode thinks that final treasure the show offers as useless and simply doesn't include the preview? You've come so far, what's another 30 seconds? I guess I should be grateful that they uploaded the episode in the first place so maybe I should just eat it on this one.

The flip book has been a source of enjoyment ever since I first found them in the way of a fat Flintstones book with a scene of Fred in the top corner. In the course of the flip, Fred picks up some balls and juggles until at the end, he drops them, they roll off the page and he exits after them. At least that's supposed to happen. As I would near the end of the book, without enough pages at the end to squeeze between my thumb and forefinger, the final frames poop out and have little impact and feel like a real fizzle of an ending. At least in this case, this book contained a comic with the flip element as an added bonus, but in the years since then I have found books whose sole purpose is to be animated and still the final frames poop out. Has no one thought to add an extra 20 blank pages so story can reach it's dramatic conclusion dramatically? I regularly pick up these books and expect this to have been rectified and am yet to be appeased.

Wont someone leave some spare pages?

Finally, I give you the rubber vagina. In fact now that I think of it, my awareness of this particular problem may predate all the others I have mentioned. My friend had received a catalogue from Adam and Eve, an adult toy store, which I found it laying around in her apartment. While I marvelled at the detail that went into so many of the devices, I was struck by a realistic vagina model. A far cry from the blow up doll (do the holes in those have seams? I've always wondered about that because I imagine they would and that it would hurt to rub one's wiener against plastic seams) this realistic looking vagina could be plugged in to warm it up, and had incredibly realistic detail in regards to the anatomy with a springy labia and starry anus which was also hygienically one-way functional and from what I have described so far, this should sound to you like the height of craftsmanship in vaginal duplication. It almost is. The piece is, I'm guessing, about 12 inches/30 centimeters across. The piece, after being so detailed, appears to have been finished off by someone who never had, nor had any desire to have sex with a woman at all. The side of the hips and buttocks are flat. The device just ends sharply on the sides. I would imagine that someone going to the trouble and expense of obtaining such a realistic piece of ass might want to grab it by the sides, imagine it's a real round ass, close their eyes, grit their teeth and bone away at it. While the reviews of the device are mostly positive and no-one complains about the dead ends, for years I have been overcome by this huge oversight in this design.

Click here to see the uncensored version of this image

I know not everything can be perfect, nor do I expect it to be, but I feel like in all these cases that zero thought was put into the full and final experience but people whose job it is to take care of these details.