Archive for December, 2007

Last Day Blues

December 18, 2007

It’s my last day at work until January 3rd and this combined with the fact my boss is in Chicago, is making me really, really disinclined to actually do anything. And I have stuff to do. Don’t think for a moment that a boss-free, last day before the holidays means slacking off, oh no!

Well maybe a little seeing as how I’m ignoring the work and writing this tripe.

I am awaiting some people in Mexico to email me some information so I can ship some large, oversized item there for The Boss. Considering we’re talking about a huge, fuck-off sized, posh resort, they weren’t much for speaking English when I called them earlier. And most of me thinks “Well why should they? They’re in Mexico. We lazy-assed English speakers could make the effort to speak Spanish after all!” but really, an international resort and they don’t speak English? My Spanish is nothing to write home about so I was sort of terrified I’d embarrass myself by saying something really lewd instead of what I was trying to say. Let’s remember here, almost my entire Spanish vocabulary was taught to me by the mailroom guys at my last job, so really you see my concern.

Side note: They taught me the correct response to anything I don’t know the answer to is, “Me gustan culitos grandes!” (I like big asses) and by “asses” I am under no misconception they meant “donkeys” or “burros”. “Me gustan burros grandes” however, might be even ruder… If this fails I’m to say “Yo quiero bailar un meringue repiado!” which loosely translated means “I like to get down and dance a good meringue!” which, although no help whatsoever, not to mention a blatant lie, might distract them enough to get away with it.

I also have to compile a comprehensive list of management in NY and London for holiday cards, because there is nothing like leaving these things till the last minute. And even though this year our company have an online flash version of our holiday card whose whole aim is to save paper, The Boss must have paper cards in envelopes. Naturally. Because it is the proper way.

Needless to say, I have no enthusiasm for any of this and I forgot my iPod so I have no music. Gasp! What am I to do without music? Really, they shouldn’t even expect me to work in these inhuman conditions.

Anyway, here’s wishing you all a happy holiday whatever it is you celebrate (even if you just celebrate cake and presents and booze like me!)

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The British Are Coming

December 16, 2007

Being British, people here in the United States often ask me things like:

“Why do you all drink tea?”

and:

“You don’t like tea? Then how can you be British?”

and:

“I love Irish accents!” (I’m Scottish)

or:

“Oh you’re Canadian! No? Australian? English!”

and even:

“You’re from the UK? Do you know [insert random person’s name here]?”

Because I know everyone in the United Kingdom folks. Every single person. Even your uncle Albert who likes wearing ladies’ corsets and your brother’s best friend’s dad who’s in Strangeways for armed robbery.

And of course once it’s been established that I am Scottish:

“Do you eat haggis?” Answer: I would rather eat my own toes. And quit the ‘Braveheart’ jokes. Or I’ll force my sword up your runway.

In my new capacity at work I deal a lot with the UK – London in particular – a town where I spent much of my debauched and misspent (although possibly well spent!) youth, playing with my band, buying cheap garb at the markets and conversing with hobos on Oxford Street (The west end just has a better class of hobo I always find).

I’ve also spent significant hours of my life I’m never getting back being suitably smashed on pints of Snakebite and riding around the country in the back of a pick-up truck watching indie bands and quaffing cheap liquor (and later vomiting the same cheap liquor all over my lap) all in the name of entertainment. Because it’s the British way.

Now, after a few years in the U.S., dealing with the Brits (and by “Brits” I really mean ‘English people’ as opposed to Scottish, Welsh or Northern Irish people) is a strange business. For a start they sound funny. And they have much too strong an attachment to liquor. There’s a chain of importance in England that goes:

  • Lager (lager’s like a soft drink in the UK and if you ask for a shandy (lager mixed with lemonade, i.e. 7UP or Sprite) you must be flamingly, Liberace gay or a child)
  • liquor
  • Pets
  • Family
  • Liquor
  • Friends
  • Liquor
  • Nintendo
  • Car
  • Liquor
  • Other

Working with them, on the other hand, has been all good. They’re all friendly (probably due to the huge liquor intake), informal, have a sense of humor, are laid back and spell things properly. *In this blog I spell things in the American way because I keep being terrorized by the little red line of death that appears when I use British spellings, also known as “correct spellings”.

This is good because in the real world, that is, the world in my head, I hate Brits. I hear them all the time in the street here in New York City and I snarl. Damn tourists, go home. Coming here with your strong pound buying our stuff and talking funny. I hate British accents. They make me cringe. They sound so common. And familiar. Especially since I have one.

I’m a little excited because I’m going to the UK this week for the holidays for the first time in three years and I’ll probably just hand the security guys at the airport all my money on arrival to save time, what with the dollar limping painfully and breathing its last and the pound’s mighty reign.

Thankfully, when I get there, there will be people to feed me and keep me from dying of hypothermia. You know, if my plane doesn’t crash.

The Boss Is Confused. The Guv’ner Is An Idiot. We’ll Call It a Tie.

December 14, 2007

Today’s travel clusterfuck went thus: We had a snow warning in New York and some flights got canceled so the travel department, being forward thinking about such things, got The Boss a back-up flight just in case his flight back from Colorado was delayed hugely or heaven forbid, he get stranded in Colorado and eaten by bears. I sort of preferred the bears option personally, but the Travel Department are good, outstanding citizens who like their executives alive. And without teeth marks. Or puncture wounds. Or like…stumps for limbs. I think I’m getting excited! My cold black heart’s a-flutterin’.

The problem with this plan? They didn’t bother telling ME they’d arranged a second flight as a back up and, as it turned out, a third also in case number two befell some unforeseen and totally bogus tragedy.

Hee. I said number two. Hee.

Anyway, around 5 in the pee em, just as I’m unplugging my iPod in readiness for a swift exit, I get a phone call from Delta. Telling me that The Boss’s flight has been delayed an hour and will now depart at 8:10 p.m. I email The Boss this info as he is mysteriously incommunicado with some golf clubs.

Then I think, “Hold on one goshdarn minute there mister!” because I wasn’t born yesterday. “The Boss is on American.”

I check itineraries. And sure enough, he is on American. Not Delta. So I think, “Hmm… something is not hunky dory in the land of travel plans.” Because I think we just established I wasn’t born yesterday.

Then I get a phone call from The Boss saying “So my flight’s at 8:10 now? But…aren’t I on American?” insert sound of crickets.

I call our travel department and get my buddy Jay. Jay’s big and black and has a voice like smooth, sweet treacle. Every time I see or talk to him I’m reminded of Chef from South Park singing songs about “laying you down by the fie-ah and making sweet love to ya woo-man”. He checks the data base and says, “Woo-man, your boss is still on that American flight at 7 p.m. It isn’t delayed or canceled. But…wait….”

Oh God. What?

It’s then that Jay tells me that Jane our travel lady booked a Delta flight as back up and a Continental one as well for variety (we are not planeist!) just in case a blizzard suddenly came along and lay down on New York City and flights get all screwed up and diverted to like…Newfoundland. Which wouldn’t work. Since it snows all the time there. Hmmm. Didn’t think that through at all…

I don’t get it though. If one airline cancels their flights why would another one not? Is there some big business “My airline’s harder than your airline” type competition going on? Is there some juiced up, beefy-jawed pilot at Delta going, “Bring it ON baby! Gimme that blizzard. Ice it up too. In fact, set that sucker on fire! El Flamo baby, that’s my name. And no, that doesn’t make me sound gay at all! Where are my steroids? Inject that sweet liquid right into my ass cheek like Roger Clemens at a frat party! No challenge is too great for DeltaMan (TM)! You American Airlines guys are pussies!” He’d be all macho and stick his chin in the air kinda like the dude from “American Dad” and he’d totally chew razor blades and eat puppies on his sandwiches.

Barbecued crispy puppies.

Anyway, since we still have the original 7 p.m. booking I call The Boss, who miraculously has his cell on for a change and who is about to use his extra hour to enjoy a dram of something expensive and nippy at the hotel bar to inform him that “Oh my God, get ye to the airport, immediatement s’il vous plait!”

Naturally, when I explain the “Well see, I have this flight then we have these back up flights…” he hears, “blah blah rhubarb, nnnnnth ummmmbbbbbb drool” and I have to explain it five other times the last one being like this: “Flight at 7. Get to airport. Plane will depart. Get ass on plane.” all while running round my office with my arms extended like an airplane.

Finally, he ran off to ready his departure and I escaped before he could call me back to explain all over again.

Gosh, I can’t wait for tomorrow, can you? I can’t see anything POSSIBLY going wrong.

Pointless, Yet Still It Exists

December 12, 2007

The Guv’ner is operating on two hours sleep so I feel it’s fair to give that warning before I type whatever is about to come out of my brain. Which could be anything. Because it has a mind of its own. Literally! Hi!

I went to bed with my head full of stuff I had to do today here at work and naturally, all of that chattered around inside my skull and prevented me from getting sleepy.

Just as I was feeling slightly like I might be drifting off, a loud voice, which sounded uncannily like Brian from “Family Guy” laden with reverb, would exclaim, “Don’t forget to call the hotel in London for a copy of the car invoice now, will you?”

And I’m all “Shut the hell up, Voices In My Head, or I’ll come in there with my axe and kill you.”

And they’re like “Dude…you know you’ll forget and screw up everything and the six grand in expenses The Boss is due will be held up for weeks and he is gonna be pee-issed!”

And I’m like, “Aaargh, go away Brian from Family Guy. Get out of my head this instant! Leave Britney Alone!

Oh the humanity. Or huge manatee.

Anyway yes. Two hours sleep and not even good sleep. Bad sleep. Bad sleep filled with stupid dreams and unsavory, sleazy characters. I’m talking James Spader oiled up and dipped in mud, sleazy. And riotous cats having some sort of hoedown in the other room, judging by the noise and bickering.

Still, even I have to admit it was an improvement on the previous night where I was awakened to the sound of a cat projectile vomiting into a box containing printer toner I had laid out on the bedroom floor ready to be listed on Ebay. Since we doubted there was much of a market for “Ralphed on printer cartridges” we threw it out, although, thinking back, if there’s a market for those well worn ladies gym socks, surely there’s some sicko (no pun intended) loopy enough to want my barf cartridge?

This morning I have accomplished several tasks while The Boss is out of town and every one of them I have had to redo several times because my brain has the attention span of plankton. Bear in mind however, this is only a small step down from its usual state of “slightly warm oatmeal”.

OMG!!!1

December 10, 2007

Guv’ner,

Please make me an in depth list of everyone on the SKO team who works on BTY and reports to the GHWE group. I need emails and phone numbers so we can get a note out later in the week. They must only work on APSC and AOSC and be department heads.

– Boss With a Death Wish

Baby Jeebus, give me strength. I can be in a foul enough mood on a cold Monday morning without emails like the one above making me feel like a vegetable. I don’t know what a single one of those acronyms means. I have no idea what an “SKO team” is, let alone sub-divisions of it, and I have no freaking CLUE how to get their phone numbers or emails since I don’t know who they are. I don’t even know if he’s referring to internal people or client people or….aliens from the planet “Abundant Abbreviation Hell” or if those are just some random letters he got in Scrabble. I think I will write an email back with some acronyms of my own.

Dear Boss With A Death Wish:

ESAD asshat. WTF are you talking about? Take your SKO team and shove it up your ASS. (OMGLOLZ!)

– Guv’ner.

I’m a touch grouchy today…

Some Questions Are Just Unanswerable…

December 7, 2007

There are a few key words and phrases which, as an assistant to someone infinitely more important than our lowlife selves, we hear fairly regularly. In my humble experience, most of them start with “Why?” or “Where?” or “Did you…?” and involve things that we know nothing about, usually because some cauliflower-headed boss has neglected to tell us either out of some sort of blissful ignorance or because they truly believe we have developed the ability to read minds. (And let’s hope that never happens or I’ll get fired and possibly arrested!)

I frequently hear, “I need flights for this Asia trip to all four destinations!” which stops all the cogs in my brain turning simultaneously in confusion for a few seconds while I try to remember what the hell he is talking about because, honestly, I have no recollection whatsoever of any trip to Asia in the near future or indeed any other time. Then he gets infuriated and I get infuriated and in the end he forwards me a chain of emails on the subject and I figure out this trip has been in discussion for weeks but he never bothered to include me on any of the correspondence or by…I don’t know…telling me in person, therefore I am oblivious to the max because this is the first I’ve heard of any trip and even though that’s hardly my fault, I look like some sort of glazed-eyed airhead who can only say things like, “Huh?”

Another one I hear is, “Where is my Dictaphone?” which, while providing an impressive mental array of possible fruity answers, the actual retort is always,“on your desk by your computer where it always is!” and then he will deny its existence and commence turning the entire office upside down and getting redder by the second and huffing and puffing until I go in there and find it…on the desk next to his computer – who’d have thought it? Which always leaves me thinking, “So how come it’s you running the world and not me?”

International Jet Set Woman (Not)

December 4, 2007

I am quite the global chick these days. I’m like…International Jet Set Woman, only without the jet setting part. I merely deal in phone and email terms with the rest of the world while sitting in a cold, although pleasantly lit, New York office while occasionally venturing out to Embassies (or liquor stores).

For instance, yesterday I had to arrange a bunch of stuff with someone in Brazil, convey the information I gleaned from them to people in London (Hi London!) and then work out a bunch of visa stuff with our Moscow office. Can I just say now that I am humbled and grateful beyond belief that we native English speakers are as supremely arrogant as we are in forcing the world to speak our language, because while I could mumble through in French or really stilted Spanish (providing they like salty phrases and things like “the postman is called Juan. Here is Juan!”), my Portuguese is a bit on the rusty side in that I know exactly two words in Portuguese – one is “thank you” and the other wouldn’t be of much use in polite company, but is of paramount importance when driving on Portuguese highways. I can read Russian (although I have no idea what I am reading) and I know a few useful but again, not really eloquent, phrases I learned on a drunken evening in St. Petersburg – I said that like there is any other kind.

Now two of my bosses are heading off to Russia in early 2008 for some meetings. And probably copious amounts of vodka strong enough to sterilize a truck-stop toilet, although I didn’t actually see that on the itinerary.

Naturally, to prepare for this trip they need things like visas and in order to procure these visas, as well as requiring a letter of invitation from someone in our Russian office, Russia would like us to provide them with some DNA, the entire Sopranos box set on DVD, someone’s first born son and maybe some planes that don’t crash. Because really? Tupolevs? Not even if I was high on crack.

And that’s just for a single entry visa. For a multi entry visa you better have a damn good reason why you’d want to enter the country more than one time, comrade and then be prepared to be interrogated at the Russian Embassy by Mr. Big (first name “Boris”) in a sparse, gray room lit only by a bare light bulb. If they don’t like you you’ll still get the visa, but the condition is you’ll have to fly on Aeroflot – the only airline that requires you be hammered before boarding (this also applies to the pilots incidentally) and have a screw driver on your person at all times in case the wings should come loose during the flight.

Honestly, the questions on the form are pretty funny. It’s all “Where will you be going, staying, who will you be seeing, why are you seeing them, will you steal our big, fur hats and what will you be watching on our 1970s black and white state of the art television sets?”

As a side note, I worked for a month in Latvia in 1994 when I was still young and relatively innocent and my hotel room featured a TV from about 1967 that got one channel, was black and white and grainy, you had to arrange an antenna on the window sill to pick up that one channel and the TV didn’t have a stand. It had LEGS. And buttons. That you turned to switch it on. Insane. I had a room next door to a Latvian prostitute who had her TV on 24/7, so on reflection maybe it just wasn’t the best hotel. She once smiled at me in the corridor, said something incomprehensible and gave me a rhinestone hair clip. I never quite got what that was about…but I digress.

International Jet Set Woman needs lunch. And maybe a keg under the desk and a very long straw.

Why Phones Are Evil (part 50)

December 3, 2007

Today my boss called me to ask me how to place a call to Brazil using an American cell phone from the United Kingdom. Because apparently I am a walking instruction manual of international phone doings.

The question was would he dial Brazil as if he were calling from a UK number or would he dial as though he were calling from the USA, since his cell phone has an American number? He was getting impatient and antsy that I didn’t know this off the top of my head.

“But you’re British!” he said, as if that meant something. “You call overseas from the UK all the time.”

“But I call from a land line!” I said, thinking of the twelve billion dollars a minute I’d be paying to use my cell phone for such a purpose. “And I call the United States not Brazil. I dial 001 then the number.”

“I tried that!” he said impatiently. “It doesn’t work.”

“Well, that is because Brazil is not the United States.” I reminded him. “001 is the USA. Brazil’s code is 55. You would dial 00-55 then the number.”

Some mumbling and other rumblings on the other end. I think he thought I was quite likely making this up as I went along. Silly boss. If I was making anything up I’d have him call 1-800-BIG-TITS or something equally satisfying.

“Will that work?” he asked suspiciously.

“It will work from a land line.” I reminded him, “but from your cell, I don’t know. You would have to try it. We are in the ‘trial and error’ phase.”

I called our Telecom department who said, “Well it’s simple. He has an American phone with an American number, he should call as if he was in the United States. He should dial 011-55 then the number just like he would do from the office.”

I conveyed this to my boss who I could feel getting redder with impatience by the second, even from 3,000 miles away. He disappeared to try this method.

In the meantime I called a friend who deals with international calling stuff on a regular basis and he said, “I think you would still call as if you were calling from a UK land line number, even on a U.S. cell. He should dial 00-55 then the number.” which is the opposite of what our Telcom people said.

Grrr…

Boss calls back five minutes later his voice a whole pitch higher. “I can’t get through!” he is fuming. “I get these beeps…”

“You’re quite sure those ‘beeps’ aren’t just the phone ringing?” I ask as kindly as possible in case he blows a gasket as my suggestion he might have the brain of a pea. “Because some of those foreign phones sound different.”

“The number doesn’t work.” he said. “The number. It does. Not. Work.”

I tell him to try the second option, of dialing 00-55 before the number.

“We really need to learn how to do these things!” he says furiously, and by “we” I am in no doubt he means me.

Two minutes later he called again. “I still can’t get through.” he said. “I can’t get this damn thing to work.”

I’m pretty sure he’s doing something stupidly wrong because he and machinery of any sort are diametrically opposed. Asking him to do anything technical is like handing a laptop full of encrypted Government files to a dyslexic ape.

“Why don’t I call the gentleman,” I suggest “and patch him through to you?”

So I call the man in Brazil and get through immediately. I conference him into my boss in London and all is well. Typically, to call my boss all I have to dial is the same number I’d dial if he were on the next block here in NYC.

And people wonder why I hate telephones with a rabid passion. Hello?

Oh, and if anyone has any idea how one dials Brazil from the UK on a US cell phone, be sure to let me know. Thanks.