I’d had a good day. My training group had attended the roadshow at work, where our senior management team talked about the road ahead, the distance to cover, and I was inspired. I am always a believer in new beginnings, rebirth; but I have also been a cynic in many a workplace until now. I am pleased to have changed that around, and at the end of the presentation, I was one of two who spoke up – even as other colleagues ridiculed me afterward, the affirmation by others counted for a lot more.
When I left work there was beautiful sunshine, plenty of high UV and shadows, angles and geometrics for me to focus on, if only I had my SLR with me.
But I had something else on my mind: despite the concerns of friends of mine who dislike the company for its association with Hillsong, I am a fan of Gloria Jean’s – or at least, its vanilla syrup for my coffee. Last week, as a reward for getting my first-ever workplace promotion, I had thought to treat myself to a new bottle of the stuff on the way home. Only thing was, they were out of the regular one at the Liberty Towers store on Collins and Spencer, but they offered me sugar-free, and I accepted it.
On Saturday morning, when I went to make my first coffee of the day, I immediately regretted buying the artificially sweetened syrup. It was like Diet Coke compared to Coke. Not the real thing.
Although my first response was to just throw the bottle out, chalk it up as yet another of my mistakes with money, I noticed the product had a satisfaction guarantee on the label. It took a lot for me to do so as a consumer, but I decided I would take it back to them.
On Monday morning I lugged the bottle of syrup into the outlet on the corner of Bourke and King St, only to be told, “Actually what needs to happen is, you need to take this back to the store where you bought it… because all the stores are franchises.” Ah, OK, that made sense.
So after work on Tuesday, pumped full of all this good energy from my day in training, I fronted up to Liberty Towers, took the bottle out of my backpack, and explained my story.
The guy looked at me like I was talking Greek. “OK, actually I don’t know what to do with this,” he said. His issue was not only with the process of my attempted return, but the fact that I had actually opened the bottle. I explained that was how I knew I was not satisfied with it. “Perhaps you can call this number,” he suggested, looking at the Customer Satisfaction phone number on the label. It was a canny idea, I had to credit him with that. But given the lack of alternatives, I thought what the hell, I’ll call the number, I’ll make a point, damn it.
“Our guest relations actually finishes at five; it’s twenty past five now,” I was told. Guest Relations? I gave my number and was told I’d be called back the next day.
I was fuming. I wanted to smack the guy at the counter over the head with the bottle, except it was plastic – it would probably only bounce off his nut. It reminded me of Anthony Michael Hall’s character’s failed attempt to build the elephant lamp in The Breakfast Club; it was that inane, and all the more frustrating because it was so damn petty.
I left the store, and in a movie scene-worthy moment, Paul Westerberg’s twelve string acoustic guitar introduction to Unsatisfied played with perfect synchronicity on the iPhone, and as I made my way home on the tram, I watched the girl opposite me tapping her boots – I mean really stomping in her seat, eyes defocused on the middle distance , thumbs fidgeting on her iPod, and gradually my anger was dissipated as I realised I was not the only person in the world who had issues.
I set the alarm for 3AM, to rise for my second day of C25K. True to expectation, I had hit the bed before 8PM, so seven hours would be a good sleep for me. Sleep Cycle woke me at 2:39AM.
My playlist kicked off with the madness and heavy riffs of Ministry’s NWO, and segued into Adam And The Ants’ Stand and Deliver. Its “da diddly qua qua” chorus brought to mind my teenage years in Zimbabwe, dreaming of the adult life I imagined I’d one day live: the glamour of German supercars, and Page Three pin-ups, like those which adorned the walls and ceiling of my room, only for real.
I made it to our McDonald’s, in the process of redevelopment, for my halfway mark, and on to the former Preston tram depot on St Georges Rd, which will no doubt be redeveloped some time sooner or later, too.
I used to view exercise with the polarity typical of my black and white / either/or mentality, characteristic of either my personality or my personality disorder. Now, with sudden clarity, I see exercise is my time to think, to reflect; a healthy mind in a healthy body. Only the day before I had made a mental note when I saw a groover sporting a T shirt emblazoned with the Dewarism
“Minds are like parachutes; they work best when open.”
Bust A Move came on (“so come on, fatso, and just a bust a move”), and with my man boobs jiggling, I shuffled along to Sly Fox’s Let’s Go All The Way. It was more a slog than a jog by the last few minutes, but at least I got there. I completed the task. Starting things has always been my strong point – and the first fifty metres of my runs are always strong – thanks to those “rugby quads”. Endurance and stamina are another thing though. But I’m working on that. Slowly, slowly.
I wore a tie for work, for the first time in ages. In another life I parroted my manager, and boasted that the only people who wear ties are used car salesmen. I caught the tram and as I rocked along to Korn’s Got The Life, I made a mental note to add it to an upcoming C25K playlist, for the energizing effect it had on me. Suddenly, I heard a crack, and I turned to see my fellow passenger glaring at me. He must have been wearing a heavy ring, and he’d cracked it on the window, to get my attention. I looked at him for an explanation. “It’s very loud,” was all he said.
He didn’t factor in my two double espressos and the fact I’d already been awake more than five hours. I could have just snotted him. But I didn’t, of course.
Who is more passive-aggressive – the fella who raps on the window with his ring knuckle, or the coward who retreats to the back of the tram to enjoy his music as much as he can, given the mood upset.
I waited until mid-afternoon for the callback from Gloria Jean’s Guest Relations, who listened to my story without trace of interest or empathy, then told me it would have to be referred back to the store. I duly gave the details of the store – and clarified that I was not in Brisbane – and I was told they would be in touch.
Thursday passed without incident – other than a run-in with Chatty Dad on the tram, and no sighting of the Greek goddess and her Lesbosnian friend I had observed with such fascination on Monday. That meant at least no chance of offending any fellow commuters with the tinny bleed from my iPhone bud headphones. Chatty Dad delivered a monologue that lasted a full twenty to twenty-five minutes, until the fortuity of a car accident on Brunswick St and Johnston St meant I had to disembark and catch the Nicholson St tram.
There was no phone call from Gloria Jean’s Liberty Towers.
I contemplated my approach. I considered mustering the confidence I’d once strived to summon in a previous life, cold-calling to businesses to sell advertising space in a magazine supplement, or background music (“in-store environments”). I imagined I would ask them to call Sydney for me, if they tried to get me to phone again. I imagined bad-mouthing them to whatever small number of customers they might have in store this late on a muggy, sticky Friday afternoon. I imagined pulling out the receipt which totalled the amount I’d paid, but didn’t list the syrup in the first place.
I saw a familiar face when I entered. I thought he was the manager. Then again, he could have been the one who fobbed me off last time I was there.
“Are you the manager here?” I asked, as coolly as I could.
“No, there’s no manager today,” he said, with a sideways glance to his colleague. The other guy came over.
“Are you the duty manager here?” I asked. I had taken the syrup bottle out of my backpack now, and placed it on the counter.
“That’s OK,” he said. “Just take another.” He pointed me toward the shelf. I almost missed a beat. He must have been told. He knew, but he hadn’t called to invite me in. He had hoped I’d go away.
I took the bottle, checking to make sure it was the regular one. “Thanks,” I said, as I left. I didn’t add that I wouldn’t be back.
On my way to the tram stop, I patted myself on the back for taking it to them. For persisting, even though I shouldn’t have needed to. They thought I would just go away. They were wrong.
Everybody needs good neighbours
Friday night we were invited to dinner at our recently arrived neighbours over the road. Nice Guy Dave and his wife (Not The Kind Of Girl You’d Marry – her nickname for herself, not mine) invited The Architect and his family over as well, and we had a good time, with plenty of food, and good conversation. Turns out Nice Guy Dave works for an affiliate of my employer – I’m his boss, in his words – and we share a similar interest in not just photography, but subject matter.
Our iPods would get on well together too, with a soundtrack of a-Ha, The Dandy Warhols, some Stones, and Bruce:
“I come from down in the valley, where mister, when you’re young, they bring you up to do like your daddy done”
Nice Guy Dave even told me how he quoted Poison’s Bret Michaels on his wedding day, and that scored him a permanent place in my good books. No, the song wasn’t Talk Dirty To Me, or Look What The Cat Dragged In, but I’m afraid the large amount of 2004 Melbourne University cabernet sauvignon I consumed has eliminated the details of our exchange.
Seems Nice Guy Dave is an Apple / iPhone fan as well, and when I got into enthusing about Sleep Cycle, The Architect claimed it had to be a scam – how could it work? I explained that I didn’t know how, and reiterated my life philosophy of “perception is reality,” but still he wasn’t satisfied. I had the good sense to know which fights I could win.
There was more I wanted to tell you, really there was. But if you’ve got this far, and enjoyed the experience, my work is done for now. Until next time, thanks for joining me.