A Civil Tongue In Your Head

We’re meant to keep one of these – though the old saying doesn’t specify whether it should be yours or someone else’s. I’ve seen French art films…

The phrase is particularly interesting to me because I’ve encountered an occasion where someone didn’t. Of course this is not new in the world – cursing, expletives, vulgar language, and threats are the small change of conversation in many societies. Our print and internet media positively encourage it. It can also be the common coin for some of the young, but at my age I am not in the market for this sort of investment.

The fact that it occurred in a work situation has made it stand out a little more – preventing workplace harassment of co-workers, contractors, or volunteers is actually covered by OHS regulations as well as by anti-bullying legislation. It will remain to be seen whether the occurrence was just an uncharacteristic outburst or the opening barrage of a campaign.

For the sake of the business, and the owners, I hope it is the former rather than the latter. If so, it can be forgiven and nothing more need be said. If the latter, we’ll have to see if law really does have teeth.

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I Think You Can’t…I Think You Can’t…

Or, The Little Engine That Worked For The Local Council.

I have a confession to make – I have stopped asking the local council for permission to do anything. I’ve stopped asking  the state government the same question. In fact, I’m even considering cutting the federal government out of the equation when it comes to deciding how to order my life.

I’m not going to go so far when it comes to the wife. That’d just be crazy talk.

But flouting the local authorities would seem to be a good idea these days. I am no longer in receipt of a big income, nor of a pension, so throwing money around for permits and licenses seems like a waste of resource. I am fortunate in that the things I fancy are lawful and reasonably healthy and can be made to attract little attention. I am not fool enough to activate the sumptuary laws buried in council regulations nor the jealousies buried in the hearts of my neighbours.

Case in point: The state government would like to have anywhere from $75 to $100 to register a business name for me. I would like the same amount for hard liquor and model airplanes. Therefore I have named my business to my own satisfaction, to the satisfaction of my clients, and to that of the Australian Taxation Office…without reference to the local Jobsworths. I figure the financial feds trump them anyway.

I also operate a model airplane workshop in my back yard shed. I’d be willing to bet there are a dozen council regulations that might be applied to it, but after getting the first piece of paper allowing erection of the structure 35 years ago I don’t see that it is any of their business what I build in it. If I start to assemble floating mines I will reconsider…

And so on. Our family parks our cars on the front lawn as there is insufficient space for them in the carport. Betcha that’d get a fistful of paper if I were an enemy of the council…but I’m not. They see the rates paid and the bins sorted and the anonymity this gives me is just what I want.

The Ghosts Of The Mall

It is not very often that we can say we like ghosts. The traditional ones – rattling chains, screaming in the night, passing through walls, etc. are somewhat of a strain on the nerves. They leave slime. When they infest a house the resale value plummets. Few people want them.

In my case I do have a reason to be grateful to them – they have enabled me to start my retirement in a good note.

When I was working in my last career I was sent out on many occasions to help people with photographic training. Specifically, with the Polaroid passport cameras that were common at the time. These were the four-lens jobs that put nearly identical pictures onto a sheet of Polaroid or Fujifilm instant film. The requirements of the Australian passport department were stringent and the geometry and illumination needed to achieve them operated within a fairly narrow band of possibility – hence I was sent to train chemist’s assistants and post office employees on how to do it.

Fine. Motor out from the shop, conduct a hour’s training and motor back in, picking up a cup of coffee on the return journey. Easy stuff. But it was the sights in the shopping malls riveted my attention – I saw ghosts.

They were both sad and frightening, and I paid close attention to them. They were the men of a similar age to myself that had no occupation – either public or private – and who passed the day sitting in the centre of the mall. Some of them drifted silently about. Grey men in shapeless garments – they may have been wearing their grave clothes – with grey faces devoid of expression. Whenever I encountered them they hurried me on my way, as I did not want whatever had infected them to touch me.

Well, now I am a retired person, and having seen what mall ghosts look like I have determined on a few things:

a. When I get up, I dress up. The outfit may be a plaid shirt, braces, and high-water britches, but it is the clothing of a person who is determined to keep moving. No grey winding cloths.

b. When I am in a mall, I keep moving briskly to whatever store I need to go to. And then equally briskly back home. Malls are fine for concentrating shops in one area, but they make lousy graveyards.

c. I do not eat or drink in a mall. I have food at home that costs me 1/4 the price of the mall. I do not need to overspend to undereat.

d. I have hobbies – so does my wife. They are the life-rings of retirement. I do not begrudge them to myself or to her , and I realise how much good they do us.

Every hobby cannot be done all the time, but they can be rotated so that there is something all the time that can be done on one or the other of them. It might not need to be done, but that is not the point.

Fortunately I am a loner in many respects and always have been. Thus I do not need to be cossetted in a group doing things to find things to do. But I do not deny the utility of pensioner groups and other forms of entertainment. That is what some people need.

Result? I am up early and doing, and the feeling of being a ghost comes rarely to me. I would urge it upon others for as long as they can manage at whatever level they can achieve. Leave the malls to the teenagers.

 

The Gumtree Experience

I have participated in the Gumtree* experience several times – bouts of advertisement for unwanted household goods and the subsequent responses. I have come to some conclusions:

a. Paid advertisement is fine if you can have any positive expectation of response. Household goods in a tough market do not provide this – therefore cheap or free advertisement is the wisest thing.

b. On-site advertisements, such as the garage sale posters, are pointless unless you live at the off ramp of the busiest street of the town. Otherwise no-one knows you have anything for sale.

c. Realistic pricing is the key to success. Allow for 10% haggling because there are people who would argue over the price of a new postage stamp with the Postmaster General.

d. You will meet time-wasters, chiselers, and tyre kickers. Hopefully all at once, so that you can set them upon each other. Otherwise just grip your underwear from the inside and usher them out.

e. You will also meet fair customers. Treat them fairly.

f. If you essay to sell something, ask yourself whether it is really worth buying. If not, bin it and regard the dignity that you save as your profit.

g. Regard everything that you do offer as merely trade goods – not mementos, dear possessions, or treasures. If the stuff was any of this, it would still be on your shelves. See it gone with the cheerfulness of a merchant – not the sadness of a collector.

h. Let no-one denigrate your goods. If they’ve come to see them, they are worth seeing.

i. Punctually update or remove old advertisements.

j. Deal only at the front of the house, and with the sound of hearty companionship heard from the back room.

k. No cheques. No promises. No PayPal or offers to transfer money on the mobile phone. Government money in hand. And count it.

l. ” Where did you get this? ” is a fair question…for a magistrate or police officer to ask. Answer them instantly and honestly. Everyone else must be contented with a smile and a blessing.

m. ” Can I bring it back if I don’t like it? ” is also a fair question, and you should give a polite answer. ” No ” is perfectly polite.

n. If something works, make it work before any money changes hands. If something doesn’t work, state that fact clearly in the hearing of witnesses. If it was never meant to work, make that perfectly clear to the buyer.

o. If there’s more than one person in a buying team, address yourself to one only – do all your dealings with that person. Do not let them split your attention.

If there are two or more buying teams, let them look at each other uneasily and offer higher prices. Do not declare the sale finished until you have actual money actually in your actual hand. And the hand has closed tightly.

p. Give gifts occasionally. You can shift a lot of appallingly awkward shit if you make a gift of it. Be kind and ruthless.

*  Free local online selling site.

 

 

Make A List

Despite what James Dean said about lists in ” Rebel Without A Cause ” – and wasn’t he the one to talk – they are a very good idea for people with either no time to spare or all the time in the world. Lists organise, monitor, and reward. You can live a happier life with lists:

a. Make a list last thing at night of what you wish to accomplish tomorrow.

b. Look at it – recognise that you are only fooling yourself – then cut it down to three do-able things.

c. Get up in the morning, consult the list and set about doing the three things.

Even if you are interrupted, go back to the list and do the three things before the end of the day. If your day ends at midnight with you collapsing in a heap on the floor, you’ll have time to dawdle. If it ends at 4:00 when you mix a cocktail, you’ll have to have been a bit zippier with the early part of the day.

You decide whether you’d like exhaustion or a cocktail and work accordingly.

d. Tick off the list. Really, tick it off on a sheet of paper and you’ll feel a glow of accomplishment. It will reinforce your will and make it easier to persevere next time.

e. Save the list. Whether it is saved in  paper form or on some electronic instrument, it means that you can go back at the end of the week, month, and year and see the vast number of things that you have accomplished. This will boost your morale no end. And you don’t need to depend upon anyone else’s approval or reward – you reward yourself.

f. Tomorrow is another day. Make tonight’s list.

Bag it And Drag It

We are just in the throes in Western Australia of a politically-correct scheme to remove plastic bags from supermarkets. All hail the dawn of the eco-revolution.

Well, as with any good revolution, you have mensheviks and bolsheviks and cossacks and armoured trains, and this one is no different. The two regiments that have taken the field first off are the Queens Own Hypocrites and the Bullshit Hussars.

a. The two major competing supermarket chains – divisions  of mega corporations – will institute the bans within two weeks of each other. There will be trumpeting and photo opportunities, no doubt.

b. The independent grocers are still handing out the purchases in bags for now.

c. The Big Two – Tweedledum and Tweedledee are offering to sell reusable bags for several dollars or—wait for it—plastic bags as before, but for a price. You still get to apparently ruin the planet, but they make an additional profit on it.

d. As yet there is no charge for the use of the steel cage trolley in the Big Two…but wait for it to occur to their accountants. Another independent grocer does charge a coin fee for use of the trolley but refunds the coin once the trolley is racked back in the store.

e. Confusion will reign supreme tonight as people encounter the one chain’s policy and this will extend to the other chain in two weeks. There will be words, and many of them will be Anglo-Saxon.

f. The independent grocery chain who introduces paper bags or continues plastic ones at no additional charge – and advertises the fact unashamedly will experience a surge of people switching over to their stores. They are smaller spaces than the big two but they can make a motzah in the next few months if they play their cards right.

I shall cope by experimentation. I’ll take some cloth bags with me to the store and place them at the front of the conveyor belt as I lay the groceries out. I shall be curious to see whether the checkout clerk then fills those cloth bags and hands them over to me to put back in the trolley for the journey to the car. If they don’t, I don’t pay till they do.

Note: I do not use self-serve checkout ever.

Or I’ll try the experiment of putting several plastic tubs in the car boot. I’ll just re-trolley the goods as they are checked through the till and then transfer them to the tubs in the car.

Or I’ll shift my business to the smaller supermarket and leave the big two to stew in it.

Good Morning, Sir. How May I Hell You?

Everyone should work retail at some point in their lives.

Indeed, I’ll go further than that – they should also, at some point:

a. Work personal service – wait tables, attend a public desk, man the complaints counter.

b. Work publicity. Write copy, draw illustration, serve at a promo show. Think up the bullshit and then have to spread it…

c. Work in dirt. Even if it is just a personal garden, everyone should work in dirt until they get a good result.

d. Work in a position that is monitored by a jealous and vindictive overseer. This may be a person or a professional board.

e. Work in a workshop. Whatever they produce makes no difference – it will cement their character if they can eventually do it well.

f. Work to a deadline. And fail once, and then succeed once, to know the difference in the way it feels.

g. Work to a financial bottom line. Unless they have had to watch the pennies, they’ll never know how to accumulate the pounds.

h. Work in a job where they were in command. Command of the job and command of other people.

If they have done all or most of these things, they are well-rounded individuals. But they mustn’t get cocky – so is the Michelin Man. And he gets tyred sometimes…

No… back to the topic. People who vault to command without ever experiencing the reality of work live in an unreal world and make false decisions. People who never rise also never see what command should be – there is always a battle between them and others that is detrimental to business. There needs to be a shared experience to share in effective management and effective employment.