Monday, May 16, 2005

How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying 

Car technology has come on in leaps and bounds since my 1974 Toyota Nosebleed fell off the production line.
This weekend’s hire car was a Renault Optimist, with all the whizzy features that your striving Unix administrator demands.
To start the engine, rather than turning a key in the ignition, you place a credit card thingy in a slot, rest your head on the steering wheel and sing the first two bars of the 1812 Overture. It’s a security feature and a clever one too. How many of your common car thieves are going to think of doing that?
To open the boot, you simply hum the Archers theme tune - Dum dee dum dee dum dee dummm - but not the Sunday omnibus country dancing version, if you don’t want to look like an idiot.
I was interested to discover that there was no handbrake - how is your local neighbourhood car thief going to impress his mates doing handbrake turns round the estate without a handbrake? - and very taken with the automated parallel parking feature, although a bit of prior warning would have been appreciated.

I stayed at the same hotel as previously - the head waiter eyed me up and down suspiciously, like I was about to let off a stink bomb, or worse, start to sing at the piano - but the weekend crowd was completely different from last time.
Gone were the keen young executives power breakfasting with their bosses and shame faced account managers in the midst of torrid but ultimately unfulfilling affairs, and now it was generally genteel geriatrics in golf gear.

The waiters tend to put the solitary diners on the far perimeters of the dining room, a bit like when you’re rubbish at cricket and the captain positions you in the outfield.
“Will you be dining on your own yet again tonight, Sir?” they snide. “Best put you in Deep Extra Cover, in that case. We don‘t want to distress the guests with friends, do we now?”

Each night there was a heady mixture of well dressed thirty-something couples hopeful for an elegant evening of fine dining and relaxation away from the kids, large family groups celebrating birthdays or anniversaries, and the usual German septuagenarian swingers crowd.
It must be difficult trying to conjure up an atmosphere of romantic possibility while at the next table a toddler is doing that excruciatingly high pitched screaming thing which only toddlers can, and behind you Helmut is getting frisky with Lottie and they’re all poised for a night of amorous adventure just as soon as he remembers where he left his teeth.

Each morning, every table was a portrait of disappointment and regret.
“What was I thinking of? She spent more time on the phone to her Mum checking on the kids than talking to me.”
“All he talks about is golf. I want my old life back. I could be doing the ironing now.”
"Happy Birthday my arse. They can't wait 'til I'm dead."
“I’m too old for casual fornicating. I love my friends, but all I ever put out these days is my back. Sometimes it would be nice to just talk.”

I pretended to read the papers and thought about migration paths and patching levels and bos.alt_disk_install filesets, and what the hell was I doing here on such a beautiful May morning when I could be at home watering my nasturtiums and sweet peas, or playing out on my bike, or maybe even, if I was lucky, and she was lucky too, giving Girlfriend the benefit of my considerable affection.

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