Posts Tagged ‘ alter ego ’

THE RESPONSE: My email to Metro Trains

In May I sent an email to Metro Trains. It started out as an opportunity for the Big Blue M to test their complaint response writing skills against the new public transport (and possibly the world) standard. It ended as an angry diatribe, I’ll admit. For this reason, if Metro had erred slightly on the side of conservatism in their reply, I would have given them some latitude.

They didn’t, however, err on the side of conservatism so much as put every single egg they’ve ever owned into the conservative basket:

Dear Jonathan

We thank you for your extensive critique of our running of Melbourne’s train network.

Your commentary is appreciated and we will consider your suggestions along with others, as we continue to do all we can to ensure Melburnians get the train service they all deserve in one of the world’s great cities.

We’re not there yet, Jonathan, but if you’ll pardon our progress, we’re getting there.

You have outlined a number of general observations and experiences which we are keen to address and consider a meeting would be the most appropriate forum to discuss your concerns.

Please let us know of your preferred date and time. We look forward to meeting with you.

We do ask for your patience as we seek to transform Melbourne’s railway to accommodate what we promise will be a world class service.

Yours sincerely

Angela Marotta

Customer Relations Manager

Big tick for spelling ‘Melburnians’ right. Not so keen on the “pardon our progress” line. But let’s get to the good bit: the suggestion that we meet.

Why beat around the bush? They’re going to whack me, aren’t they?

Dear Jonathan,

Thank you very much for your prompt reply. Unfortunately we may not be able to accommodate your suggested meeting time of 2.30 pm. Can we instead organise to meet at 2.30 am at the abandoned warehouse beside the Mobil Oil Terminal in Yarraville? (It’s the one closest to the river.) 

The possibility of being killed execution style  is one reason not to accept their offer.

On the opposite side of the gangster scenario ledger, I have for a long time fantasised about reenacting the Joe Pesci “You think I’m funny?” scene from Goodfellas in a real-life situation:

Me: Anyway… so I’m sitting down with Sam Marshall, and we’ve both had a couple of drinks each, and he says to me, he says “I thought when I first came into the bar you actually would be wearing a white chiffon scarf.”

[The Metro Trains contingent laugh uproariously]

Young Metro Representative: [laughing, wiping a tear from his eye] You’re funny. You’re really funny.

Me: What do you mean I’m funny?

YMR: It’s funny. You know. That was a funny story. We love your blog. It’s funny. You’re a funny guy. [laughing forcedly]

Me: What do you mean? The way I talk? What?

YMR: It’s just, you know. You’re just funny, it’s… funny… the way you told that story and everything.

[everyone has stopped laughing]

Me: Funny how? What’s funny about it?

Older Metro Representative: Jonnie, no. You’ve got it all wrong.

Me: Hoh – whoa. He’s a big boy. He knows what he said. What did you say? Funny how? You mean…  let me understand this, because, you know, maybe it’s me… I’m a little fucked up maybe, but… I’m funny how? I mean funny like I’m a clown? I amuse you? I make you laugh? I write my blog to fuckin’ amuse you? What do you mean funny? Funny how? How am I funny?

YMR: Just… you know, how you tell the story, you know… What?

Me:  No, no, I don’t know. You said it! How do I know? You said I’m funny. [running out of breath] How the fuck am I funny? What the fuck is so funny about me? Tell me. Tell me what’s funny!

Unlike Tommy DeVito, I probably wouldn’t ever admit I was joking, though.

Seriously though, they must think I’m funny. So funny that I have some kind of disproportionate societal influence, enough to warrant a formal brainwashing session.  And that’s what it will be – surely.

The alternative would be addressing, point-by-point, my email criticisms:

Metro Representative: “…OK – so if you’re happy with that explanation of why our staff member spent 90 seconds blasting the contents of his bronchial tubes into an empty coffee cup in preference to doing his job, we can move on to the possibility of having a fully-platinum train in operation before 2017…”

What on earth could they possibly tell me in person that they can’t tell me via email? “Going forward” is just as hollow out of a person’s mouth as it is on paper.

Maybe this is where I need to get creative:

Dear Angela,

Thank you very much for the invitation to meet in person. Do you mind if I bring along a couple of people I know who are just as disappointed with your service as I am? If that’s sounds fair to you, are you aware of any venues in Melbourne that seat 4 million people?

or

Dear Angela,

Yes, a meeting is undoubtedly the best way to discuss my numerous concerns. And by meeting I mean a televised debate simulcast across every single TV station in Australia, including the ABC and SBS, and all the digital ones, except that one that shows people having their fortunes told. 

or

Dear Angela,

I would very much like to meet to discuss my criticisms. Although perhaps “discuss” is the wrong word. How would you feel about addressing my concerns as part of a stage musical with your CEO as the leading lady? It doesn’t have to be original

“Trains were on time when old hacks were retired
When inspectors were kind
And our carriages  inviting
Trains were on time when profits weren’t required
And the world was a ride
And the ride was exciting
Trains were on time
Then it all went wrong

We dreamed a dream of trains on time.
When hope was high
And life worth living
We dreamed of stations in the sky
We dreamed of punters more forgiving…”

or

Dear Angela,

A meeting sounds like a fine idea. Can we do it like the Sooty Show where if I don’t like one of your explanations I squirt you in the face with a water pistol or dramatically slam my face into a full bowl of cereal, spraying you with milk? 

But let’s be honest, I’m not going to meet with them. What would be the point? What new information will I get? Are they withholding important  information from the public which they only release to smart-alec bloggers? And if (hilariously) they are – is it going to be honest and insightful stuff? Is it going to answer not only my mostly flippant questions, but also the serious questions raised by people who know the system inside out, including Metro’s own drivers (some of whom are making astonishing claims about the dishonest practices and policies carried out by their employers)?

But my main concern – my main concern by far – is that if I organised a time to meet, I would then need to catch a train to get to that meeting. And the last thing I’d want to do is turn up late to such an important appointment.

Haught Feelings would like to apologise for any inconvenience caused.

The #FreeAnnie campaign

If you think the way Melbourne’s train system operates has to change, get involved in the #FreeAnnie campaign.

Haught fact of the day:

According to IMBD, the “You think I’m funny?” scene from Goodfellas came out of a real life experience Joe Pesci had had when he was much younger. The director, Martin Scorsese, allowed Pesci and Ray Liotta to improvise the scene without telling the numerous other actors involved what would happen.

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Lavatory humour with a serious edge

My alter ego wrote a short story and is trying to flog it on Amazon.

It contains the lavatory references you’ve come to love from Haught Feelings, but it’s all wrapped up in a serious story about workplace boredom and that whole “an idle mind is the devil’s playground” thing.

It’s called ‘Waiting‘ and it takes the form of a Kindle Single, which is a short piece of writing that you can download straight to your Kindle, or to any device that you can get the Kindle app on.

Here’s an excerpt:

I waited.

Waiting was becoming a bad habit for me. I’d discussed it with Penny Trentham from Social Media and she’d assured me I was “waiting for inspiration.” She was wrong for a change,  although only by six letters – I was waiting for motivation.

“What’s my motivation here, David?” If only I were an actor and could reasonably ask such a question of my ‘director’.

How I wished I could put an end to these hours of inaction by standing up, striding to my manager’s office, entering without knocking, and simply rejecting the ‘role’:

“David, I’m just not feeling it. This isn’t working for me at all.”

Sometimes it was these preposterous little fantasies that got me through the day.

It wasn’t that I was lazy. Certainly not if you compared me to some of the pulses and legumes in Finance (Penny’s splendid description, not mine). One of them, whose name I think was Gregory, might well have been the most indolent person I’d ever met.

Truth be told, I had never formally met him, but I bumped into him so often that I was beginning to think of him as a sort of quasi-acquaintance. One who irritated me more and more with every absurdly frequent meeting.

I had never spoken a word to him and yet I felt I knew so much about him. He was a non-work addict, but most people on Level 3 knew that. So often was he observed wandering or loitering in places nowhere near his desk that he was beginning to gain a whispered reputation. When colleagues gossiped about “that fellow who’s always getting a cup of tea” and “the one from Finance who looks at the notice board a lot”, you knew they were talking about Gregory.

He was also a nervous man, a flincher. But, that was just another trait that anybody who’d glanced at him once or twice could easily discern.

Something about him I suspect few colleagues knew was that he had an appalling habit, while in the men’s lavatory, of breaking wind with a trumpeting ferocity that belied his thin-haired, hunch-shouldered feebleness. It annoyed me not only because it was viscerally offensive, but because he did it so shamelessly. I knew fairly certainly that this man spent much of his life avoiding even mildly difficult challenges and weaselling out of all but the most essential face-to-face interaction. But as soon as he got into the gents’ he suddenly found the audacity to force gas out his backside with the inhibition of some inebriated oaf at a motorsport event.

Perhaps he considered the Level 3 toilet to be some sort of sanctuary from the rest of the world, a place where he could relax emotionally and physically. He certainly seemed to spend a great deal of time there. (Either that or, by some implausible coincidence, every time I had to use the bathroom, he too was answering the call of nature.)

The toilet-as-haven concept incensed me perhaps more than anything else about him. Here was a man who got paid handsomely to work in the relaxed environment of a public service institution, and who spent large portions of his day hiding – and sometimes indiscriminately emitting flatus – in the restrooms.

Could he not, at the very least, have feigned industry like his straight-backed, stiff-faced colleagues in Finance?

Could he not have sat at his desk and stared at the screen? Like me.

I waited.

I looked at the screen without seeing anything. I asked my eyes to focus, but they would not. Perhaps, after all, I was not waiting for motivation, so much as intervention. I needed the fire alarm to go off, or an email from Penny, or my manager to come into our cluster and ask me how the task was coming along.

I waited, but nobody stepped into my barren world.

Toilet-as-haven. Perhaps there was something in that. Perhaps Gregory From Finance had the makings of a decent idea there. Not that I would ever retreat to the lavatories and cower there like some sort of wounded animal. But what I desperately needed was a strategy for breaking these drawn-out periods of wasted time, and a quick visit to the men’s toilet was an idea worth considering. I’d go in, splash water on my face and look at myself in the mirror like they did in the movies. Maybe, if nobody was around, I’d make a pithy, witty comment about getting a hold of myself. It wouldn’t be toilet-as-haven so much as toilet-as-film-noir-fantasy.

I stopped waiting.

He was there. Of course.

Buy it here.