Sunday, October 31, 2010
And for the deadlines you are late,
The phones ring and your job is daunting,
Remember one word: Delegate!
More work now to your desk is sent
Relentless and so visibly
The secret here is management
So delegate with urgency!
The bosses know your expert handling
And the contribution you do make;
They will assist with understanding
What you need to do is: Delegate!
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
Meeting with them helped ease the pressure I was under in keeping up my rate of calls and I always looked forward to seeing them again. Grabbing my clipboard and some new vinyl swatches I leapt out of my car and entered their shop with expectations of being entertained.
‘Hello, Peter!’ Erica greeted me cheerfully. ‘Stuart will be back any moment – he is just out measuring a house for carpets. The job is right around the corner and I expect him back any moment. He’ll be glad to see you again!’ This was said with a radiating smile that made me feel great. If their customers can sense the same bonhomie it was no wonder they were so successful in their business!
‘Would you like a cup of coffee …..oh, here he is!’ Erica pointed to the entrance.
‘Pete, good to see you!’ came Stuarts cheerful voice. ‘I am so glad you came. Have you got any news for me? Trade gossip and such, you know, ha, ha’
‘Well, not exactly gossip, Stuart, but product information and new flooring samples!’ pointing at the swatches I had placed on the counter.
‘Come out the back, Pete, where we can talk! Erica, will you be all right minding the shop for the moment?’
‘Of course I will. I’ll make you both a cup of coffee first and then you may natter to your heart’s content!
Arriving at the back of the shop, Stuart continued: ‘We will re-furnish this part of the shop. I want to build a little bar called ‘Stuart’s Arms’ where we will entertain our reps and valuable customers. What do you think of that?’ His cheerfulness was truly infectious and I envied him for his enthusiasm. His business was just as tough as anybody else’s and there were plenty of competitors in the area, but he either didn’t seem to notice this or he was a ‘born winner’, I thought.
‘I believe that, whatever you do, you must differentiate your shop from others, Stuart.’
‘Yes, I think so too’ His sparkling eyes darted around and he could already picture his finished re-decoration, namely the bar, the high bar stools, the row of bottles and an espresso machine.
The coffee arrived and we sat down. Showing him my new samples answering his questions was quickly done as he was an expert and knew his trade. Stuart took a first sip from his coffee. I knew that this was the moment when he always filled me in with funny stories.
‘How is my competition doing? I helped him make a start.
‘Oh, just plodding along, I guess. Sometimes, somebody comes into the shop with new samples, but they are not as thorough and knowledgeable as you are Pete!’
‘Oh, Sandhurst Flooring Distributors called yesterday, you know, the ones with the mean boss! What’s his name… the state manager…….Clayton that’s right, Clayton.’ He nodded to himself in affirmation and took another sip, but did so quickly as he had something to tell me. ‘Clayton never let his reps get away with anything and questions all their claimed expenses. I wouldn’t like to be repping for him! And when he is at home, on a weekend for example, and he feels like having a drink, he drives all the way to his office, where there is a bar with beer for his customers, takes a bottle and drives back home. And then he enjoys his drink. Ha ha ha! Can you imagine that? I bet he has a burglar alarm on his dustbin, ha ha ha.’
We both laughed and I relaxed completely. Stuart was in that state already!
Suddenly, Stuart got up and came back carrying a cardboard box with doormats he had removed from the shop front.
‘Here is something new, Pete, have a look at them!’ With theatrical importance he placed them in front of me.
All I could see was a stack of doormats made of synthetic material, tufted and in various colours, ranging from red to dark brown.
‘They look very attractive, Stuart, but they are still only doormats!’
‘No, they are not.’ He stated with exaggerated seriousness. ’They are ‘Schmutzgreifer’ because it says so here’ pointing at the lid with a large print on it.
‘But all that means is ‘dirt grabber’…..’ My knowledge of German came in handy.
His voice became somewhat haughty but his eyes twinkled with joy: ‘That may be, but every time I sell a house full of carpets, vinyl, curtains or whatever, I make a point of selling this doormat! ‘You know, Mrs. Speckerbelly,’ I would say, ‘you now have a wonderfully furnished house and it is really a pleasure to live in your beautifully decorated interior, but what you really need to complete everything is something I have for you.’ Stuart’s face became lively as he related to me a typical conversation with his customer.
‘The customer’s eyes invariably snap wide open, their necks stretch out longer and they become very inquisitive.
‘What is that?’ They would say.
‘You need a Schmutzgreifer!’ I say firmly.
‘What’s a er…..what you just said?’
‘Just wait a moment and I get it out of my car!’ I am, of course, back in no time and place this beautiful piece in front of her.
‘This is it, Madam! It is virtually indestructible, takes all the grit and dirt off your shoe soles and by the time you reach your new, beautiful flooring, they are clean. You can wash it or hose it and it will be as new again’
Stuart looked at me with triumph ‘And then I sell it to her!’
The latter was stated with unusual pride, sounding like a major achievement.
‘But Stuart, you sell somebody a house full of carpet or curtains, which may cost thousands of dollars and then go to all that trouble to get rid of a little doormat that costs a few dollars…..?’ I stated my amazement.
‘Yep,’ came his arrogant reply, ’that’s my style. That’s what I do!’ He nodded with visible pride.
‘But could you not call it a doormat, because that’s what it really is?’
His face took on a scandalised expression. ’That would not be right. Because it is more that that. It is a Schmutzgreifer!’
Remembering that he was a bit eccentric, I could not help asking ‘where did you learn how to pronounce it?’
‘Oh, I learned it from the German rep. who came round and sold it to me. Admittedly, it took me a while but now I am a real expert in this.’ The latter was said with triumph.
Erica heard his last statement: ‘You and your shmoo……whatever! Ha, ha, ha.’ Stuart and I joined in and we all had a long relieving laugh.
‘Excuse me, what is that?’ came an enquiring voice from somewhere in the room. It was a housewife who had entered the shop, had had a look around and was now staring at the stack of doormats.
‘They are Schmutzgreifer, Madam. Exactly what every household needs!’
‘Whaaat?’ Came her incredulous voice.
Stuart jumped up, grabbed a mat and offered it to her for inspection. He was now in full sales-mode.
Not wanting to disturb him with his new hobby, I quickly stepped back and left the shop, nodding to Erica gratefully for the coffee and hospitality. She smiled back and showed me her raised thumb with eagerness. Her husband had another victim!
Sunday, October 24, 2010
‘Good morning’ I greeted an old lady in a dark dress, bent forward with age, and seemingly selling her wares. She smiled back, welcoming me as a customer.
We all have more than five senses and somehow I felt that she did not understand me.
‘Buon giorno, signora,’ I tried my elementary – very elementary Italian.
‘Buon giorno signor’ she greeted me back ecstatically.
‘Una belissima giorna’, I pointed at the clear blue sky and the golden sunshine.
She nodded emphatically, obviously grateful for my linguistic endeavours. Knowing what I came for, she lifted with difficulty one bag of her oranges.
‘Due, por favore!’ I held up two fingers.
‘Si!’ She nodded eagerly and placed two bags onto a small table which served as a counter. The spindly legs of the table started to wobble under the weight and for a moment I had the urge to grab and stabilise it.
Since the total amount was five dollars I handed her the bank note and thought that this transaction would be final. I lifted up my two bags but she motioned me to wait, for some reason.
Rummaging around in her plastic box she tried to hand me some money, as if for a change.
Looking at it, I realised that she was trying to give me change for fifty dollars and was doing so with a grateful smile. A feeling of compassion overcame me. I felt so sorry for that poor woman who obviously had nobody left in Italy and therefore had joined her younger relations in Australia. With everything so strange around her, she was trying to cope and be productive in what we call the ‘golden years’.
‘No, no, signora – cinque dollar!’ pointing at the till where my five dollar note was secured.
She understood immediately and after her initial shock at nearly making such an enormous mistake, her smile became wider, her wrinkled face more open and her friendly dark eyes looked at me gratefully. Being aware that I would not have understood more, she warmly shook my hand and repeated
‘Mille grazie, mille grazie’.
‘Preggo’ is all I could say, hoping that it was the right thing for this situation and lifted up my bags.
I noticed a gold tooth flashing in her friendly smile and her wave of ‘Goodbye’ followed me as I drove on till she was out of my sight.
Thursday, October 21, 2010
My next call was Alliance Floors, a large retail shop whose retailer was my long-time friend Alfred Johnson. Originally from England, he had a lovely Manchester accent. I had worked with him many years ago in a Melbourne floor covering shop where I got to know him very well. He was what people called ‘an eager beaver’, that is, hard-working, with a cheerful disposition and with his dry English observations, I always looked forward to seeing him again!
Entering his large shop, I found it empty, except for a pretty lady who was adjusting a stack of rugs – clearly a good housewife.
‘Hello! Would Alfred be around?’
She looked up at me and smiled: ‘No, sorry, he had to rush out on an urgent case and will be away for a while. I am Elizabeth, his wife!’
‘Nice to meet you Elizabeth! How are things, is business going well?’ I handed her my business card.
‘Oh, you are Peter – Al has told me a lot about you! Only good things, of course,’ she added with a giggle. ‘I have a photo at home with you and Al from your Melbourne days.
‘That’s nice, Elizabeth…..well, how is your business? I repeated my question.
‘Yes, thank you! We cannot complain.’
‘Al is a very hard worker, I know. And it is very nice of you to help him in the shop.’
She laughed: ‘Oh, I am just an unpaid worker, you know!’
‘You are a great help to him, I am sure. And should get some reward for all your good work!‘ I tried to flatter her.
And without any change in her conversational tone, I heard her say: ‘Oh, I get it every Sunday morning!’
I froze on the spot! This was one of those moments when I had the feeling of not having heard right.
‘She cannot possibly mean what I think she means’ were my thoughts. Or, perhaps, did somebody else say that in this shop? Red-faced and looking helplessly around I became aware of her pealing laughter, loud and with ‘joie de vivre’ as the French say. And her state of merriment increased in direct proportion to my embarrassment.
Finally, shaking myself out of it, I gave her some new sample swatches of PVC vinyl floorings, together with pricelist and technical data sheets. I was surprised to discover that she was very conversant in this field and offered to pass-on to Al all my imparted knowledge. Finally, grateful for her expertise, I took my leave and sat in my car for a while to ponder the situations I sometimes get into.
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
OKTOBERFEST IS VERY NEAR
AND MUNICH READIED ALL THEIR BEER
PLUS PRETZELS, CHICKEN, SAUSAGES
FROM EV’RY REGION THE BEST.
THE VAT NOW HAD A TAP INSTALLED
‘BEER IS READY!’ SOMEONE CALLED
THE WAITRESSES SO BUSTY, STRONG,
BRING FOAMING BREW YOU ALL DAY LONG.
SUDDENLY THE MUSIC TONES,
RYTHMIC NOISE AND ON IT DRONES
WITH OOMPAH, OOMPAH BOOM, BOOM, BOOM
IN THE CENTRE NOW THE BRASS BANDS LOOM.
WELL- KNOWN SONGS ARE SUNG BY ALL
AND EVERYBODY HAS A BALL
THE GIANT TENT’S SWAYING IN BEER-SWILLING MOOD
WITH GUZZLING, SINGING AND EATING SOME FOOD.
IF LIFE COULD ALWAYS BE FULL OF CHEER
- NO SOURPUSS IS WANTED HERE -
FOLK MUSIC, BEER, LAUGHTER FILL THIS SITE
THAT’S WHAT WE CALL ‘GEMUEHTLICHKEIT!’
Sunday, October 17, 2010
MY FLOWERS GROW IN BRIGHTEST HUE
SWEET-SCENTING IN THE MORNING DEW,
WITH BEES THAT VISIT AND ENJOY THEIR OFF’RING
AND MOTHER BIRDS THAT GUIDE THEIR OFF-SPRING
THEY STALK AROUND AND SHOW THEIR CARE
AND POINT TO FOOD, THEIR CHICKEN’S FARE.
A GENTLE BREEZE KEEPS WAFTING THROUGH
SWAYS FLOWERS GENTLY TO AND FRO.
WITH MIND AND BODY GREATLY OVERWHELMED
A GRATEFUL PRAYER TO MY DEAR GOD IS HELD
FOR HIS CREATION, FOR FLOWERS SO BRIGHT
FOR CREATURES, ALL IN THE SUNNIEST LIGHT.
Friday, October 15, 2010
Frank Rizzo was one of my favourite floor covering retailers: only a short time in business and already he owned three retail shops and also had a commercial team working on large building projects, installing floors in shopping centres, hospitals and in doing so had established himself as an outstanding flooring contractor.
But, above all, he was a great communicator and we often chatted lengthily about other subjects than our business. This time, it was no different.
‘Peter!’ His recognisable voice came over my hands-free car phone. ‘I’ll come straight to the point because I have some customers waiting here. Would you like to play soccer with a team of retailers? It is in a month’s time, on a Sunday, and I am still working out the details…..’
‘Oh, hello Frank!’ It was typical that I was still in greeting mode while he was already in the middle of the topic. ‘Did you say soccer?’
‘Yes, Peter, soccer!’ Always helpful towards a slow-thinking rep, I thought.
‘I would like to join such a team, Frank. Who else would be there – I mean any other reps?’
‘No, Peter. It is a team of retailers and you would be the only supplier there!’
That was an honour indeed! Whilst Frank has organised his competitors into the team, I would be without any business rivals there and the PR value of this would be great. Retailers would smile at me as soon as I entered their shop instead of their usual stare that says ‘oh, another rep!’
This was an exiting opportunity, but I adopted a calm voice: ’Count me in, Frank….and thank you for thinking of me.’
‘That’s all right, Peter. I figure if you are as good a player as you are a salesman, we can only win. Ha, ha.’
‘Whom are we playing? I hope it’s not a professional soccer team!’ A situation of fiasco quickly flashed through my mind.
‘I am sorry, did you say women?’
‘Yes, women. A team of female soccer players. And the referee will be a well-known sports person, he’s always on television. I can’t tell you more as I am still organising everything….’
‘ A team of women?’ I was lagging behind his conversation.
‘Yes, why not?
‘I can’t play against a team of women!’
‘What’s the difference? Besides, we will win easily, have a lot of fun and a celebration after. All in all, it will be a match with a difference and certainly
great entertainment!’ Thus was the persuasive powers of a successful retail salesman!
His final words were: ’Have to go now! Great to have you in our team…talk to you later!’ ‘Click’ and he was gone, leaving me sitting in my car with great trepidation. I had never played against a team of women. What were the rules in such a case? I mean women were so gentle and sensitive and I would want to remain courteous and chivalrous.
But, how would I tackle them? I certainly could not touch them as I do not want to cause a misunderstanding.
In my irrational mind I saw myself saying to such a delicate player: ‘After you..’ and letting her have the ball. However, the more robust person in me told me not to be an idiot. But what were the rules here?
Declan had been most generous when he allowed me to purchase, with company money, a pair of football boots. ‘You cannot play in some old stinking boots – out of the question!’ was his comment.
The shorts were to be black with dark blue knee-high socks and a white singlet. But our football skills were the great unknown factor and we convinced each other that we were only playing against girls.
The day of the game arrived. It was a warm Sunday morning and on the sports ground we players met with the referee, Anthony Sedwick, a well known sportsperson I had often seen on television, commenting on matches and long distance running.
‘This will be great, Peter!’ Frank was rubbing his hands with glee, looking at the sunny sky.
A wag behind me rasped in the thickest gangster slang: ‘Where are the broads?’ Spinning around I discovered Ben Halloran, another retailer from the western suburbs. He was in stark contrast to his voice, being a smallish, rather thin person, a devout father and would not dare to joke like that in his shop were his wife is around.
A group of spectators had also arrived – where were they coming from? They cheerfully sat down on the benches and chatted amongst themselves with an air of excitement.
Then the opposing team arrived in a small bus. Looking neither left nor right, they headed straight to their changing room and reappeared soon after in their neat football team colours.
They were professional-looking in their bright yellow blouses, white shorts and yellow knee-high socks. Their boots were of the highest quality, the type only experts would buy. The hair styles were either short or straight back, ending with a pony tail. Their attractive faces were without make-up, showing no emotions; they only nodded to each other sometimes knowingly.
Without a word, they lined up on the field and the referee took charge, explaining quickly the rules, mainly for our benefit. We took positions and Anthony blew the whistle after a quick glance at his watch.
The match began rather tamely, with a quick kicking of the ball, back and forth as if trying out our legs. After which one of the girls interfered by claiming ownership over it. Racing towards our goal, my position as a defender became active.
There was a young lady with me all the time and she was about my size and very sturdy looking. Her face was smooth and comely even without the application of any cosmetics; she had ruddy cheeks and looked more like a farm hand than somebody from the city. She gave me a quick glance, up and down for instant assessment, nodded, blinked and stored a picture of me away in her mind.
Her hair was short and blond, well brushed back and she had this self-assured calmness about her that started to worry me somehow.
And there was the opposition coming with the ball!
Rushing forward to block the ball, my opponent crashed into me, knocking me to the ground with a force that made me gasp for breath. What had just happened? I had only tried to take the ball off a young lady without hurting her.
Recovering, I regained my feelings of superiority and the next time the ball came near me I went for it. So did my shadow from the opposition. I was just about to kick a pass towards my striker when I was tackled in a most severe manner. First, I felt as if I had been hit by a potato sack, then there was a whack against my shins and I found myself on the ground again.
A whistle blew and our team was given a free kick but somehow, this was easily converted into a goal against us!
I can only report that the game got rougher from then on. Never had I been so bumped into, trampled on and crashed to the ground. Oh, and a few elbow blows to my rib cage made me wheeze like a concertina.
What happened to our superiority? I glanced at my counterpart and she seemed as calm as ever, except one strand of hair had come loose and hung over her forehead. Every now and then she blew it aside. Her knowing eyes followed the ball and she kept re-positioning herself, but always covering me carefully at the same time.
Then the ball came from high in the sky towards me, meant for my enemy, of course. But this time I was determined to gain possession of it, no matter what!
As it came down from outer space, I jumped high into the air to head it off to an expectantly waiting team member in a forward position.
But I had forgotten that this was a leather ball and heavy like lead. Heading it off all right and into the correct direction, there was this blinding flash with a loud ‘crack’ and suddenly the biggest headache I had ever experienced made me stagger around the field, with my eyes closed, teeth gritted and in a daze. Did my head meet with a cannon ball? What was this object? Noticing me wobbling around, the referee sent me off the field. Somehow, I eventually reached a bench and the pain in my head went on a rampage.
And what was this loud ‘crack’? Fingering my skull I found nothing damaged but my glasses must have been involved in the act and showed a fracture in the frame.
The rest of the game was a debacle, we lost the match by God knows how many points! My friend Frank first tried to play rough, bumping happily into his attractive opponent but she hardly noticed. Running him down and hitting him on his shins a few times took his breath away and his self-confident posture gave way to an expression of first disbelief, followed by despair.
When it was all over, we had a dejected gathering in our dressing room. It was a quiet meeting as nobody had any words for what had just happened.
Finally, Frank looked up at me: ‘How could this happen, Peter? Imagine! A team of girls!’
‘I don’t know, Frank! But you’ve done your best – you played as unfair as you could!’
Thursday, October 14, 2010
If you think that you own a cat,
there’s something that needs to be said:
Once shyness conquered
and tender love shared,
the cat now owns you instead!
Saturday, October 9, 2010
Normally, at the end of my two-week’s trip to Tassieland, I always had at least three hours spare, where I had vacated my motel room and would sit on the beach, trying to relax.
My favourite place is on a grassy hill, overlooking the sandy foreshores and the relentlessly ebbing and flowing of the waters. It never failed to have a calming effect on me. This was very welcome as there was only hectic work awaiting me for me ‘on the mainland’.
Having bought two loaves of bread, I looked out for the seagulls who were flying around me enquiring as to my purpose for being in what they considered as their domain. They went zooming past me, ever closer, clearly intrigued as I was not eating anything; there were no potato chips to be had or any other welcome leftovers, a fact that seemed to add to their confusion.
‘What are you doing here?’ they seemed to cry in their peculiar shrill voices as I slowly unwrapped the first loaf of bread.
Ah, they knew what that was and the swarm thickened. From all directions they came, landing on the sand below me and their expressions were definitely ones showing expectation.
Finally, I threw the first piece of the delicious goodies and they all fluttered and screamed with excitement. It was quickly caught in mid-air by a hungry expert and off it zoomed with its tasty morsel to devour it in isolation and privacy.
The next piece of bread, too, was quickly caught and the third and fourth lumps, too, never reached the ground.
After a while, the first ones came back for more, with their gullets slightly bulging.
There was, of course, eager competition among them, but I had the good feeling of having brought enough for them all. And in order to be just, I kept throwing the pieces in different directions to equalize the feeding chance for everybody.
Throwing the food unexpectedly to one side, gives outsiders a chance to obtain some nourishment and it was amusing to note that some could not believe what the had suddenly caught!
Slowly, I kept breaking off and throwing – there was plenty of time – whilst my thoughts, first in turmoil, narrow down to the job at hand.
The birds now started to reveal personalities with different character and temper.
There was the greedy one, with its gullet already full, fluttering up and taking more bread away from the others. In the end, it didn’t know what do with it as it was already full. Yet it still keeps denying food to others, only to have to drop it somewhere far away.
Then there is the intimidator or stand-over merchant who runs around trying to discourage fellow birds from participating in the feeding. With its big belly and self-confident stance it pecks and pushes its mates till they fly away for a short distance, trying to escape its bullying.
Then, there was the polite one who stood still and waited for a morsel to come flying in its direction, completely relying on my sense of justice. It gratefully accepted a lump of bread I managed to throw right in front of it.
Others had the problem of having to cope with mob rule, that is, whoever caught something had to fly off quickly to a safe place, otherwise a pack of riff-raff would take it out of its beak only to have to continue to fight for it until it has been swallowed up by somebody lucky.
Then, there is the screamer, who believed in making itself noticed. Emitting shrill sounds, it tries to get my attention. Not for it to exert itself, it stands motionless and merely increases its voice to an incredible crescendo. And, if given a piece of nourishment far too big to swallow, it would not share with fellow screamers, but furiously peck everybody coming near.
Another type is the rogue, trying to ram others away with the tackle of an experienced rugby player.
The world around me disappeared as I kept feeding ‘my flock’ and I could clearly identify people I knew in their midst. The boss, union official, politicians, honest workers, friends and traitors, neighbours, and, yes, good colleagues. Of course some would be really offended if they knew how I identified them but this was my private world in which I dwelled happily with my thoughts, emotions and lots of insight. It was a world in which humans and animals merged as they both could be categorised by their character and without any difference!
Deeply absorbed in thoughts, I noticed a unique little bird. It seemed to have two useless legs, paralysed or broken, they looked normal but could not be used. It flew in, landed on its belly but was unable to walk or hop closer to where the action was. It was a scrawny bird, its feathers untidy and it definitely looked very unhappy. Its thin and scruffy neck showed that it had no nourishment for God knows how long and its hungry eyes followed my thrown pieces of bread without being able to do anything about it. Here was I creature desperately in need for a fair share of what others had and I had the power to do something about it!
Directing the bread farther and farther away to my right hand side, the whole flock moved in that direction, anticipating my future throws. That’s when I quickly lobbed a large piece to that crippled bird which gobbled it ravenously into its gullet.
With enraged cries the great flock returned, attempting to prevent this occurrence in the future. And again, I slowly directed my throws to my right side, farther and farther away. When I could not throw any farther, I quickly dropped a large piece in front of the handicapped creature and again if was gratefully accepted and stored away.
I did this a few times, till I noticed the poor creature preening itself, the feathers were tidied up and its beak seemed to move around its skinny body with more energy and zest. It looked around with more interest and its mood had clearly lifted. And with the tip of its beak pointing upwards, its gullet was bulging with sustenance – life was worth living again!
Monday, October 4, 2010
TO CATCH THE OLD GOOSE IS A DODDLE,
CAUSE SHE HOBBLES AND WOBBLES AND GOBBLES.
BUT I AM SO DRUNK
AND SMELL LIKE A SKUNK
IF I ONLY COULD STAY OFF THE BOTTLE!
Sunday, October 3, 2010
Whenever I sit in my room,
surrounded with feelings of doom,
a book I then read,
and the dark clouds recede,
it’s peaceful, that I presume.