Wednesday, April 13, 2011


The voice on the telephone was the project manager of the Royal Heatherdale Hospital, at that time the largest refurbishing project in Melbourne.
‘Peter, this is Jeff Sweeney, here, from the Royal Heatherdale Hospital.’
‘Hello, Jeff, it’s nice to hear from you. I hope I can assist you with something’.
Jeff is one of those hard-working managers who have no time for small talk and, with him, one needs to get straight to the subject.
‘Peter, I have your samples here and since they are a bit small to make an important decision, I was wondering if you could bring me a larger piece of your vinyl flooring, perhaps one square metre - is that possible?’
‘Of course, Jeff. May I bring it to your office tomorrow morning?’
‘That would be great if you could do that. We need to make an urgent decision about the brand of flooring we want and your product is well in the race to be selected. If I am not in the office, please leave it with my assistant! Thanks, Peter, for helping me and I’ll be in touch with you real soon.’ ‘Click’ went the phone and this busy man was gone, probably attending other, equally urgent, matter!
Well, that sounded great, I thought. The Hospital was to make a decision very soon and my company was ‘well in the race’ for having its flooring selected for the new section. With a bit of extra service I might have been able to obtain a large business contract and thus establish my company as one of the major flooring suppliers in this city!
Looking through my call sheets, I had no firm appointments for the rest of the day so I had rushed to my office and searched among the vinyl cuttings I kept there for a nice, large piece. Luckily, I had discovered a two metre by one metre piece of exactly the colour and pattern Jeff required, which I labelled, rolled up and added my business card and a ‘With Compliments’ slip, all ready for the next morning!
The following day was in my car very early, at about 7 am! I really felt feverish to be so close to this very large business deal and it was with a sense of expectation that I arrived at the hospital. Walking from the car park to the maintenance engineer’s building, I noticed a great number of employees busily going about their duties and there was a certain hum in the air caused by a lot of dedicated people working together in healing the sick and infirm. And in that elated mood I had arrived at the project manager’s office, as I promised, first thing in the morning!
But Jeff Sweeney, the project manager, was already attending an early meeting somewhere else in the large building and could not be contacted. This had deflated me somewhat because a personal contact in such a situation was very important.
Angie, his attractive assistant, tried to be helpful: ‘Yes, Peter, just leave your vinyl sample right there at the doorway to his office and I’ll tell him about it when he comes in.’
It’s nice to deal with a helpful person, I thought, glancing into Jeff’s office, but what a shock I got! The whole room was full of all sorts of samples from a vast range of companies, from different types of bricks to curtain material, to water taps, cleaning machines and sterilising equipment. There were other bits and pieces of metal and plastics which I could not identify, however, the room was overflowing. They were not stored in any orderly fashion or in sections but were stacked along the walls, strewn all over the desk, the office floor - in fact, one could only carefully squeeze oneself into the room. Even Jeff’s chair and the wall shelves were overflowing. His telephone was buried somewhere. Soap dispensers were lying in the doorway. The whole place was a nightmare; it looked as if a bomb had hit the place. It was a horror picture straight out of a painting by Hieronimus Bosch. And the terrible thought came to me that this man would never notice whether I had delivered something or not!
But lovely Angie smiled at me encouragingly. ‘If you leave it in the doorway it will be the first thing he sees. And I’ll point it out to him and tell him it’s from you!’  ‘Thank you, Angie,’ I heard myself say, but I was not really convinced. All my chances of winning this contract may depend on his noticing my sample. I was in agony!
Angie must have sensed this: ‘It’ll be alright, Peter!’ She nodded and flashed a smile that lit up all that mess.
Thanking her, I carefully placed that roll of vinyl flooring right in the doorway and left in a very apprehensive state.
I had kept looking at the telephone all that day, hoping that the next phone call would be from Jeff Sweeney, of the Royal Heatherdale Hospital, but nothing like that happened! The following morning, I had not been able to hold myself in check any longer and in my tortured state I phoned Jeff. Again, he was not in but Angie, once more, tried to reassure me.
‘Oh, hello Peter! Yes, he has noticed your sample - I pointed it out to him.’
‘Are you sure, Angie? Does he really know that it came from my company? I mean there are so many other samples in his office . . .’ I stammered and sweated.
Angie, a very experienced trooper, realised that she had to tell me something to reassure me for good:
‘As a matter of fact, Peter, when he walked into his office he tripped over your vinyl sample and nearly fell flat on his face. And he said: “Whoops, what the bloody hell is that?” And that’s when I told him all about your sample of vinyl flooring.’
I was reassured! My breathing eased and my sweating stopped suddenly. He had noticed my product alright and all was well!

 Peter Frederick

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