30 July 2011

My Day Out

Took myself out for a drive today.  Just couldn't be cooped up inside while spring is beginning to unfold, so I turned up MaGill and took to the the hills, up into Lenswood, formerly known as Gary's Flat, but renamed after a WWI battle.  Gary's Flat made more sense.  

There were mysterious symbols at the entrance to the roadside park.  'No raising fistfulls of foliage' and 'eucalyptus trees here'...need to know information.

I followed a path over a talkative creek, into a soggy clearing, intermittent sun showers beckoned me deeper into the woods.  I sat on a log and waited for the birds to forget I was there and go about their business of squawking and swooping.

I followed green twisty roads through the hills, taking unplanned turns and obeying random signs, a strategy that lead me inevitably to a winery.  The tasting room had a roaring fire and bubbling pot of pulled pork.  The vintner lonely in the winter lull, happy to talk.  And talk.  And talk.

A simple lunch at the Lobethal Bakery in Woodside - cheese Kransky wrapped in puff pastry and a cappuccino.  A disappointing chocolate doughnut for desert made it easy to justify a detour to Melba's Chocolate Factory.  Big Chocolate smokestacks:

For the chocolate cauldrons:

Didn't need justification to walk next door to the Cheese Cellar Door.  The lemon-myrtle chevre was divine, but the mature blue vein goats cheese left me burping clouds of ammonia.

No reason to skip the next destination on the Okaparinga Scenic Drive, the toy factory in Gumeracha housed beneath a giant rocking horse.  It smelled salt and fried food - fully licensed cafe.  Dad needs a drink now that the kids are all sugared up from Melba's.  Take them for a walk through the petting zoo, filled with incredibly fat ducks and kangaroos. 

"No dear, I don't think those are kangaroos." 

"Oh, are them some of those wobballies, then?"


In Birdwood, passed a butcher selling 'country killed' meat.  Browsed through an antique store in.  Mt. Torrens.  Mt?  Funny.  Should have asked about the price of two giant animal horns, but became mesmerized by a box of old photographs.  Black and white stills, portraits, weddings, vacations, school assemblies - who is the boy growing up year by year in these pictures?  $4 each.  I want to save these photos from obscurity.  Buy them all and weave a story around them - some of the pictures are so faded, soon they will be gone.  A slow fade from history.

Where will MY memories end up?  No one to caretake my past.  Even in families, you're only three generations away from total anonymity - unless you started a war or wrote a symphony.  Will tomorrow's antique shops be filled with hard drives?

22 July 2011

Just Say Yes

I didn’t have many delusions when I signed up for this job.  I pretty well knew what I was getting into, what the challenges would be for me, both personally and professionally.  However, one aspect caught me completely unawares.  I was not all prepared for the penetrating loneliness of this job.

It seems contrary to claim to be lonely, when I spend my entire day interacting with dozens of people.  But customers are not colleagues.  By definition, the relationship is mildly adversarial at best (and at times, downright hostile).  There are no chatty Monday morning teas discussing weekend activities, no long Friday lunches at the pub bragging about vacation plans.  My jokes are out of place and unappreciated.  If I get frustrated, I can’t just turn my chair for an impromptu bitch-session to let it all out.  The whole point of the sales process is to get customers talking about their needs, their frustrations, their desires.  I hardly ever get to talk about my specialty subject: ME.

But there is one saving grace that keeps me from descending into total despair.  Every three months, I am treated to an intense week crammed with camaraderie, complaints, conviviality, and the consumption of huge amounts of alcohol. I don’t think I could survive this job if it were not for quarterly sales meetings.

Sure, they are not all fun-and-games.  There are endless hours of PowerPoint Presentations filled with incomprehensible graphs and charts meant to instil in me some broad understanding of the business – hardly relevant in the midst of a discussion about the relative merits of LNA modification of siRNA analogues.  There are painful pitches from the marketing department detailing what they believe customers need – they always seem to be 3 months behind.  And, there are peculiar pep-talks from upper management containing a curious blend of praise and beratement.

Last week, our Q3 meeting was attended by one of the bigger managerial mucky-mucks in the Asia-Pacific region.  It was rather refreshing to hear his input and feedback on our processes, however irrelevant or impractical.  He challenged us with a relatively simple task: when any of us are asked to do something, resist the natural human instinct to resist and simply say YES.  This resonated for me personally, enough to speak up and voice my agreement and my encouragement that we fully embrace this simple guiding principle.

But that was before I knew I was going to be asked to play golf.

I had seriously hoped that I could make it through life without having ever held a golf club (I also hope to never see Dirty Dancing – so far so good on that one), but after piping up with my resounding endorsement for acquiescence, I could hardly refuse.  And I must admit, that in spite of best efforts to hate it, I thoroughly enjoyed myself.

My pleasure had far less to do with any thrill I may have received from the satisfying PING of ball connecting with club - followed closely by POP of ball connecting with tree and the PLOP of ball connecting with pond.  Without a doubt, the experience was made more delightful by the presence of kangaroos bouncing across the fairways, magpies swooping in and out of shots, and kookaburras laughing at my putting skills.  But the unadulterated joy of the morning arose entirely from being allowed to spend a few hours with my co-workers in a non-work related activity joking, teasing, and giggling. 

I don’t think I realized, until just this very moment, how important it is to have friends in my daily life.

Damn, I miss you all.

13 July 2011

Dear Editor,

I generally strive to protect myself from indignation, and considering the wealth of atrocities and social infractions in today’s world, I cannot comprehend why this particular incident has prompted me to put pen to paper, but the sheer ridiculousness has simply gotten under my skin.

In the lobby of the IMVS – a government facility - a flat panel television has recently been installed that does nothing more than display a bar graph illustrating the monthly water consumption of the main facility to all visitors.  The screen is captioned with the catchy slogan “We’re not just committed, we do more…”

I would really appreciate an explanation as to why, against the backdrop of global warming and cuts to government services, tax-payer money has been spent  on such a preposterous display of irrelevant information.  How will this information impact any decisions being made by visitors to the IMVS?  Why are government funds being spent on useless propaganda?  Who was the mastermind that was able to justify the allocation of resources to such an endeavour while employees are losing their positions? And how did the facility manage to function entirely without water through out the month of February?

“We’re not just committed”.  Indeed, *someone* should be committed…to a mental ward.

Audra McKinzie
Disgruntled Citizen