HANGING ON THE TELEPHONE

July 31, 2010

 

I’m writing this column while I’m on the phone. Waiting to speak to somebody – anybody.

It’s a long story, but the nub of it is that I was driving along minding my own business when another driver decided to switch lanes without looking, and sideswiped me. Annoying enough, but the really annoying part is trying to get through to my insurance company on the phone. A company, mark you, to which I have paid an entire years salary and financed their company Christmas party over the time I’ve been with them.

They’ll take you money quickly enough, but just try contacting them when you need them.

So far I have listened to the “Please keep holding as your call is important to us, and will be answered as soon as possible.” speech so often I could start screaming and never stop. In some countries, you know, they use that as a method of psychological torture to break hardened terrorists.

But they won’t break me; even if it IS costing me £40 a minute and I’ve already started drooling.

Mind you, to soften the blow they are playing a selection of Frank Sinatra songs: nice, if you happen to like Ol’ Blue Eyes. But they could have been more discriminating in their selection of songs.

“Talk to Me” (1959)”, “Don’t Wait Too Long” (1965), “Accidents Will Happen” (1950), “As Time Goes By” (1961), “Five Minutes More” (1946), “Where Are You?” (1957). Over and over, these songs are repeated, including “I’ve Heard That Song Before” (1961), and “There Goes That Song Again” (1943).

And as for the line from “I’ve Got You Under My Skin” (1963), it runs: “Don’t you know, little fool, that you never can win.” Well, not only have they got under my skin, but also right up my nose. 

Hang on… I’m through. “Yes, I can hold… don’t see why not – I’ve become well practiced at it over the past hour and a half… Did you have a nice holiday?”

Hello? Hello?

Sod this for a game of soldiers. I’m going to drive to their HQ somewhere outside Birmingham and fill out the accident claims form in person. Let’s face it, it will be quicker. And I won’t have to listen to the endless greatest hits of Frank Sinatra.

Drew McAdam


SEEN SPEEDING FROM SPACE

July 26, 2010

 

News just out: the Government says it wants to “end the war with motorists”, and so is going to end its central funding for fixed speed cameras.

Now, there are around 6,000 speed cameras scattered around the UK, and they generate £100m in fines each year, so it seems odd that they would want to wave goodbye to that – but they do. Hmmm.

More news just out: hi-tech, infra-red, number plate recognition camera devices that are linked into a single server network and draw on global positioning satellites have been undergoing secret trials in the UK. We only know this because it was revealed in a parliamentary report.

And now it makes sense. Forget the old flash-flash boxes at the side of the road. This system, known as SpeedSpike, can monitor thousands of vehicles at the same time, even on little-used back roads.

The manufacturer claims the cameras used to collect the information are small and cheap – so cheap that they could even be used to reduce the need for speed bumps on smaller roads.

The cameras then communicate with each other. The average speed over your journey is calculated, and if your vehicle has travelled too far in a set time then you’ve broken the speed limit somewhere along the route. Bang. You get a ticket.

Spies in the skies. Satellites to watch your speed and fine you if you step over the mark. Who would have thought? It certainly doesn’t sound like the Government is ending the war with motorists; it sounds more like an escalation!

So, what does the Government have to say about THAT? Well, the Home Office said it was unable to comment on the trials because of “commercial confidentiality”. Honestly, I’m not making this up.

Well, I have some news for the “unable to comment”, sneaky, deceptive bureaucrats behind this one… There are an incalculable number of roads where – thanks to the potholes that would make a Third World jungle track look inviting – it’s impossible to even reach the speed limit without your car tearing itself to pieces leaving little more than shredded tyres and a scattering of bolts in its wake.

If you want to end the war with motorists, try spending money on sorting that, rather than hi-tech outer space gadgetry to spy on your citizens.

Drew McAdam


LATE AGAIN

July 18, 2010

 

The job I have requires me to travel around the UK a fair bit. Sometimes by car, usually by plane. But there I was at Gatwick this week, and as usual the departures board read that there was a delay – again.

It had been the same going down, and in that moment I realised I genuinely could not remember the last time I was on a flight within the UK that actually arrived at its destination on time. I’m not just saying that; I genuinely cannot recall the last time that happened.

In the past I’ve had to get off one plane and re-book myself onto a later one in the hope that the other operator might get me to the gig in time. I’ve given up waiting and booked a hire car because it was the only way I was ever going to make it. I’ve even slept all night on the floor of Stansted airport.

Now, I fully accept that things go wrong from time to time. But it’s a bit grim when a flight that takes off and lands as scheduled is an event so rare that it should be marked in your diary as a cause for celebration.

What makes it worse is that the flight operators treat these late flights in such a blasé, off-hand manner. One operator, for example, has vouchers for light refreshments that are simply handed out like confetti when a flight is badly delayed. Sounds great, except the sum total of the voucher is £3, and most of the shops in the terminal don’t accept them!

And, most annoying of all, is the Tannoy “apology” which is obviously simply read off a card by some dimwit in a backroom. The most oft-used phrase in aviation today: “We’d like to apologise for the late departure of this flight” which is followed by “…due to the late arrival of the inboard aircraft.” In other words, the “knock-on” effect of one flight that makes every other flight late.

Let’s remember, that passing on the blame to the flight before yours – as though it’s nothing to do with them – doesn’t actually explain anything: it’s their plane that started it all!

What’s more, the check-in staff must have known there is going to be a massive delay. But do they inform you of the delay as you hand over your suitcases? Do they wheech! Instead, they let you through the rigmarole of security before you enter the departure hall to discover that you’re going nowhere for the next five hours.

Well, I’ve about had it. Stuff the lot of ‘em, I say. From now on I’ll be travelling to the gigs Doon Sooth by train. I’ll let you know how I get on.

Drew McAdam


BRAIN OR DNA?

July 12, 2010

These days, everything comes down to the constituent parts of our DNA – everything from stature to eye colouring. Scientists have deconstructed us as humans and demonstrated how our behavior and conduct can all be explained by our DNA.

But can it, really? I mean, I’m no scientist, but let’s take the malicious act of whoever it was that recently set off a CS gas canister in the Cross Tavern, Whitburn.

Now, I have shared a room with CS gas, and believe me, it’s not a place you want to be. It’s like gargling with ammonia while bathing your eyes in undiluted vinegar. You will do anything to get away from it, with no thought for whom or what is in front of you.

So, setting off CS gas in a pub is the sort of thing that would be done by a person who had fewer brain cells than a geranium. That’s all down to being malicious and stupid – nothing to do with DNA. And science would appear to agree.

According to research, our DNA is 99% identical to chimpanzees. And chucking a CS canister into a crowded room is the sort of thing a chimp would do. I must say, my first reaction was that I hadn’t realised we were so close. But when I thought about it, and carried out a bit of my own research (without the aid of a massive grant, let me point out) I came to the realisation that 1% is actually A LOT. Otherwise chimps would be investigating subatomic physics, sending probes to Mars and exploring calculus, rather than picking at their ears with twigs.

Apparently, there is only 4% difference between the DNA in humans and that found in limpets, turtles, and a Tesco sandwich that’s past its sell-by date. So there.

Which means, malicious, mean and stupid acts carried out by neds have nothing to do with their genetic makeup. Rather, it has everything to do with their tiny little brains that occasionally manage a minuscule spark between the only two neurons inside their skulls; just enough to keep them breathing… unfortunately.

Drew McAdam


IT REALLY SHOULD BE GAME OVER

July 5, 2010

Somebody, help me, please! I’ve always used my computer for work; writing this column, and so on. Admittedly, I would occasionally play a game on it. Something simple like minesweeper or patience. But in the main it was just a big, fancy typewriter.

However, I was recently given a loan of a PlayStation 3. It took me a little while to get the hang of the controller, what with its weird symbol buttons and triggers. But I persisted with it and found that I rather enjoyed the excitement of blowing things up and shooting the baddies. And the graphics are incredible; almost 3D.

So I bought one. Me, grumpy ol’ granddad, bought a PS3.

Now I can’t get any work done. I have become obsessed by the thing. I’ve played everything from “Brothers in Arms” to “Resistance”. Shoot ‘em ups, driving games, adventures… I’ll play everything and anything. And I’ll play then till 3am. All I need is my controller and a constant supply of coffee.

I have become one of the video game geeks that I used to look down my nose at. I’m not interested in radio, music or television any more. Why should I? I can go off into some future weirdo world and blast things out of existence. And that’s much more exciting than Big Brother. Mind you, so is counting lamp posts.

But now I realise I need help. I need to join some sort of association like Game Addicts Anonymous or something. IS there such a thing? Mind you, if it involves people coming round to my house and trying to wrestle the little black controller from my grip they will have a fight on their hands!

So, enough of this nonsense… I’m away back to my games consol. Hope to see you next week! Reload last checkpoint…

Drew McAdam