Tuesday, 12 March 2013

If you create too much friction, the skin comes off

A long time ago, all the way back in 1996, I worked for a childrens' clothing supplier based in Nuneaton. As normal, I won't mention the name, but their logo was an apple and their stores were decorated like nurseries with pretend laminate flooring with hopscotch... erm... boards? courts? What do you call the thing you draw on the floor when you play hopscotch?

Anywho, their Head Office was decorated in the same way and it was a wonderful, jolly place, where it was a joy to work... Honestly, I really enjoyed my time there, it wasn't like having a real job at all.

There are many stories about this particular period that might be of interest to you guys, and some of them are directly below.


The HQ was quite a large building, with offices at the front, and a huge warehouse at the back, where thousands of different types of childrens clothes were stored in racks going about thirty feet up into the air. The guys who drove the forklifts would have a pick-list of daily stock that the stores needed and would wander around picking bits and bobs from here and there. The trucks that they used were very strange, in that they didn't have forks, the cab where the driver sat went up and down to reach the shelves. I'm sure there's a proper name for them.

One day, a couple of us were in the computer room, which was on a mezzanine floor, overlooking the warehouse, when we heard that noise that an AT-AT makes when it trips over a snowspeeder tow cable followed by a really loud bang.

What had happened was that one of the drivers, whose truck was fully extended as he was getting something off the top shelf, had noticed that his next pick was on the top shelf of the next set of racks. He didn't bother to drop the cab back down, as the safety instructions suggested, and had driven his truck down to the end of the row, done a u-turn to go up the next one, clipped another truck and toppled over, taking a set of racks with it. We stood there and watched as the racking fell in slow motion into the next row of racks, all of the boxes sliding off it and falling to the floor. It was like a snowdrift of baby-grows and inappropriately adult looking childrens clothes.

I commented to the warehouse manager a couple of weeks after the event.

'I know you have posters all over the place saying that you shouldn't move the trucks with the cabs extended, don't you tell them that when they start?'

'Yes, we do,' He replied, 'Unfortunately it seems that during the interview process, we don't check to see that they're clever enough to be able to eat with a fork, or able to read'


The IT department was quite large, but it was also pretty relaxed. It was one of those places where the Boss genuinely meant it when he said 'As long as the work gets done, and I don't get any complaints, then you do what you like.'

So we took him at his word, and often decamped to the beer garden of the local pub of a summers afternoon and stayed there until we got a call, or until it was time to go home. Winters days were handled in roughly the same way, except that we'd be in the bar rather than the garden. Until that is, someone bought in a hooky copy of a PC 3D shooter game called 'Descent'. The entire department was instantly hooked. It was loaded onto pretty much all of the computers in the office and eight of us at a time would take turns blowing each other up with little blocky spaceships. It started as a lunchtime timewaster, and mutated into an afternoon timewaster, then an evening timewaster... Games would often start at five in the evening and end at nine o'clock at night. Except at Christmas, when they would last all day.

We didn't let it influence our professionalism of course, not once did we ignore the phone when one of us was on a kill-streak, neither did we get the Big boss' PA to call whoever was winning at that time and ask them IT questions until we managed to pass his score. We were professionals, and we always put our customers first. As I explain below.


I had a call once, from one of the buyers, she was quite pretty and as I was 'between relationships' at the time, I'd been cultivating a relationship with her that was on the cusp of becoming... Not completely professional.

'Hi Dandy, I have an IT emergency, I need your help right now!'

'OK, what seems to be the problem.'

'I think it's my clitoris, it's not working.'

I took a deep breath, waved at my work partner, whom we all called The Shadow, who had been following my heavy-handed attempts to progress my relationship with this particular customer and put her on speakerphone, 'You say you're having problems with your clitoris?'

'Yes, I'm pushing it from side to side but nothing seems to be happening!'

'OK... Erm... Have you tried... Erm... moving it up and down?'

'No, that makes my finger feel funny, I only ever go side to side.'

'I think I need to take a look,' The Shadow gave me a thumbs up, pointed to himself - implying that he would like to attend this call too, 'where are you?'

'I'm in the front office, downstairs.'

'We'll be down in a second.'

'Both of you?'

'Yeah, if that's OK?'

'Of course, the more the merrier!'

We looked at each other, stories from Mayfair's Readers Confessions running through both our heads, slicked our hair back (This is when I still had hair) and nonchalently ran down the stairs. We paused to catch our breath before we entered the office, expecting to find her alone, in a state of undress. posed languidly on the desk.

What we actually found was a full office, with the young lady in question waving at us from the middle of it.

'Helloooo! Over here!'

We dejectedly made our way over to her, took up positions behind her shoulders and I said, 'You're having a problem with your..'

'Clitoris, yes, look...' She proceded to open her laptop and start to violently tug at the little red pointing device in the middle of the keyboard. 'See, it doesn't work.'

'You call that a clitoris?'

'Yes, why, isn't that the proper name?'

'Well, it gets called a lot of things, I've known people call it a joystick, or a nubbin, even a nipple, but never a... a...'

'A Clitoris?'

'No, I've never heard anyone call it that before, but I vow, that from now on, that's the only thing I will ever call it'

And true to my word, that is what I have called it from that very day. It makes for some interesting conversations with IBM engineers, but I have become something of an expert. So, if any of you ever need any help with yours, even if it's just to get the dust and gunk from around the edges, give me a call, I have a special tool reserved for just that purpose.

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