Monday, June 23, 2008

Comforting the customer

I should have been more careful. I didnot check properly. It was only when I opened the big pack at home I realised that the comforter I bought from the Co-op was for a single cot. I need one for my queen sized bed. Fortunately, you get to exchange the product within 48 hours of purchase and if you still have the bill. That sounded alright.

When I entered the shop again there were many hours to go before it would be "48". One thing I was told by others was that Co-op isn't really known for customer care. I was going to find out.

The man behind the counter was huge. I smiled. Didn't register. I smiled again. No reaction. Then he mumbled some thing. Mr mumbles probably understood that I was there to make life miserable for him. It was a simple equation for him; Product to be returned = productive time wasted. I explained my problem as clearly as I could and before I could finish, came the question."Where is the bill?" I was holding it all the while. I extended my hand. He looked at suspiciously as if I had it tainted with some unknown virus. This time I returned the look. He took the bill.

Most people would inspect an invoice by reading it first from the top. He checked all sides, its blank posterior, its sides, underneath it; I didn't know that a flat piece of paper had so many sides. The comforter in the polythene pack was the next item to undergo the scrutiny. The bill's treatment paled in comparison with this one.

He checked the item with such contempt that he would convince you not to return any more items to any shop any where in the world. He shook his tiny head; tiny for such a huge guy; and said, "This cover is too large for this item". Well, I didnt make the cover, I thought to myself. "Yes the cover is large but the comforter is small and thats why I am returning it". He looked at me and shook his head again. I was starting to relate his speech with the size of the head, unintentionally. Finally he told me that he cannot accept the comforter because of 2 reasons. The cover is too large for the item which could mean that I didn't return the original cover. Second reason being the pack didn't carry a piece of paper which says what is the size of the item; whether it is single/double etc. I clarified that I made a mistake in picking up the wrong size because that stupid paper was not there in the first place. I was getting furious. It has been well over 20 minutes since I came in.

There was a kid standing next to him while this conversation was going on. A 12 year old. He looked very amused. In between he would kindly offer his comments about why the product could not be exchanged. I wasn't amused. I told him impolitely to shut up. Mr mumbles suddenly intervened and reminded that I need not talk to the kid like that. Must have been the Manager's kid. My instinct told me that I should solve this matter because the real Manager turned up. I did not want to meet his dad.

Though that was what I had in my mind, this is what I blurted out; "I want to talk to your Manager". But that made Mr Mumbles remember some thing. Suddenly he looked a little wary of me. The nonchalance was gone.

I planted myself next to his counter with my back towards him; arms crossed. 10 minutes passed. Then he called another employee. This guy came and checked the product. Then another guy came. The comforter was inspected as if they were determining its sex. Finally after 40 minutes, they concluded that I could exchange it. I took another piece. But it wasn't a good exchange. Mr Mumbles took atleast a year out of my life expectancy.

The cobbler

It was unusual to see this man next to my house. He was sitting huddled in a corner with his little collection of tools that he uses to mend footwear. It was unusual. In UAE you throw what isn't working any more and buy a new one. Footwear was one of those things. There is no re using/recycling. The shops have promotional offers all the time. There is a lot of waste land for you to dump refuse. Reasons are plenty.

Secondly, no ones sells any service sitting on the road side or under a shade. I have seen men selling telephone recharge coupons on the road. This man was the first one I saw sitting down in a corner in a shade waiting for customers.

Usually I see him when I am coming back from work. He will always have a smile for any one who passes by. First he smiles and then he looks at your shoes. After all he is a cobbler. But different. Even that smile.

I had never given him business. But I always got that smile. A smile that held all the sadness that eyes could hold. It told a million stories. There was angst, love, longing, and yet a faint radiance. It came with out expecting anything (though he might have looked at my shoes with longing!) Some times when I go out to the shop across the street with my daughter, she also gets one of those smiles. A smile that pulls your heart strings. The smile that would make you put your arm around him and say that "it will be alright".

Later I learned that he was from Afghanistan. He has lost his papers a long time back. No passport, visa, nothing. He just sat there with his crude tools and waited for customers who would rather buy a new shoe than wait in front of him. And then late in the night he would take his stuff and leave.

In winter he was there with a blanket wrapped around him. Now it is summer. I haven't seen that meloncholy smile for weeks. I miss him.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

in memory of "aanjili"

There is no spelling error there, friend. I am not talking of Anjali; who ever she is. It is aanjili, or the wild jack tree not really well known by the scientific name Artocarpus hirsutus Lam.

I take a trip down memory lane here...

In our back yard there were these towering trees that were easily taller than a 4 or 5 storeyed building. The base was atleast a metre thick. During summer, they bore apple-sized fruits we called "anjilikkai".

The fruits were sweet and had a flavor unlike any other fruit. They has this thin spiky outer skin; and small fruits inside; very much a small version of the jack fruit.

Getting them was the toughest part. The tree is really tall. Plus, they are always covered by weaver ants that could discourage any ambitious tree climber with their biting and formic acid sprays.

How ever there were some teenage guys around who would dare anything to get at the fruit. They would climb half-way and use a long stick with a hook & sack combo to gather the fruits. We children would wait impatiently below with our necks aching from looking up, for the goods to come down. A few would come down the way they shouldn't because the ripe fruit has a slender stalk. But once the aanjilikkai hits the floor; nothing much remains of the small fruit to be salvaged. The climbers were greeted with wild cheering when tey came down after the harvest! Then we shared the fruits. The tiny seeds could be sun dried and fried. Were a tasty snack!

There is now a single aanjili tree left in the back yard. She is also tall and bears fruit every year. No one goes harvesting these years. There are no more tree-climbing teens around. The others; no aptitude.

Last summer I saw the dried remains of the fruits lying all over. Very soon there would be no more such trees. It is very much in demand as a cheaper alternative for Teak wood. Soon the only way to see an anjilikaai would be to refer an encyclopedia. Or may be not at all. Even wikipedia didn't have a picture of it.

Aanjilikkai represented those years when we could climb trees, fall and climb again. Those times when we could splash around in the muddy water in the temporary ponds created by the monsoon in some of the low-lying areas around our house. We chased squirells, loved lost puppies, collected match-box labels and did a lot of silly meaning less stuff. Those days are gone. So would aanjili.

My daughter would be lucky to see one. There is still one left at home. But for many others, that wouldnt be the case. A tree that commanded respect from us kids, is soon to be extinct. So would its aanjilikkai.

I have decided to do one thing during my summer holidays back at home. Plant an aanjili. May be afew. For old times sake.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Kick it !

Ever felt like kicking your own butt? Some may smile and agree. Others may vigorously shake their heads and say NO. Those who say yes are the ones who think they need some help in getting some stuff right. A whack on a strategically important spot may awaken some grey cells into thinking or even into submission, in spite of the fact that the impact zone and the thinking zone lie in different poles. The ones who say NO may have more than one reason. “I have others to do it” is often the most common of them. How ever if you fall in the first category, continue smiling. For its comin your way…!

Mr. Joe W. Armstrong holds the United States patent on a device that will do exactly what you are thinking. Its gonna kick your butt! Mr. Armstrong holds United States patent 6293874 for a, "User-Operated Amusement Apparatus for Kicking the User's Buttocks." Check out the very detailed diagram. Isnt that posture actually appealing!

Essentially, a simple hand pedal is connected underground to what looks like a windmill with a boot attached to each blade. When a user is in the mood for "fun," or is just feeling like a fool, they simply lean over, turn the pedal mechanism and voila: they can kick their own butt to their heart's content! But mind you; if you look at the diagram carefully, you would see that there are some perils involved. It is very obvious that your butt has to be positioned accurately before you commence the kicking process. The boot is pointed and may modify the “kick-your-butt” option to a “kick-your-balls” option; which can be quite effective in convincing that if you paid for this contraption, you probably deserve it.
If you still prefer watching "others using machines", this isn’t for you. But if you some times get this feeling of mild self-loathing; there is a 30 day-trial-money back offer to test fly this bird!
P.S My sleuth squad informs me that an enterprising Jamaican has applied for the patent for an updated “Butt-kicker” meant for “larger” surfaces. What happened to the “one size-fits all” movement? What is this world coming to?

Monday, June 2, 2008

Getting high; Down under!

Here is something that will throw all your notions about getting that lovely dizzy feeling out thru the window..! Creativity, necessity, desperation and technology has joined arms in finding out a new, radical way f getting pinked! read on...

The following is what I found...not exactly my words..

A rather odd drink administration technique is the practice of soaking tampons in vodka and inserting them vaginally;for girls who drink ofcourse. The practice is typically employed by teenage girls in the hope of getting high while avoiding detection by parents. Less commonly teenage boys and girls may insert vodka soaked tampons rectally!!(previous experience may help, say some real bad people). Some of the attraction of the practice is undoubtedly related to teenage sexuality, although there are no studies that address this. Its chief attractions are likely to be the transportability of the dosage form, and the abusing teen's perceived ability to deceive authority – parents, others. The use of vodka soaked tampons is not particularly new and has never really had a large following. There are good reasons that this practice has not become more prevalent. However, DPIC (Drug & poison information centre, University of British Columbia) has received several recent calls about this alcohol abuse technique. It is possible that this novel form of alcohol abuse may be increasing!
Having said that, it would be wise to know the rest also; as I understand it..

Plus side: No stomach upsets usually associated with heavy drinking; reduced smell of alcohol (a little of it still comes out thru ur breath, folks!)
Flip side: Considerable burning sensation in "you know where"; Cannot beat breath-analyzers (inlcuding talented wives); possibilty of leakage from tampons(difficult to explain if u r caught with a damp patch & especially if u r a guy); prolonged discomfort and potential for bleeding(here teenage girls have an advantage by default cos guys have no clue what this means)

Personally I feel that an orifice should be used for the purpose it was intended for by the Creator. So, explorers shall seek at their own risk...Amen!

Red, Yellow and Stinky