Monday, March 29, 2004

It's so funny how they don't talk anymore

“Hello, are you Parts?” I asked the ladies sitting tapping into their computers.

I’d been sent from Services by a girl with a stern pragmatic air about her. She told me that it would take ‘0.8 of an hour’ to fix the broken aerial on my car. 0.8 of an hour, to save you the calculation, is 48 minutes. 0.8 of an hour is not a time convention. 48 minutes is, “about 50 minutes” is, as is “Just under an hour”, “Not long”, or even the expectation management favourite “A couple of hours”. These are all perfectly acceptable ways of relating time to someone. Robots deal in 0.8 of an hours.

I would have booked for the work to be done by Services, but I wasn’t allowed. I had to go to Parts, a desk about five feet away, to find out whether they had the part in. Services, you see, couldn’t possibly talk to Parts themselves. Why should they, what have car parts got to do with fixing a car anyway?

The ladies tapping into their computers weren’t Parts; they were The Desk Between Parts and Services. They were border control, the desk that worked to ensure Parts and Services didn’t communicate or work together. Parts was the next desk down.

When I got to Parts there was a man with a beard slumped on the desk. He raised his head to look at me. “I was clean shaven when I got here” he said. He was lying, judging by the length of my wait he’d been there since before he was old enough to drive. I waited. Whilst I did, a man who I’d seen hovering around the back of Services walked behind the Parts desk. Imagine someone from Services fraternising with Parts. The only thing that would have made it worse would be if he had talked to Parts about, for example, whether they had my car aerial in stock.

“Yes mate” a bloke with a long nose came out from the back of Parts. I’m not a formal person, a “Yes mate” is entirely appropriate in the right environment. Record shops and pubs are “Yes mate” places. The plush dealership of a multi-national car company is not a “Yes mate” place.

I explained that I’d been sent by Services with a rye, ‘isn’t that faintly ridiculous’, look on my face, he listened impassively. “Is the aerial attached through the roof or the light fitting?” a faint flicker of life was evident which may just have been the light reflecting off the back of his empty skull.

I had no idea, so we went outside to find out. He reached over to the remaining stump of my aerial and pulled and yanked at it, then without looking at me or saying a word he set off back towards Parts. I called out, “It may be that it’s just the stalk that’s broken”. He ignored me and didn’t look back. Cut off from the oxygen of Parts he obviously needed to get back as soon as possible.

I couldn’t catch up; by the time I got back to Parts he was gone. He came back a couple of minutes later, thumped about four and a half thousand numbers into his computer.

“That’s £10 then”

I paid.

“I’ll get you a receipt” he disappeared. Then came back with an A4 sheet of paper somewhere on it, it said “1 x aerial = £10.00”.

I didn’t go back to Services to get it fixed, I didn’t want to get involved in their domestic disputes.


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