Popcorn And Warm Dust

Public Service Announcement – this is a Part 2 to the last entry. If you can’t be bothered to read the last entry, Joe managed to get us signed up as the customer service/technical support staff at a failing conferencing app that is like Zoom, but not Zoom.

My main task thus far has been to rewrite the app’s user guide. I am an unconventional choice for this task because, if we’re going to get down to it, I don’t know how to use the app, and am in no position to guide anyone anywhere. However, it has far fewer ‘yummy’s and ‘super dupers’ and ‘yay!’s than before I got involved with it because, while it’s nice to be informal, it is conferencing software designed for adults and not a smoothie aimed at twats. Also, the entire customer facing side of the business is only me and Joe and he can’t be arsed to do it so, considering he landed us the job in the first place, I feel I should do my bit. If certain key parts turn out to be wrong due to me guessing them – which seems likely – it will generate more Technical Support issues, and therefore more work for us, the Technical Support team. I am therefore safeguarding our future.

In Joe’s situation, I would’ve hired other, competent, people to do the job, charged a percentage on their wages as my ongoing commission, and stepped gently out of the loop. Joe, always more hands-on, just learned the important stuff pretty much overnight, and then taught me it. Admittedly, it was a long night because this is winter in the countryside and it is only daylight between midday and two o’clock, but still. At first, I referred to us as ‘Technically Support’ as we were not at our best when called upon to support customers in a technical capacity, which is what they always seemed to want us to do. For this reason, we quietly removed the phone number with ‘Technical Support’ written next to it from the website and replaced it with an email address, which is far more civilised. Wading into the fray, I would always sign off emails that were of no help at all with ‘Hope that helps!’ to show the customers that I was with them in spirit, which I felt was the main thing. In the aftermath of the great Christmas upgrade when there was not a single thing we could do because the server had melted, I suggested starting our replies with ‘Hey Baby!’ to cushion the blow, or not writing anything and just sending webcam footage of my dog looking sad instead, but this was veto-d.

In addition, I am still doing a fair amount of Union Rep work, making me well placed to negotiate pay rates in the alternative Technical Support scenario outlined above. Everyone knows that boring things are exciting, so hacking through employment law and associated legislative precedent is, for me, a lovely way to spend an afternoon. Also, my fellow reps are the only people in the world who still retain the faint but reassuring aroma of cigarette smoke in their cardigans. Nowadays, this seems an aroma from a bygone age, like tallow candles or parchment, but as someone with an array of childhood relatives who reeked of Player’s Number 6, it is a great comfort to me. Sadly, none of them are still around – they all died early because their lungs were fucked – but they smelled of beer quite often too, and I suspect the look of placid benevolence they maintained as I jabbered on about football stickers was because they had been in the Rose of Denmark all day and were absolutely steaming. This has genuinely only just occurred to me, and I think it signifies a final, last, definite, end of innocence. It is an unwelcome realisation but, as Sid is fond of saying, ‘Don’t be sad, Daddy – you are brave’, so I shall regard it with manly stoicism. Incidentally, in these Lockdown times, my own cardigan smells of Gold Blend and dogs, so perhaps this will be comforting to Sid in years to come, although I should for the record like to point out that my dog smells of popcorn and warm dust, so it is a more pleasant smell than you might imagine.

Anyway, there we are. I smell of dogs and I work in the gig economy. There is no contract, no set working hours or level of customer service. At the end of the month, I send a PayPal invoice to some bloke in, I think, Vietnam for an uncheckable number of hours, and I get paid in dollars the next day. Where does the money come from? I don’t know. Why dollars? I don’t know that either, and neither does Joe, but if the predictions of sterling’s imminent post-Brexit collapse prove accurate we’ll be very rich men indeed, so that’s something.


Main: There has been crazy snowfall in Norfolk, and here is my dog wandering about in it. He is Egyptian by breed and has no idea what is going on.

Top inset: Egyptian dog larking about, wondering where all the deserts and pyramids and camels and what not are at.

Middle inset: The Old Servants’ Quarters, Runton Hall, which I am not seeing much of at the moment.

Lower inset: Al fresco Norfolk carol service, which did not happen last year of course.

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