Neither a borrower nor a lender be.

Why do I find it so hard to ask for money?

Asking people for money hits about #2 on my Pet Hates list… right behind going to the gynaecologist, and just before wet towels left on the bathroom floor and cats jumping up on kitchen bench tops.  Actually scratch that – I’d rather go for a gyno appointment than have to ask someone for money they owe me!  It is just me?  Or do other people agonize over this one too?

Generally speaking, I have no problem having ‘difficult conversations’… conflict resolution, consumer complaints, complex or ugly social negotiations for the most part aren’t a problem.  I have no issue returning a meal in a restaurant if it’s not to my liking.  I have no trouble whatsoever with approaching a friend and diplomatically letting them know they have bad breath or need some deodorant!  I am quite comfortable returning unwanted items to stores or handling poor service.  I am frequently called on to act as an intermediary of sorts if things get a uncomfortable in our social circle to navigate potentially unpopular or unhappy situations.

In various professional capacities, I’ve never had trouble with the conversations that others sometimes find confronting… I once had to fire a work colleague, who was also a friend, and while I didn’t enjoy doing so, the conversation was just one of those things.  I have no trouble whatsoever taking on the role of debt collector in a work capacity and if needs be, will happily threaten the discontinuation of necessary services if monies outstanding are not paid in a timely fashion.  So I have no trouble asking for money on someone else’s behalf!  I have never had trouble approaching my bosses about unsatisfactory work conditions or hours.  I’ve had some of the most awkward conversations ever with my Uni professors and supervisors; most recently presenting one of them with evidence of their lying and bullying behaviour in front of their peers!  I can deal with lawyers and barristers and members of parliament, and not feel out of my depth … but ask a friend for money they owe me?!?  Eurck…

On the whole, I have a no nonsense, no bullshit, call it like it is, not exactly backwards about coming forward, sort of approach to life.  So why is it, that if a friend owes me $20 for a meal out or for some groceries I picked up or whatever… I can’t for the life of me ask them for it without my guts churning?  And the higher the $$ the more the churning of the guts.  Though I know plenty of people who are crap at dealing with challenging conversations who have no problem whatsoever asking me for money???  Go figure!

If someone owes me money, I effectively find myself sitting around hoping they remember to pay me.  And if they don’t, and the agreed time for repayment goes past, I eventually get down right pissed off that they put me in the awkward and undesirable position whereby I have to ask them for it.  Even if I really need that money at the time, I find myself stewing on it getting more and more agitated until I invariably try to politely remind them.  Even if that reminder takes the form of an innocuous and friendly text message or email… it literally makes me feel sick to the stomach to have to send it.

Shits. Me. To. Tears.

money currency debt economy

How to: Be A Bossy Bridesmaid and Keep Smiling.

The Bride was so stunning she made Grace Kelly look like an old crone.  The setting in the park amidst the autumn leaves was perfect.  The ceremony was solemn yet intimate and personal and the gorgeous couple were eventually and happily joined in blessed matrimony…. But Oy vey! was there some mad management going on behind the scenes leading up to the moment of wedded bliss!

Picture if you will, one overworked, overtired, overstressed, overwrought, overextended Bride getting ready for THE event of her young life.  Now lets give her a pervasive and persistent head cold of several weeks, a house full of soon to be in-laws and a bunch of absent staff at her pizza shops all experiencing attacks of Life(TM)… suddenly you have a very stressed and fragile young lady who feels like she’s going to cry because she can’t find a car park, and hasn’t had breakfast yet!  🙁    No one wants that.

I’ve been involved in plenty of weddings before, but this one looked like it could turn pear shaped pretty quickly under these extenuating and emotionally heightened circumstances.  Anxious and stressed Bride is a recipe for disaster, so the natural thing for any quick witted Bridesmaid in this position is to run interference, keep any potential wrinkles in the perfect planned silk satin schedule out of the Bride’s immaculately manicured hands, and swiftly fix anything and everything BEFORE it becomes a problem.   Now if only we could have gotten the rest of the team onside with the ‘Keep The Icky Problems Away From The Bride Plan’…

Rental company doesn’t have the required number of ordered chairs?  The Bride doesn’t need to know – sort it yourself.  Finally picked the chairs up and some are of them are dirty?  The Bride doesn’t need to know – sort it yourself.  Unable to set the chairs up by yourself?  The Bride doesn’t need to know – sort it yourself.  Got no where to park the trailer?  The Bride does not need to know – sort it yourself or find someone to sort this stuff out for you.  Keep the knuckle head stuff off the Bride’s perfectly planned plate… because her only job now is to look gorgeous and to make it down the aisle with as minimal stress as possible.  :S

But here’s one I could never have predicted.  On the night before the wedding, we were staying at a friend’s house expecting a quiet night in before the big day…  one of the other houseguests casually mentions that he received a call asking him to bring his sword with him to the wedding, but it was too late, he was already en route to the airport.  With radar already on high alert, all I heard was ‘Arooga, arooga! Potentially unplanned/unknown things afoot that the Bride is unaware of?!  Arooga!’ and as such queried the need for medieval swords at a completely mundane wedding.

Some furious text messaging  between 22:30hrs and 00:15hrs confirmed the worst.  Not only was the Bride’s Father planning a surprise quasi-military ‘honour guard’ with raised steel swords at the wedding in a public park, without consulting his extremely organized Daughter With A Vision, he thought it’d be great fun to have that sword bearing ‘honour guard’ accompanied by some people holding up PIZZA BOXES for the Bride and Groom to walk under.   Hmmm… Yes, she owns some pizza shops and, yes, they are a huge part of her day to day life.  But I was at the rehearsal, I had seen the dresses, I had heard the music choices for the ceremony and had a rough idea what the ceremony text was like, and the whole thing screamed of fine lace, timeless elegance and classy silks… not pizza boxes in the park at twelve paces!

Did I think that the Bride would see this ‘surprise’ of her father’s and think, ‘Oh, Daddy, how very sweet!’, or did I think it more likely she would smile through gritted teeth thinking ‘WTF?’.  Strangely enough, with Our Bride as stressed and sick as she was, I was leaning towards the latter.  By the time I heard mention of light sabres as well as swords and pizza boxes, I was pretty sure my fellow BrideWrangler… err, I mean Bridesmaid, would agree with me, that this was potentially a tacky disaster in the making and that we were at risk of being the Bogan Wedding in the park that afternoon after all!  As it turns out after a quick consultation consisting of about ten words which included the terms ‘pizza boxes’ ‘ honour guard’ and ‘light sabres’…. yes, yes she most certainly agreed with me!  Messages flew furiously back and forth to stop the so-called ‘honour guard’ from being part of the ceremony. More messages to ask Father of the Bride to consider moving it to the reception (after the stressful part of the day was completed and also fortuitously avoiding the illegality of having steel swords in public for no legal reason).  Even more insistent and urgent messages were flying around to STOP THE PIZZA BOXES AT ALL COSTS!!!   They were completely incongruous with the elegant affair we knew the Bride had spent months planning!

wedding disaster conflict resolution

The Near Pizza Box Honour Guard Disaster saw myself and fellow Bridesmaid keeping up a constant flow of smiles, light and fluffy conversations about hair and make up, over champagne bubbles at the hairdressers on the morning of the wedding… while madly SMSing each other (sitting barely 1m apart), the Bride’s brother, the Bride’s father, some of the Groomsmen, various others in the know and the designated organizer of the ‘honour guard’ – all the while desperately trying to make sure that the Bride didn’t notice anything amiss!

The whole thing felt like a bad joke to me… Who on earth wants to surprise the Bride with what feels like a prank?  On. Her. Wedding. Day!?  I didn’t understand how the concept was even remotely appropriate, but by the time the Bride’s elegant french twist was all pinned and sprayed solidly into place, the dastardly pizza box plan was well and truly quashed and the honour guard was moved to the reception venue where steel swords indoors were less likely to run us afoul of the local constabulary, and definitely less likely to mess with the carefully coiffed elegance planned by the Bride.

But in the end we made it!  The weather was spectacular, the Bride looked absolutely stunning, the exchanging of vows and rings brought tears to the eyes of soft hearted onlookers, wonderful romantic memories were made, and the all round the day could not have turned out better!

So, the moral of the story for any Brides To Be?  It doesn’t matter whether your Bridesmaids have ill fitting frocks, are covered in tattoos or have two left feet… just make sure they are accomplished at Disaster Management and Conflict Resolution!!!


Four Pics One Word

Quite a few of my friends have been playing a little game on their smartphones lately called ‘Four Pics, One Word’ (which brings up immediate and somewhat alarming correlations with the ‘Two Girls, One Cup’ thing, which is no doubt deliberate, but I digress!) and I know this to be true… because when they run out of coins they are posting their harder puzzles to Facebook and asking the hive mind for assistance!  🙂

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Four Pics, One Word is essentially word puzzle game – you are provided with four images that are connected in some way, along with twelve letters that create a word which relates to all four images.  Some of the visual clues are very straight forward and the answer will leap out at you straight away.

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And then others tend towards the somewhat obscure and require a bit of lateral or abstract thinking to figure out the correct word.  That, or putting it aside and looking at it with fresh eyes later and you can usually figure them out as they don’t seem to get more difficult as you go along.

So you sail through a few and then actually have to look at the puzzle for a few seconds.  Personally, I find this game fairly straightforward and haven’t used the ‘coins’ you get for getting the words correct (they can be used to delete letters from the options or to purchase a letter in the word I believe).   This is probably because many moons ago I did a Bachelor of Visual Arts degree where they inflicted things like ‘Reading the Visual’ and ‘Visual Perception’ and ‘Communicating using Images’ onto us, so dissecting art, symobls or visual imagery and relating to them as concepts and words has become second natur over the years.

But what I really love about this little game is the beautiful quality the game has about it.  It’s very polished looking, the images are all professional stock photography, the letter tiles are very smooth and easy to read, and it’s a simple design and layout… it’s really just a rather pretty meadow, I guess.

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But, (and y’all knew there was a big old ‘but’ coming!) there is something that is driving me absolutely nuts about this game.  And it’s the advertisements.  They pop up about every half dozen words guessed, probably more frequently than that in all honesty and given the little word puzzle game is free, the ads are inevitable yes?  However, it’s not the actual presence of the ads that is annoying me… it’s the visual presentation of them!  Here the developers are having spending considerable time and energy creating a game that is visually quite stunning on a little handheld device only to turn around and have it frequently polluted for their users by throwing in ugly looking advertisements for other cheap and nasty looking games.  WHY?  Surely they could be putting up more targeted advertising than this?  Why something that is so incongruous with the quality of the game in which they are putting them?

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four words one pic ugly advertisement wheel deal

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Urgh… the ugly keeps interrupting my little game, setting off my OCD, and making me twitch like mad!  I just know I’m going to cave and buy the Premium version of the game for the grand total of USD$1.99 just so I won’t be visually assaulted with these horrid cheap looking ads!

Kogan can shove it up their cloaca!

(review of dealings with Kogan)

Someone I know who may, or may not be heading off on a holiday adventure of a lifetime (squeeeeee!) thought it was time to get her priorities straight…  1) Tickets, and lots of them, 2) Decide what photographic equipment you are prepared to lug around, and then 3) Eventually investigate travel insurance.

So, naturally I’m in the process of compressing/condensing my camera gear so I’m not lugging around unnecessary lenses and stuff like that.  Especially given there will be a phone (and charger), an iPad (and charger), a GPS (and charger) and a camera/s (and charger/s all going in the bag.  Yes, modern travel is not as lightweight as it used to be!

I’ve done a stocktake and decided I NEED a new lens.  A little research, a bit of discussion here and there and I decide upon a Canon EF 24-105mm F/4L USM lens that I believe will meet my travel needs.

worst customer service no information no credit card warning verification system

Next of course comes the shopping around for the best price.  Popped into the Camera House at my local Westfield shopping centre and saw it … my preciousss … for $1699.  Bugger me.  Sooo not paying full retail (not that I ever do).  Hit the internets and find that Kogan, curse their goddamn cotton socks, have the desired lens ON SALE (aren’t those some of your favourite two words on the planet!) for one of the best prices around at a mere $749.

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Yay!  A slight moment’s hesitation occurs (and I meant blinkingly brief!) as I considered beg, borrowing or stealing one of these lenses from a friend for the duration before I firmly and decisively decide to place an order while the sale price lasts.  Awesome… enter my Platinum Visa, long suffering and well abused bit of plastic that it is, and ta-da… within seven days I should have my new lens to play with and will be all ready for amazing photographic opportunities that are certain to arise during future travels!

But hang on 🙁  Instead of receiving an invoice number and a ‘we will send you tracking information on your purchase as soon as your item has shipped’ email… I get this:

order delays due to verification process

Oh ferfucksake.  Credit card verification?  Who does this anymore?  So I spent the next 24 hours logging into my bank account to find out how much they charged through so I can tell them the exact arbitrary figure and enable my order to be processed WITHOUT FURTHER DELAY.  Yes, I know I’m not going anywhere for months… but I want my preciousss now goddammit!!!  Else what is the point of shopping on line and choosing expedited shipping?  🙂

Overnight runs happen and the amount is still not showing up in my account.  I send an email to Kogan saying ‘hey, this is stupid this is why I have a Platinum Visa with excellent online buyer protection so that even if the card has been stolen or misused… you don’t lose the money and neither do I’.  Get a BS proforma email in return saying that the system is to make using credit cards safer and less likely to see them be the victims of fraud.  FINE.  Wait another day of logging into my banking sporadically to check to see if it shows up.. wait another o’night run and still nothing.

Fucking huge pain in the arse is what this is.  Decide after the second day that I should maybe give Kogan a call.  Okay perhaps this decision occurred before my medication had worn off for the morning and that’s never a good thing… but it’s their fault they have day light saving and can be contacted so early in the morning.  But anyway to poor young Matt who answered the phone, I am moderately apologetic for the tenor of our call.  It basically went thusly:

Me: What sort of chicken fucking moron came up with this system that totally negates any of the convenience obtained by shopping online by forcing their customers to continually check their bank for half a transaction and holding up order processing and subsequent delivery of their purchase? (Yes, I was having one of THOSE mornings).

Poor young Matt:  It’s standard procedure for credit card purchases now to avoid fraud.  Some Westpac and ANZ customers find it takes THREE to FIVE business days before the transaction will appear… (he says somewhat sheepishly).

Me:  Are you fucking serious?  So 3-5 days to appear in my account, then I tell you; then 7 days to process and then 3-5 more days to ship… where is the benefit in all this to the customer in shopping online, if I end up having to wait over two weeks for a purchase to arrive from Melbourne.  I can get books from the UK BookDepository or gadgets from Thinkgeek in the US to my door quicker than that!

Poor young Matt:  If you had checked out using PayPal you woudn’t have to go through this process.

Oh now he’s got my attention…

Me:  NOWHERE on your website does it tell consumers that checking out with PayPal will expedite their transaction.  NOWHERE on your website does it tell prospective credit card users that they will have to go through a verification system thus delaying their orders. NOWHERE on your website does it even mention a preferred payment option.

Poor young Matt:  Well, if we did that people wouldn’t use credit cards and we wouldn’t be able to pick up fraudulent transactions.

ME:  So the system is designed to attract and catch fraudulent credit card transactions?  I thought you were in the business of selling electronics so why is it that you seem to be in the business of shutting down credit card fraud?  Why not warn people about the verification system to STOP PEOPLE MAKING FRAUDULENT TRANSACTIONS IN THE FIRST PLACE and while you’re at it CANCEL MY GODDAMN ORDER WHILE I SPEND 20 SECONDS GOING THROUGH THE CHECKOUT PROCESS AGAIN USING PAYPAL THIS TIME YOU COMPLETE IDIOTS.

Poor young Matt:  Certainly Ma’am.  That will speed up your order processing considerably, especially seeing the weekend could mean your banks 3-5 days will be sometime in the middle of next week.

ME:  Dig up, dude.

So much for the convenience of shopping online.  Best bit is that Poor Phone Support Matt couldn’t even tell me if it would re-occur if I shopped with them in the future using the same credit card because their system doesn’t store credit card information.

Bzzzt.  Wrong answer.  Never shopping with you fuckers again if I can help it.

Need to find a new special level of hell.

“You’re going to burn in a special level of hell. A level that is reserved for child molesters and people who talk at the theatre,” said Shepherd Book to Captain Mal.

And who doesn’t hate people who talk at the theatre.  Thankfully it very rarely happens at the opera, hardly ever happens at performing arts theatres but quite frequently happens at the cinema.  The cinema it turns out is a bit of a social equalizer where the dole bludgin’, pot smoking bogans rub shoulders with out of touch, ivory tower academics and hard working plain speaking tradesmen find themselves seated beside businessmen with overly inflated high opinions of themselves.

We line up in the queues, buy our tickets and sit ourselves where ever seems the most auspicious location for the duration. Much like being crammed into an aircraft, we hope the person behind us won’t kick our seat around too much or even worse put their feet up on a seat right near us.  We likewise offer up a small sacrifice, perhaps a Jaffa or a Malteser, to the Deity or Superhero of Your Choice and hope that any children in close vicinity will be so mesmerized by the film that they won’t cry, talk, complain or fret throughout.  We also make small wishes on those itty bitty shooting stars that fly around the mountain on the Paramount Pictures logo that everyone in the cinema has turned their mobile phones off!

stars mountain logo high resAnd yet we’ve ALL repeatedly encountered bad behaviour of one flavour or another at the cinema.  I remember going to see Baz Lurhmann’s Romeo & Juliet and having to put up with the teenagers behind me complaining that they didn’t understand the ‘stupid way they are talking’ but ‘I love Leonardo DiCaprio, he’s so cute!’.  I’ve had someone’s spoiled brat of a child spill half a cup of soft drink all over me whilst throwing a a tantrum at their parent/adult supervisor because they ‘got the wrong lollies’.  I’ve sat near THAT woman who has to ask her partner to explain every bit of the action and give a running commentary on the entire film because discussing it AFTER the film would make too much sense.  I’ve sat near damn near terrified small children at MA15+ movies and listened to their crying because their parents didn’t do their research before taking little Johnny to see the new flick that THEY desperately wanted to see.  I’ve sat near people who haven’t mastered the art of chewing with their mouths closed thereby punctuating their way through the most poignant of cinematic scenes with an incessant chomping and crunching.  I’ve sat near people’s whose phones have gone off – time and time again… and watched on with incredulousness as people ANSWERED their calls and had conversations in the cinema much to the consternation of all around them.

cinema etiquette theatre behaviour

You’d think that the Gold Class Cinema Experience might afford you a slightly higher standard of cinema etiquette than your average Tight Arse Tuesday discount night at the local multiplex.  Not on your life.  Today Mr K, Aunty Mary, Great Gran and myself went to see Les Misérables at the recently refurbished Carindale Gold Class cinemas.  Tickets purchased online three weeks ago and we’d been looking forward to ever since.  Tickets for four comfy seats at $113 (including online booking fees); wine, nibblies platter, coffees and a desert for Gran all coming to a little over $140.00… so a $250 cinema experience which in my book is NOT exactly a cheap couple of hours of movie entertainment for four adults.

And yet, even in the rarified sanctity that should be the Gold Class Cinema, today I encountered a movie goer whose sheer wilful ignorance, absolute self absorption and complete lack of consideration for her fellow cinema patron really takes the cake!  This young woman… no that’s too generous… this chicken fuckin’ moron of a stupid little dumb arse, self obsessed GIRL decides to take photographs of her food platter using her mobile phone WITH FLASH.  Not once, not twice… but FOUR photographs before she puts the damn thing back in her handbag.  So while the rest of audience are watching Anne Hathaway sing and cry her way through a heartfelt and gut wrenching cinematic moment all I can see are these sporadic flashes coming from two seats to my left!  What sort of monumental fucktardery do you call that???  I thought I’d seen it all, but I guess not.

Abandon all hope ye who enter the cinema.. for here dwells THE PUBLIC.

cinema etiquetteImage courtesy of Dave at Blogography