The Acceptable Toilets of the Western Australian Club

Events of the week just past

It’s been a rather strange and exhausting week. This is to a large extent because I’m suffering from horrible insomnia at the moment and the fact that rather than going to bed at a sensible time in the off chance I might get some sleep in, I’ve been staying up late watching mindless TV. Well, not entirely mindless because the ABC’s bought back Spooks which is always worth watching – although probably not as good for you as a decent night’s sleep.

Of course it’s not just been TV and insomnia, I’ve actually been doing some things. On Monday for instance (my Monday off) I took Katie out to lunch for her birthday. We’d decided to kill two birds with the same stone and have said lunch at the cafe Travis works at, since neither of us had actually ever got around to visiting it. So we met up at the city train station at 12:30.

The plan was to make our leisurely way to the cafe, a plan that was fairly quickly stymied when we realised that neither of us had any idea where it was (Katie thought I knew, I though she knew). So we did the sensible thing and headed over to David Jones to look for my brother Andrew. Unfortunately he wasn’t working, so the only option was to phone up the parents – a task harder that it sounds because Murray Street was full of noisy buskers with very few quiet spots to make a phone call at. I got through eventually however and with the location thus secured, we decided to catch the CAT bus, which we figured would place us right on the doorstep.

This was a bit of a mistake frankly. It seems that the average city office worker uses the CAT service to get from office to eatery at lunch time, and as it was now just after 1:00, it was packed. And when I say packed I mean people having major problems getting to the doors at their stops, and the driver yelling loudly at prospective passengers to stop them getting on. We eventually made it to West Perth (the location of the cafe) however, and were thus able to get off and breath again.

Now I pride myself on knowing the city pretty well, but was both surprised and embarrassed to realise that I had no idea about West Perth. In my mind West Perth was a block bounded by Kings Park, Loftus Street, the railway line and Parliament, made up of solid offices. Offices inhabited by high price medical specialists and mining companies. Well as it turns out this is quite an accurate view – apart from Hay Street, which plunges through the middle and is absolutely lined with cafes, restaurants and small shops. There’s also a fairly large block of flats, meaning that in the middle of all the offices you’ve actually got a kind of mini-community. My amazement at this discovery was tempered however by the fact that although we were at the intersection described by the parents as the location of the cafe, there were at least six cafes in plain view, and we had no idea which was the right one.

I tried calling the parents again, but they were out. Or screening my calls 🙂 So we did the logical thing and started a point to point search. Happily the third cafe we tried turned out to have Travis madly waving at us from behind the counter. Less happily it had dozens of office workers taking up every seat, and the cabinet full of rolls was looking sadly depleted.

We queued up for the counter, considering our options. There were a few rolls left that I would have eaten, but there was only one fairly dull looking vegetarian option – tomato and cheese if I recall correctly – which Katie really didn’t feel like. So we decided to buy drinks, have a quick chat with Travis, and then find somewhere else to eat. We bought cokes, got introduced to various staff members, then went on our way.

We ended up at a very nice, and surprisingly uncrowded cafe just down the street, next to the flats. We sat outside and had a leisurely lunch during which many matters were discussed. We then decided to head down to the railway, not being up to facing the CAT again.

On the way however we found ourselves at Harbour Town, and decided some window shopping was in order. For the uninitiated Harbour Town is a shopping complex full of discount stores – the place where companies dump goods that don’t quite come up to scratch. It’s a great place for a wander around – you can pick up some real bargains. We had a look at a games store, a few shoe stores, a lolly store, and a discount CD place, where I was quite chuffed to get best of David Bowie and best of the Cure CDs for only $10 each. We then retired to the Merchant Coffee House for refreshments – which Katie insisted on paying for since I paid for lunch.

We then decided to risk the CAT back into the city, as it was now about 3:00, and the ravening hordes of office workers should have dissipated. Happily this was the case, and the journey was fairly pleasant (or at least as pleasant as any bus trip can be). Back in town we hit up Target where I failed to find any black t-shirts (I need some new ones) and Katie went fairly crazy over the Stella McCartney stuff that had just been released that morning (a lot of people went fairly crazy apparently – the news was full of people queuing outside stores from 5:00am, racing inside like bloodthirsty lemmings once the doors were opened and fighting over the clothes – although we didn’t see anything like that ourselves). She ended up spending $50 on a shirt, which (as a guy, and a geek guy at that) I thought was fairly excessive – although it was a quite nice shirt.

Finally we did a quick bit of grocery shopping (because I really needed to 🙂 and headed down to the bus station, where we parted ways. Not a bad day out all things considered 🙂

On Tuesday it was back to work. And not just back to work, as we’d arranged a marketing talk/seminar as a “client nurturing” exercise that evening, and we all had to attend. This meant going straight from work, although the company quite nicely stumped up for dinner at the pub down the street first (I had some very nice calimari). I wasn’t looking forwards to the event very much at all, for a start it meant missing Time Team and The Pauley Perette Hour NCIS. But worse than that it was about marketing.

I’m a programmer. Programming is a form of engineering. Engineering deals with facts – you can’t argue with the rules, be they the laws of physics or the laws of syntax. Engineering is fundamentally honest, if you start telling lies you get things like the Tay Bridge Disaster. Marketing on the other hand is not about facts. It’s about distorting the facts to make someone think they want or need something they actually don’t.

Consider a car for instance. An Engineer’s description of it will describe the materials used, it’s mass and volume, the performance statistics, etc. A Marketer’s description will be a film of it speeding down the highway at several times the legal limit with a pop song in the background, a pretty (and possibly scantily clad) woman, and a deep-voiced voice over man muttering words like “style”, “class” and “performance”. And probably some people who jump into the air at the end for no apparent reason. So you can see why Engineers don’t like Marketers very much.

The talk was being held at the rather snooty and prestigious Western Australian Club on the terrace. Or it would have been snooty and prestigious if we hadn’t been banished to the basement. Mind you, it was quite a nice basement and had a bar. Not that I was interested in getting anything from the bar, it’s just that I feel a well fitted out basement should really have a bar, and possibly a pool table and wurlitzer*Jukebox that is, not an electric organ. Contrary to rumours I am not Arnold J Rimmer. (yes, my ideas of chic decor are stuck firmly in the 80’s). In any case there were a bunch of chairs set out, and a projector and screen for the inevitable Powerpoint presentation.

On arrival I excused myself to go freshen up in the bathroom (which was again quite a nice bathroom – if you’re ever on the Terrace and really need to go, try and bluff your way into the WA Club – you won’t regret it). I returned to find my colleagues in deep conversation with one of the clients who were wandering down the stairs. Well, I say conversation – it was more like interrogation. He was shooting off rapid and quite aggressive questions about what the event was all about – which seemed odd because the invitation had quite clearly explained the matter. Additionally the client in question was from Fremantle, so he’d apparently driven twenty kilometres through rush hour traffic to attend an event he knew nothing about.

Thankfully things got started before he could whip out bamboo strips for our fingernails.

Much to my surprise the talk was actually fairly good. It concentrated on ways to improve your relationship with your customers, as opposed to ways to fleece them, and no scantily clad women were involved (mind you by the second hour I probably wouldn’t have complained ;). My interest did flag a bit towards the end – but that was more to do with the insomnia and resultant lack of sleep than any flaw on the part of the speaker. I actually regretted not bringing along a pad and pen, as some of the stuff he was talking about gave me ideas (I did manage to remember most of them though and write them down the next day).

None of this could be said for our interrogative friend however. He snuck out about ten minutes in, and presumably drove the 20km back to Fremantle. I mean honestly!

Anyway I got a lift back to my place afterwards and avoided the tortures of insomnia for an hour by watching Numbers. It’s usually not bad (for a show featuring a servant of Vigo the Carpathian), but this episode suggested that the US Government has a mathematical algorithm that tells them with 100% certainty what shipping containers contain contraband. I’m sorry, I don’t believe that for a second. What containers are most likely to contain contraband, sure, I have no problem with that, but everyone was running around as if this algorithm was infallible. No real mathematician would ever give a 100% guarantee, only probabilities 🙂

The rest of the week was spent in various states of insomnia induced irritation. I spent much of yesterday re-reading some of The Sandman, and then translated the train poem from The Kindly Ones into Zurv

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