For the GEEK in you

Thursday, November 23, 2006

GITEX Aka What's Love Got To Do, Got To Do With IT? Day Six of Seven.

La Commedia Finale, as they say (when badly Babelfish translated). Just 24 hours to go and then I'll be done, forever and ever, with this GITEX and the entire friggin IT industry.

An uneven day. Sales were flatline by midday, but suddenly stormed back into contention by evening. By 4pm we had covered, in half a day, all of yesterday's gross. With customers flooding the place, I sent all our guys out for the quickest of lunches so we could be ready for the expected Thursday rush, which every stall had been nattering on about since the beginning.

But ma cherie, it was not to be. Over the next four hours we sold sweet fuck all. Barely a couple of grand even, and despite lots of movement hardly any inquiries. I, for reasons best left unexplained, had less than four hours of sleep last night, so till evening I was woozy as all hell. Every couple of hours I had to sneak out to the van to take some powernaps. Not that they did any good, but it was either that or fall asleep on the counter.

So we were looking forward to 9 0'clock then. Jesus, colour us surprised then, when the organisers walk up and tell us the show has been extended to midnight by popular demand. An extra three hours. Would it be the straw that broke the camel's back?

Would it, bollocks. From nine to eleven thirty we had barely *four* customers. I'm not proud to admit it, but there you go. What the heck happened? In search of answers, I moseyed down to Hall 1, and discovered a partial explanation. As it turns out, there is no exit from the expo except through Hall 2. However, the customers don't know that, and without knowing that there are two Halls, complete their shopping and try to leave, only to be directed through our butt end of nowhere.

So, all the customers we get have already done all their shopping and just want to leave. Brilliant, Trade Centre. Mind you, what should we expect from them - these guys didn't even announce the extension, so our hall was quiet as a coffin by ten thirty. Not so with Hall one, where customers were still shuffling around, picking up stuff. Gee, I'm not bitter or anything, at all.

Same deal tomorrow, as well: 3pm till midnight. Unfortunately, there's a pretty good chance that it will be a full house all the way tomorrow, so I'd better get some sleep. But not before...

Our GOD update: Well, shit. I finally made with the friendly with one of the stall lackeys. Who confirmed pretty much none of my suspicions. She's just one more hired hand, and a young one at that - 21, for pete's sake. Couldn't find out if she's really married or not, but she was moseying up real friendly like to one of the other stall hands - this real slick, oily haired grease ball. Well, at least that's the way I see him right now, who knows what he's really like.

So maybe all this time I had a shot, and I never took it because I was too tied up in old memories. They say you learn from past failures to avoid future pitfalls, but what the hell happens when all you do is live in the past, paralysed to take any action in fear of failure? What the hell becomes of you then?

Maybe it just means I'm finally growing up, ten years too late. Or that perhaps I should take a sledgehammer to this eggshell I've erected around my ego. Either way, something has to be done.

Because doing nothing is no longer an option.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

GITEX Aka The Straight Story: Days Four through Five of Seven

No, I didn't forget to write yesterday, but not a lot happened really, and I'm trying to avoid repeating myself.

Needless to say, today more than made up for it. Let's get the heavy stuff out of the way first.

First off, I made the huge mistake of abandoning my absolutely awesome parking space *right next to the entrance* in the exhibitor car park to go back to the shop and restock. Bad enough that it took one and half hours to make the round trip, but on my return a car space couldn't be had for love or money.

What incredibly shortsighted planning by the organisers, who have three huge car parks but close one off to VIPs, who never seem to show up, leaving what must be at least thousands of visitors scrounging around for a space. You want to have a cheap laugh, wander around the car park with your remote and hide in a suitable location, then whack the unlock key. Chortle with amusement as the hapless shoppers double up by your car and desperately crane their necks looking for an approaching driver. One doesn't even need to be that covert - just walk around with your keys out and prepare to be everyone's best friend.

But back to my story. Rather than circling near the entrance end of the car park like the everyone else, I decided to go in the hinterland of the other end.
Now, I'll try to relate this as fairly as possible - but pardon me if some anger creeps in.

From the outer circle, I had just turned into one of the empty inner lanes. Dawdling along in my van in second gear, the nose of a Merc appeared from behind a large van. I surged up to him, put my indicator on and waited patiently till he left to park. This is really important to know - I didn't see anyone else around. Job well done, I dismounted my really quite filthy van and turned in the direction of the exhibition center, when a white Infiniti FX35 with a tricksy looking plate and a fat VIP badge hauls up. Cue tinted window dropping, and two locals inside. The driver beckons to me.
Figuring he needs some directions or something, I walk up.
"How you came here?", he asks. Huh? I drove here from the entrance. Nonplussed, he keeps repeating the question, and I keep repeating the answer.
"You cannot come this way." What? How? I had no idea what he was talking about. He insists that I "explain how I got here."
Now, you should know, this was 3:30 in the afternoon and the sun was against me when I turned into this lane. As I turned around to see the way I came, it became obvious that I turned the wrong way down a one way lane.
Ah, Ok, I agreed. Looks like I goofed. I explained I couldn't see the faded arrows on the road in the reddish afternoon light. By this point, I was wondering who this fellow was. Copper? Nah, all of them were on the main road. CID? Here? Policing traffic? He had some sort of exhibitor badge on but I couldn't read what it said.
But he was adamant that I had made a mistake. And what's more - and here's the fucking kicker - he insisted that I remove my car from the slot as penalty. Oooh, but insisting would be a nice way of putting it. What actually happened is that he waved his finger, turned his face away and said - as you would to a dog - 'Remove your car."
Remove your car. He repeats again, in a tone that suggests he is not used to being disobeyed. He adds he was waiting in the lane for a long time - even though I never saw him - and he was saving the spot for a "friend".

Here's where intelligent Marwan and coward Marwan separate. Intelligent Marwan thinks, well, he's not a cop. It's his word against mine that I broke any rules. No witnesses. And even if I did travel the wrong way up a one way street, that hardly entitles him to my hard earned parking spot.

Ah, but coward Marwan squeaks, you have no wasta. That's a lowish plate. If he wants to start trouble, not hard for you to be the loser. And you look like a driver, not the owner of a stall. Not that that should be a crime - I'm out here doing a job like everyone else. But if he wants the spot - give it to him. That's how things work out here.

I honestly don't remember what I said next. I tried reasoning with him but to no avail. To him, I was no more than an insect. So what does one do?

I gave it to him. I pulled out and drove off. Because that's the way things work out here. Because the colour of my skin does not entitle me to a rejoinder. Maybe I don't even blame him - bullies are used to being listened to, and I capitulated like a right fairy. I think I am ashamed of myself more than anything else - ashamed of not standing up for my rights as a person, ashamed of the colour of my skin, ashamed of the way things work out here.

You know what, fuck it, there ain't anything else left to say about today. It was that shitty a day.

* GOD Updates: Christ, can I get away from this woman? Look, I'm honestly doing my best to avoid her. For the love of pete, her booth is on the opposite side of the stall from mine. And I'm usually looking the other way anyhoo. But heavens to Murgatroyd, everytime I turn my head there she is. Either she's parked at the back of her stall looking in my direction, or she's taking a break and walking past my area.

Goddamn my nerd genes. What's more, I've just realised something. Whenever she looks in my direction, I instinctively jerk my head away so there can't be any eye contact. Ok, I know why I do that, but way to go Marwan - that doesn't look suspicious or pervy at all! Aack. Fuckity Fuck Fuck. I feel like I am in a rapidly contracting Iron Maiden of my own creation. I know nothing at all about this girl, who she is, what she does, or if she even notices my bald ass at all and yet I find myself trying to hide from her at every oppurtunity.

Which wouldn't be that hard, you'd think, in a freaking EXHIBITION HALL. But nope. It's like crush zen radar - everywhere I look my eyes seem to find her. I go to my van to get stock, there she is parked on the curb talking to her friend from ShDG. Walk out of the stall to look for laptops, turn around, and she's fucking right behind me. No jokes, my heart musta moved a couple of centimeters out of place.

You're a fucking idiot, Marwan, and you're too old for this adolescent shit. If you could deal - or at the very least, communicate - with all those girlfriends before, then what is so fucking hard about this one anonymous girl? Is it that I'm just intimidated by how beautiful she is? In five days, I've never even been close enough to hear her speak.

For fucks sake, says my tired cynical half, do something or shut up already. Yeah, what, Trigger, says suddenly-sarcastic sappy romantic remainder. Open lips and let tongue do the walking, says cynic.
But what if it's the wrong thing? worries Cyrano De Marwan.

It's never the right thing. All you can be is yourself.

But what if myself isn't what good enough?

Well, then maybe it wasn't supposed to work out. But you gotta take a risk.

But she's married!

You don't know that for sure. Where's the husband? No phone calls. No overt signs of an other.

Left Freaking Hand, Genius! Hard to fuck up that analysis.

Heyyy...aren't I supposed to be the mean bastard?

Uhh, oh yeah. Anyhoo, what do I do?

T-A-L-K to her.

Easy for you to say.

Loser. Confidence is for winners.

Yeah and based on today's parking special episode, I've got real podium potential, don't I?

There you go again with the negativity.

Fuck it, nigger. Romance is dead.

Monday, November 20, 2006

GITEX aka I Wanna Be Sedated: Day Three of Seven

Marwan has a splitting fucking headache today from being exposed to 11 ELEVEN - hours of bass from the JVC car stereo truck. Not to mention everyone else who wanted to show off their fart cannon subwoofers. So there will be no update today, besides the following:
  • The pressure is ramping up quickly- and we were caught understaffed. Unrelenting waves of customers from 11AM to closing time are starting to take their toll.
  • Saw a young girl (pre adolescent) in a 'Sexy - Hot - Available' T-shirt. Sigh. The decline of humanity is surely underway.
  • Locals still leading the pack as educated consumers. Indian expats are conspicuous in their absence. I can only assume it's because money is tight.
  • Watching people play Guitar Hero isn't as fun as one might think. It's like being lightly paddled on the soles of your feet.
  • Speaking of basic torture, no God updates. I think my imagination is starting to play up, because I almost swore I saw her looking at me.

Man, I really need to get over that girl.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

GITEX: Aka Nigger, We Just Getting Started Up In Here, Day Two of Seven.

A day of highs and lows.

The morning was so utterly dull I was considering packing in the whole enterprise. From 11AM to 4PM, there wasn't a person walking around who wasn't dangling an exhibitor badge from their lapel. It's only to be expected, I guess. Today is a working day, after all. But goddamnit, aren't there supposed to be overseas visitors?

Words simply can't express how dire things were. Nearly five hours of standing around without a single sale can wear down a soul mighty quick. Sure enough, most of my guys were soon either entrenched at the cafeteria or wandering around in search of things to do.

It did afford me time for more of my Patented Marwan Scrutiny (PMS for all you acronym fans):
  • Exhibitors will do just about anything to stave off boredom. Newspapers, menus, address books - everything and anything makes good reading matter.
  • How do these kids do it? I'm fagged out and haggard after a mere two days, but these tousled Archies and Veronics turn up every day looking like they swished off a fashion ramp. It's not just the morning either - evening arrives and they're still putting the Energizer bunny to shame while I'm slumped over my printers looking for all the world like the lost piece from Cluedo.
  • Not much time to look at GOD today, thankfully. Fuck me, I need to find some goldarn closure soon or I'm going to be saddled with this for all eternity. Although heaven knows what this poor girl is thinking with me staring away at her all day.
Which brings me neatly to post 4PM and the start of the evening rush. Who should turn up to sample Guitar Hero at the neighbouring stall but a white lass from i-Mate, with unseasonably good legs and a reasonable bum to boot. Pity her face wasn't anything to write home about.

For some reason, though, the fact that a white girl was playing Guitar Hero seemed to draw a crowd. Of mostly Arab and Indian Expats. I struggle to think of a time when I have been less impressed with my fellow man. Are we so shallow that we will stare at anything in a skirt? Being uber-geek that I am, I was more interested in the killer scores she was racking up in GH. Probably the only one though.

You have no idea how annoying it is that you can't bring your own food in. The sole cafeteria, as I've mentioned earlier, is ridiculously overpriced and mightily limited in seating. Ah, you say, but why not pop out for a bite?

That brings me neatly to my next point - Airport Expo has shit all for parking. Oh sure, morning is fine when the exhibitors rock up, but by nightfall it's a mess of practically Global Village proportions. Get on it, DWTC - it does nothing for your image when traffic cops are forced to direct the frustrated shoppers.

Speaking of frustrations, it burns that all the good, frontal space is taken by the big boys. They've used so much real estate for useless displays, most of which have little to no connection with the computing world. While here we are with honest-to-goodness compy goodness and nobody knows where the hell we are, situated so expertly as we are next to the toilets. Kentia Hall, your Middle Eastern twin is East Hall, Airport Expo.

That's all she wrote for today. Things are looking grim, boys and girls. We started off salespeople - but now we're just plain old hustlers. Pretty soon we'll be down to grifting.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

GITEX: Aka Purgatory. Day One Of Seven.

Will do my best to keep this current, but you gotta know, running a stall is tricky y'all.

Debated whether to put up pictures from the show, but am erring on the side of caution. People turn up in the shot wherever you look.

10AM: Exhibitors milling about. Most stalls still unfinished. We're finishing up ours up; now it's a process of weeding out all the little things we forgotten. Pens, big shortage. Same goes for pricing sheets. Sent driver back to get these, plus miscellaneous stock.

11AM: Show starts! And...nothing. No noise, nothing at all to signify GITEX is underway. Early crowds are disappointing, to say the least. No sales yet.

11:15AM: Whoops, spoke too soon. GITEX organisers buy a printer off us. But they won't pay for it till evening. Doh!

12PM: Customers still thin on the ground, but getting lots of enquiries now. Funnily enough, locals seem the most knowledgeable about their purchases; it's the expats who bombard you with pointless interrogation and wear you out.

1PM: Three hours on my feet and blisters are starting to make their entrance. But no chance of a reprieve - there's just two stools in our stall. One's used by the accountant and the other must be shared among five people. I let the helper take it, he's running around like a blue arsed fly.

2PM: Shortages! Everyone seems to want the same product at the same time, so now we're out of portable HDDs. Big ticket stuff like LCDs are absolutely stuck, but little crap like speakers and mid range VGA cards are shifting well.
I'm really tired by now. Breakfast was a single Spinneys cookie. We're right next to the sole cafe, but everything is really, really overpriced - 5Dhs for a undersized can of Miranda!
Necessity being the mother of invention and all that, I send the staff out to eat lunch in our van at staggered intervals. It's crappy restaurant fare - rice and God knows what for curry - but it'll have to do. I save myself for last because I have to handle the till while the accountant dude goes for his lunch.

3PM: Accountant still not back from lunch. My ankles are on fire, but I get no respite from the customers. My expensive items are still selling crappily, but overall sales are up. That little nugget keeps me going ever so slightly.
Personal note sidetrack: The stall opposite sells videogames. Without giving too much away - think 'KG' upside down.
Anyway, the demo guy is banging away at Guitar Hero. One wonders how bright an idea this was - put FIFA '07 on display and I guarantee boffo sales from locals, but how many expats do you know here who want to RAAWWWK? Don't really see a lot of locals doing the karaoke shuffle to Nazareth and Black Sabbath. Doesn't stop me instantly wanting a PS2 and Guitar Hero though...
But the chick. Oh lordy lord, the chick. She's selling PSPs on the other side, and she is the spitting fuckin' image of the first girl I ever fell in love with. Now, let's pause for reflection here. Here I am, busting my ass trying to move boxes. And right opposite is the figurative, literal, living breathing girl of my dreams. And she'll be there for one whole week.

Jesus H Christ.

Concentrate, Laddy. And hope she bops over to the other side, out of sight, or I'll be so addled I'll be giving shit away for free.

4PM: WHERE THE FUCK IS MY ACCOUNTANT? I haven't eaten a damn thing, and the feet are jonesying for an impeachment. Haven't even had a chance to walk around, such is the general rush. At least Girl Of Dreams (GOD) isn't on my side anymore, going back to her area on the opposite side. Not that I haven't been making plans.
Man, I'm rusty at this shit. What do I say? Do I pretend to be making inquiries? Or should I be bold and ask her out for a cup of coffee? Crap, getting turned down would be bad because it's only like the first frikking day. And does it in any way constitute sexual harassment?

5PM: Dad turns up with Free Mind in tow. The rush is dying off a bit, but now I'm no longer hungry. Neither is my accountant, the garrulous sod. So I decide to tough it out for a bit longer.
Some general notes: We are one of literally a handful of shops. Virtually all the space is taken up by the giant chains like Plugins or Jumbo. The trouble is, they all seem to be selling the same consumer level pap, so they are cannabalizing each other's sales. So we, who sell only computer stuff - which, you know used to be the point - are carving out a little niche. Only a teeny one mind you, but it's there. It helps that we know our products well enough to be able to explain them, which is more than I can say for the big chains and their hordes of untrained, rushed-in-service sales staff.
Speaking of sales staff, a great deal appear to be college age youngsters. You can easily spot the go getters from the dullards - they're the ones who aren't afraid to run up to people and talk to them. But man, where are these kids coming from? I haven't seen so much youth since, since - well, since I was in college nearly ten years ago.
GOD update: Sent Free Mind on a perilous mission to find out what her name tag says. He returns with cloudy tidings: 'Sales Executive'. Hmm. Unimaginative parents, what.

6-7PM: Another rush. Don't need food, need a fucking foot bath, stat!
I've got ten minutes off. Should I go to GOD and try to strike up a conversation? People, I'm a geek, not a lothario. This shit don't come easy to me. Aw, hell, had to make a go.
Sidle up to the stand. Nearly there. Jesus, she's taller than me. That's fine by me - no short ones please! But no opening. I'm just about to ask her for a PSP price, but am intercepted by her compadre. Godamnit - now I have to make small talk with him instead. Five fruitless minutes later, I return to my stand and my own personal hell.

7-8PM: Steady flow of customers now. At least none of that usual last minute crap, which is really wearing at the end of a long day, lemme tell ya. After the initial uncertainty, my stand is now operating like a well oiled er, um, thingy, I guess. Calling it a machine would still be a sizeable insult to any mechanised device.
GOD, GOD, what to do? Thinking about her has, I admit, alleviated some of the tedium of standing in the same spot for hours on end spitting out the same prices. But I can't do that for seven days! Need to come up with a plan....
Just as one isn't coming together, Free Mind's eagle eyes spot the bad news: she's got The Rock. Ouch, ouchy ouchy. Heart breaks in a million razor edged fragments, etc.
I think I need to sit down.

9:45: For fuck's sake, this was supposed to end at 9! GOD and her crew are covering up but we're still getting a few stragglers. I'm tempted to call it a day anyway.

10:15: Done and done. Day 1 is done, y'all! Next one won't be so long, because frankly, I don't anticipate anything significant. After all, what can top meeting GOD and losing her in the space of a single day?

Well, nothing I hope. Gotta drop Free Mind and the staff, go back to the office and do the accounts, find some darn food - I've still only had a cookie all day - and write this stupid entry.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Leaving on a Jet Plane

Tomorrow, I leave Australia for good. Arriving back in Dubai to do another long stretch of three to four years. Gotta get a proper job, and other things.

Strange, to not have any feelings about leaving Oz. What an empty place, at least by my reckoning.

More when I get in.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Car Insurance claims from around the world

Courtesy Top Gear Magazine.

In Tipperary one driver made claims on Dec 20 for a record eight years in a row. Explanations included, 'a duck', 'miscounted corners', 'another duck', 'a young lady who without braking I was attempting to photograph (see enclosed)'.

'Being told my mother-in-law would be staying another night caused me to brake violently.'
'I pulled away from the side of the road, glanced at my mother-in-law and headed over the embankment.'
One man claimed half a biro, which he'd used to take notes after an accident. The payout? A meagre 18p.

A Dusseldorf man said 10 prostitutes set upon his car with fists and stilettos but could not say why.

Australia (the best ones):
'A Koala bear had entered the car and taken the brake off.'
'A bogong moth plague swooped down on the Mitsy (Mitsubishi) so I was doing figure of eights'.
'A pygmy possum in the glovebox caused my wife to scream and the noise gave me a stroke.'
'We gave a fairy penguin a lift and it became aggressive.'
'I was driving along when I saw two kangaroos copulating in the road, causing me to crash. I then evacuated through the sunroof.'

Monday, November 06, 2006

Quotations, by Marwan

This post will be a a thought clearing house, like a blog pensieve.

  • Everyone wants to lead, if only someone would follow.
  • Failure is a prostitute on her knees before you - and she always swallows.