There’s plenty more fish in the sea

There’s plenty more fish in the sea

I am really beginning to wonder where we are going with all this Internet stuff. Is it really a good idea to give everyone free access? What, exactly will it do for us? For myself, I have noticed that, since one member of my household has got enthusiastic about it, my telephone bills have tripled and I gather that it is taking longer and longer to get into it and you get bumped out again with increasing frequency. Recently he ordered something on the net and asked me to stick around to take the `next day’ delivery, I am now into my third housebound day waiting for it and there doesn’t seem to be any way to chase it up.

The washing machine died the other day and there was a big discussion about whether a replacement could be more cheaply found on the Internet. Being wholly reactionary I went to the local store where I could see what was on offer, ask questions about efficiency and stuff and arrange delivery. It arrived at my door half an hour after I got home. Further research showed that I could have got it for eleven pounds less on the Internet. I consider that that was eleven pounds well spent!

The trouble is that the more you stimulate demand for any service – and especially if you make it free – the more likely it becomes that it will become overloaded and fall down (see National Health Service). Well perhaps it will keep the kids off the streets – it’s a nil win, as they say (I think).

You seem to like these Mangled Mottos so you might like to consider the case of the impresario who hired a group of acrobats from Northern Spain. When they arrived at their hotel they all tried to get into the revolving doors at the same time and got stuck and involved him in considerable expense. Somebody pointed out to him the folly of putting all your Basques in one exit.

Then there was the king of a Pacific isle who came to the coronation and was so impressed by the throne that he had to have one. A massive one was built and shipped out to him. Unfortunately there was not room in the royal thatched hut to accommodate it so at night they hoisted it up with ropes and pulleys to leave room for the royal bed beneath it. One night the rafters gave way and he was crushed under the throne. Which shows that people who live in grass houses should not stow thrones.

Some of the old sayings are not only in need of updating, some have become completely untrue – such as “There’s plenty more fish in the sea” – so how come it’s got so expensive? I have lately been reading the Dilbert books by Scott Adams which are both entertaining and illuminating. I am indebted to him for this definition: “A consultant is a person who takes your money and annoys your employees while tirelessly searching for the best way to extend the consulting contract”. This is not entirely true, only mostly. Speaking for myself, I have often found myself working in organisations from which I could not wait to get away. In fact I have had exploratory chats with people so obnoxious that I made a special effort to make myself unacceptable to them so that I could avoid being offered the assignment. Not very professional I admit, but there comes a point where money isn’t everything.

It is one of the advantages of being self unemployed that you don’t have to work with people you hate on sight (saves time).

Scott Adams cites many examples of management weirdness and I was reminded of one time when I was fired for declining to take on to my systems team a useless spare body from the accounts department. I picked up my severance cheque and left as graciously as I was able. A week later the MD phoned me to ask what had become of a large and elaborate chart of the system which had been in my office. I explained that, since I did not work there any more I was not particularly well placed to know. I offered to come in as a consultant and recreate it on a daily fee equivalent to approximately three times the amount they had been paying me, plus expenses. Apparently he didn’t want it that badly. It would have been enjoyable though… I believe they got the system up and running eventually but I’ll bet it cost them a great deal more. I certainly hope so.

Of course not all consultants exhibit that high degree of moral probity that we might wish to find in them. There was one time when I was dealing with an outfit that was in the hotel business and The Office sent me another consultant to work on a sub-assignment. This chap drove up in a flashy sports car and when we got to the hotel where they were putting us up he proceeded to sleep with the receptionist and get her to provide him with a fake bill. The dirty rotten lucky so and so.

Actually, making passes at your client’s female employees seems to be about the worst thing you can do. I suppose it’s sort of a tribal thing – even if they don’t fancy them themselves the local blokes deeply resent such behaviour. I remember seeing a reference which my then employer got from a former consultancy client of mine. It was pretty flattering on the whole but I was most intrigued by the statement: “He doesn’t ogle the women.” Aside from the fact that I am not sure how to do this ogling I was struck by the fact that this sort of thing seemed to be a expected and b deeply deplored.

I take no credit for my good conduct – it was simply that I always found I was able to provide myself with an ample supply of problems without looking for extra marital adventures. I suppose if anybody said this about you nowadays it would raise questions about your orientation rather than being complimentary.

Nobody seems to have got excited about my suggestions, a couple of months ago, for reducing traffic congestion. I guess people are not as bothered about the time they waste commuting as I thought. Fair enough. I suppose the time will eventually come when the waters rise and flood the roads and/or the oil producing countries fall into the holes from which they took it. That would be sort of poetic wouldn’t it? Then we shall be, as they say, on the horns of a Dalai Lama. In the meantime I have decided not to worry about it. In closing I would like to pay tribute to the Gas Consumers Council which sorted out my long-running problems with Powergen/ British Gas (mostly the latter) in one week, after I had struggled with it for nearly a year. This was a most impressive performance and I am eternally grateful. I even got a cheque from BG – something I had not expected to witness this year.

Copyright Institute of Management Services May 2000

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