The insult and injury tour living up to its name

So, it’s been a fun* start to the trip so far.
Disclaimer: Fun may be sarcasm, read on to find out how much *fun* it’s been so far.

We’re barely a day in, and we’ve survived an AA ticketing snafu where as part of reissuing both our tickets to apply upgrades – they issued them as paper tickets which prevented Qantas checking us in.

That took several phone calls and about 40min to resolve before they could issue the tickets, topped up by another 10min dealing with Most Significant Carrier (MSC) baggage allowances so Stuart Nolan could check in his six items of luggage (he’s moving to the US, so using 2/3 bags I’m allowed, plus the four he is, to move personal property over there).

With that issue almost resolved and dispensed (I need to check in with AA tomorrow, whilst Stuart has his boarding passes all the way through to Milwaukee) – we then move onto the next saga – which is why mentioning the moving vans worth of luggage Stuart is carrying is important.

So, we get a Wagon at the Taxi Rank, and load up half a moving vans worth of luggage – and the driver takes us from Domestic arrivals around to the Rydges on the international side.

Half way there, Stuart realises his hand luggage hasn’t made it into the car. I dump Stuart on the Rydges driveway to check in, and get the cab driver to race back over to Domestic Arrivals.

Mercifully, the bag was in the same place he left it – except with Qantas Security, Contract Security, and the Taxi rank supervisor pouring over it with a bomb/drug swab – all of whom were in a state of panic and I had to calm them down, explain what had happened, and successfully identified the owner so they’d back off and let me get on my way.

Talk about a fun start to the trip.

An awful, lingering thought

So this is going to be a confronting topic for some. I make no apologies for that.

But it’s something I need to get off my chest, to clear my mind and perform some long overdue processing of some thoughts.

Suicide – some amongst us have experienced this personally, having people close to us – family or friends – who’ve taken their lives this way.

Often, it happens with little understanding as to what drove them to it, or what was behind an awful act that some might glibly suggest showed cowardice on their part.

Some of us, myself included, might have been inconvenienced by an act of suicide, actual or attempted, and mused internally upon hearing what caused the delay mused internally, wishing they would have just got on with it so you could get to work, or school, or wherever it was you were headed at that point in time.

I find this very uncomfortable to say out loud or even share, but over the last couple of weeks and for reasons which I can neither explain nor comprehend, my mind has had frequent enough thoughts about wanting to end it all.

Mercifully these awful thoughts have not serious enough to even think about planning to do it, but scary enough to have increased my anxiousness to levels I’d never contemplated.

They however have been more than enough to put me off buying or hiring the garden mulcher I need to get my front yard fully sorted, and avoiding cooking dinner at home on account of feeling very uncomfortable around sharp knives.

Annoyingly, the anxiety arising is doing awful things to my body. I’ve spent the last four days with a raging case of indigestion. I didn’t know what it actually was at first, and after I’d figured it out – all the other causes that could explain why I was inexplicitly suffering it have been crossed off the list.

It’s seemingly adding a “deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars“, if one is to borrow and re-purpose a quote by Martin Luther King, Jr. talking about violence.

The worst thing for me is not being able to put my finger on why I’ve been having these thoughts of late. Social isolation may be one part of it – lacking a strong network of friends, frequent conversation, working in a role where my home is my office – hence no colleagues to chat to during the day, trying to stay active, and the almost never-ending search for intimacy – all issues I’ve been struggling with for some time, and wrote about on more than one or two occasions.

This sadness also wasn’t helped by some news of an event that occurred between two people I consider good friends earlier this week, one which left me feeling genuinely sad for both of them. Two nice people, whom for their own private reasons, are going their own way for a time.

You want to reach out see what you can do to help them manage the pain, but that of course is a little limited when you yourself are feeling like an emotional cripple, and specifically want to avoid exacerbating what could already be a fragile situation.

But getting back to it – in some ways, this leaves me feeling annoyed.

At myself for not being able to figure out how, or struggling with even the smallest of steps to overcome the feelings and concerns that have built up to the current level of uncomfortable anxiousness.

At my close friends, for not recognising how I’m feeling and offering whatever help they can. There could be reasons for that of course, but by the same token I’m a little sick of being the emotional crutch – dropping tools to help anyone else out, but not receiving the same in return.

At my childhood experiences, for growing up with so few friends and being socially isolated in the school yard that it made it hard to learn skills that would help avoid this.

At people I went to school with, for being – as children and teens are prone to be – awful people who didn’t how others felt as a result of what they said, or did, or didn’t do, leaving me with scars – both physical, and the emotional which there are some I still haven’t recovered from.

At my teachers, for not realising or bothering to take action to correct the struggles of their students, and doing everything within their power to help someone reach their potential, and not feel discouraged by all that – at least within the school environment – that was holding them back.

At myself again, for not seeing things through. For reaching a point where after so much time battling and fighting, I felt mentally exhausted and gave up on trying. Not pushing myself to that next level. For pursuing university, or an MBA, or even a Diploma course that might give me some chance at being where I want to be, or have the potential to be, in my current field.

At my parents, for bringing me up in a religion which frankly I should have rebelled against and gone and lived the life and experiences a normal teenager/young adult would have.

To not be so uptight, taking the missed opportunity for a sneaky pash in the school yard with the hot girl, going out, partying, staying up late, all experiences I missed out on growing up.

Of course leaving out the drinking. Sorry, I still don’t see the value in that.

At my father, for being an emotional cripple, and dealing with his inadequacies through physical and psychological violence towards his eldest – who is to this day frankly smarter than his father could ever have been. Like the school yard, the emotional scars haven’t even come close to healing as well as they need to.

And at myself again, for lacking the confidence to address any of this to the point where I’ve been able to put it behind me.

It leaves me with this piece of dialogue floating around in my head:

I studied a lot in school. I studied hard in high school and at Harvard and in law school.
My IQ doesn’t break the bank, and I wanted to do this so I studied all the time. And I missed something or it’s like I skipped a year ’cause I never learned what you do after you think you like somebody– what you do next.
And every-everybody did learn. A lot of other people, anyway.

 

I was too focused on trying to be as good as I could be, that I missed learning how to have fun.

And right now, it honestly feels like I’ve missed that chance.

Some people have made welcome suggestions lately, but I don’t know if I have the willpower or the strength to give it a proper go.

Even going to the gym every couple of days feels uncomfortable. Not withstanding nobody to go with, but feeling out of my depth, especially with extremely fit people, and sometimes some very desirable women, around the place leaving me to feel like I don’t belong.

Which pivots back to where I started, and only just recognising and acknowledging – literally as I’ve started to write this very paragraph – why this awful thought isnt go away.

I feel like I don’t belong. In amongst everything going on around me, I feel like a square peg in a round hole.

I haven’t found where I fit in.

I don’t know how to find where I fit in.

And I’m not sure how to find it, or if anyone else knows the way.

The best I can hope for is an end to this spiral of unwelcome thoughts.

An end that is positive, and does not result in the sadness, and perceived cowardice, of early death.

Standing on the outside looking in

The title of this post is pretty much how i’ve been feeling of late.

Well, not so much of late, but the last twelve months if I’m going to be honest.

Fun has been hard to find.

My days more often than not feel like i’m wandering through the universe, lost, unsure of why i’m here.

I may have taken five trips, three of those short and two of them work – one overseas. I’ve been catching up with friends a little more. Trying, but failing, to get out and be more active. I’ve tried eating out more, finding new places, sharing reviews.

But lasting or recurrent fun hasn’t been found.

I’ve been left feeling in a rut. I’ve come to comprehend that I struggle to connect with people, fear stepping outside of my comfort zone, and can’t for the life of me figure out how to start a conversation or meet someone new.

Feeling robotic.

I’ve sat at home some weekends and evenings, seeing people I know out and about having a great time. Watching them catch up for picnics, dinners, movies or shows, or casually sharing a meal. All enjoying the things I’d like to do, but not knowing how to join in or even be someone people would like to join them.

And that feeling of longing gets even worse when the brain turns to feelings of longing for relationships.

Of the three women I know who i’m genuinely interested in, I’m pretty sure I bombed out with one thanks to being totally out of my comfort zone – with no chance at a do over any time soon thanks to distance. Of the other two, distance puts the kibosh again on one of them, and the other likely doesn’t have a clue I’m remotely interested in her.

And lord, trying to get anywhere on a dating site is another cesspool of disapointment. A number of women out there I find interesting on multiple levels, but I’m utterly clueless on how to try and start the conversation.

And this whole feeling isn’t helped by looking around at some of my male acquaintances – and seeing the women they’ve landed. Brainy, experienced, funny, active, and frankly very attractive all in their own right. These guys are as smart as me, and somehow managed to land these women.

There’s little Dopamine, Serotonin, Endorphins or Oxytocin flowing, anywhere, and I’m struggling to make them flow.

But, and here’s the point where I get unstuck.

I have no idea how the hell I’m supposed to get past this.

I don’t know the first person I can talk to for advice on this. I don’t know how to learn what I need to get past where I come unstuck.

I don’t know what to do.

Which surprises me. I’ve managed to get this far, acquire some valuable skills which the market puts a reasonable price on. I can learn technical skills quickly, and have been able to execute everything i’ve learned to make the good great.

But when it comes to learning inter-personal skills, I’m lost at see.

There is no manual, no textbook, no guide, to figure out how to master them.

And being so out of practice, and constantly standing on the outside looking in, very few chances to even try and practice, and break out of this uncomfortable place.

I feel like the metaphorical mime inside the box. I can see what is outside of it, I can touch the edges of the box, but I just don’t know how to escape it.

Flick

So, there’s an acquaintance of mine I know through frequent flyer circles whom, when chatting recently, happened to mention a really nice friend of hers in Perth who seems to be perpetually unlucky when it comes to love.

This friend pointed me in the direction of a photo, and a blog she runs (linked above), and I was quite intrigued. I laughed along at her writing, and some of the interesting things, behaviours and hygiene issues she’s encountered over a few years of dating.

And, as any reasonable person would do, taking a wander over to her public Facebook profile, she looked quite nice and seemed to be a pretty sane and sorted person.

Ticks all the boxes so far.


I was being egged on by this friend to try and make contact with this women. And I don’t blame her really, who wouldn’t want to be a virtual wingman for a single friend when they know people also struggling to find a decent partner (big hint there friends).

As luck had it this evening, I’d fired up Tinder after putting away this evenings haul from Lakeside, which included Season 1 of The Two Ronnies on DVD, and The Fat Duck Cookbook by the legendary chef Heston Blumenthal.

And wouldn’t you believe who popped up – but this very lady my friend had suggested.


I wasn’t quick or eager to respond, took me 10min to think of a message. I didn’t want to seem creepy having prior knowledge or her blog, or cliché with a hi or hello.

Her Tinder profile was devoid of any interests or profile description as well, so I winged it. On a limb, I went with this – to the best of my recollection, which will become apparent why I’m doing it from memory in a moment:

“The problem with replying to a Tinder match, is that you want to lead with something that you hope starts a conversation. Hi is too boring, hello is used too often, and when you’ve got a profile without interests or an idea of who they are, it makes it hard to find something common to try and start from”.


Except, she didn’t see it, or read it.

Barely less than a second after finally hitting send – the message vanished from the screen.

Unmatched.


And here is the problem with dating via technology these days – nobody takes the chance.

Too easy to tick, or flick, when we’re not interested without giving it another thought.

It leaves me to posit the question – how can you have the cheek to complain there’s no decent men out there, when the ones who are decent aren’t given half a chance to say hi.

It leaves me to ruminate, and wonder that if, in at least the case of this lady, she is fickle. In her tastes, desires, wants, attitudes, her approach to life and to those around her.

Suggesting she might not care about those she crosses the paths of may be unfair. But to not stop, and spend a few seconds saying thanks but no thanks, let alone giving someone the opportunity to engage, speaks to an attitude of a person whom, in some respects, I’m glad not to have made the acquaintance of.


But it also speaks to a wider problem. How often do we not take a chance, or give someone the chance.

Yes, there are people who do take the piss, and milk the leeway they are given for everything its worth, giving no effort or results in return.

But how hard it is to stop. To breathe. To invest. To say, you know what, let’s see where this goes.

If you don’t like where it goes, then you can walk away easily. Block, report and ignore – depending on the person of course.

But at least have the decency to show someone the courtesy and respect of a hi, a hello, an attempt at trying to make a conversation.

It’s why, if I match with someone or get a message where I’m not interested – I’ll at least have the courtesy to tell them. To not leave them hanging so they know i’m interested, or not.

Because if someone isn’t interested, who are you to not be polite and respectful, so the other party isn’t waiting around for an answer.


And this pivots to the greater point – being that technology has, for all intensive purposes, allowed us to be mean without consequence.

And to do so, without a second thought, or an undo button when we realise that we made a mistake.

As an example, block lists on phones exist for a reason. I know of people who’ve had genuine needs to use them because someone doesn’t understand No. I don’t suggest for a moment that things like block lists shouldn’t exist, but we as a society – in a reversion to the mean – use these most of the time without having the courtesy, or decency, to explain why we’re using them on someone.

Technology has made it too simple for us to be mean, and be mean spirited. To show discourtesy to others without giving that persons feelings a second thought.

I don’t claim to be without sin in this area, as I too have done it, and I feel ashamed when I do.

But, I do try to espouse the values I want to see in others as often as I can – remembering that the person on the other end of the conversation is also a human being, with feelings, and deserves some decency and courtesy when you’re not interested.

Sometimes, the silence from someone saying nothing speaks more loudly than anything they say could.

Tomorrow

Six months is a long time.

Things change, people change, lives change, the seasons change at least two to three times depending on when the six months started.

In six months, lots of good progress can be made, new things can be explored, and challenges overcome – or at the very least faced.

You can feel more comfortable with yourself. Feel a little more relaxed about things. Be able to get up and say that hey, at least today will be that little bit better than yesterday.

But then tomorrow comes.

And it isn’t the day you were promised in the pop song that Annie Lennox and David A. Stewart sang in 1985.

That presumes of course, possibly falsely, that 80’s pop songs were ever a good yard stick for life and expectations.

Like the evil foot solider of an enemy thought long vanquished, clad in black and blending in with the surroundings that nobody else might see it, the unexpected reappears in a dark alleyway at the one moment you’d least welcome its arrival.


I wrestled with what to title this post. There were so many other one word descriptions that came to mind, but in the end – as more often than not – I drew inspiration in part from Lennox and Stewart; and also from Episode 155 – the last episode of the final series, of The West Wing (I’m sure you know how much of a fan I am of this long finished show).

The episode to me is a reflection, in parts, on decisions made by you, and for you, and the opportunities lost. The decisions we struggle with, in the vein hope that what we do today creates a better tomorrow. For ourselves, our friends, our family, those who’s opportunities of tomorrow are closely aligned to the decisions we make today.

That might be overselling things a bit given the context, but it gives me to pause to reflect on the past six months, and a change of direction that – for better or worse – is likely happening tomorrow night, and how much of a positive impact this time has had.


It’s likely not a change I want to happen. Reverting back to almost a previous status quo, not being able to enjoy something specific in the way I have recently, and likely not attaining anywhere near as much opportunity for pleasure in the physical and emotional context that the last six months have brought – no matter how limited that pleasure might have been.

I see this women as my equal in so many senses.

Putting aside all that has happened in the last six months, even before then – this is a women who’s company, intellect and conversation I’d crave.

If it was possible to pick from a menu and find another women with all her skills, her knowledge, talents and abilities, the lust for life – please tell me where that women is and how I find her.


I feel annoyed in some respects. Because there’s, at least to me, still more than a few miles left on the clock for what this has been in the current context.

I don’t feel that the current context has reached the end of a road, or a natural conclusion, and that I’ve been able to grow personally anywhere near as much as I might want, or need, to – I feel there’s still more unexplored opportunity for that.

And I also fear what comes next.

As someone for whom, you’re likely aware, has been perpetually lonely and led a life sadly lacking the physical validation and emotional nourishment that comes from any such experience – will I ever experience this again?

Given the disappointment that has come before, and likely will continue to come – where is what I seek to be found, and on which of the tomorrows might this come.


I am left to ruminate today, if I’d have ended up in the city at a high school reunion party that Saturday night instead of Leederville.

If I’d not had the iPad with me as a distraction on a train journey for something to read, and used a certain application, looking through photos and finding hers.

If I’d not started a gentlemanly, respectful and friendly conversation with a good friend, only to uncover a nugget of truth.

If I’d let that nugget of truth slip through the cracks.

Where would I be today? Would I be feeling the way I am now? Have I been blinded as a result to other opportunities that have passed me during this time? Would I have done, or have been able to do the things that I’ve enjoyed during this time.

So many questions. What Ifs. Whys and wherefores. Like the choose your own adventure books of our childhood, but targeted at a more discerning adult audience.


These things, like all matters in life, come to pass. When you’ve waited as long as I have, you do get sick of having to ask the question of when your time will come to have that which you so greatly crave.

It’s not an outcome I’d want to happen, but it’s one that – for better or for worse, I’ll have to respect.

And hope, possibly in vain, that somewhere, the women I seek, is out there, ready to be found.

If not today, then hopefully, on another tomorrow.

Eight long years

Photo of a document cover from a bank

A pretty significant photo to me

Being able to take this one photo tonight actually has some pretty significant meaning to me.

That’s how long its taken for me to be considered credit worthy once more.

My signature forged on business loans and credit contracts, a mortgagee repossession of my house (voluntary on my part – explain in a minute), and youthful indiscretions in managing ones own finances….

…to come out the other side, eight long years later, with my credit worthiness restored and back on an even keel.

The repossession of my house is a bit of a story, but a former high school friend and I went into a partnership agreement to own it, with the intent of setting up an investment portfolio of property.

Well, he started screwing up his credit thanks to his lack of self control, and vanished from existence before I could get signatures on the legal documents to get it in my name, and sell the thing.

Long story short, easiest way was to hand it back to the bank, with the bonus that I walked away with some reasonable cash in 09′ after the sale and all the costs paid.

That’s all a long chapter in my life, that I’m glad to have put behind me.

Let’s hope October doesn’t rain on September’s parade…

(…goes off and starts humming the Barbara Streisand performed Don’t Rain On My Parade, from the end of Funny Girl).

A word on using the phone to sell

You’re a small business. Potential customers call you by phone to ask questions before buying things.

How hard is it to teach your staff basic phone skills that, I don’t know, might help bring customers to your business so they give you their hard earned money!

There are a number of bike shops in Perth, who all either carry, or can order, the bike I am going to buy (in the Radioactive Yellow colour if anyone’s interested).

Of those I called this morning, four  of them lost a guaranteed sale because their staff displayed an embarrassing ignorance towards a customer, terrible phone manner, or communicated with the customer in a way that made them feel like an idiot.

Each time, there was an opportunity for recovery, but none of these staff recognised or took it.

And you wonder why your customers are buying online? The phone manner of your staff is likely a big driver for it.

These stores lost an opportunity for $650 in immediate revenue today, in addition to ongoing income and loyalty from parts, repairs and accessories.

Now that might not seem a lot, especially when these stores have bikes worth $2,000-$4,000 plus sitting on the shop floor. But bikes of that value don’t sell every day, nor do the expensive parts that go with them. So constant sales of smaller price ticket items, like a $550 bike and the accessories the customer initially buys, are what keeps the doors open, the wages paid, money in the bank to buy new stock, and the tax man off your back.

Each and every phone call you receive is an opportunity – one to build your brand reputation, recognition, and most importantly convert callers into money in your bank account.

If you have a phone for your business, make sure you, and your staff, learn how to use it properly.

Some simple tips to do this:

  1. Treat each customer as knowledgeable, and when they don’t know a given answer, empower them the information in a respectful way that will help them answer or set them on the right path.
  2. Don’t have people to answer the phone who aren’t trained to sell, or understand your products.
  3. Don’t use cordless phones, unless they have an actual Hold option (preferably with music so the customer doesn’t think the line has gone dead). Nobody wants to hear Assistant X talking to Assistant Y to get an answer about something, or inane workplace chatter, whilst you’re waiting for information.
  4. Get your friends to visit your home one day, have them make some test calls to your stores. Do it on a speaker phone so you can observe and listen to what your staff say and sound like when talking to regular customers, so you can give your employees specific and actionable feedback to coach them, and drive them to do better.

And please, if one of your staff persistently displays an awful attitude or phone manner – ban them from answering the phones. They are going to be one of the key reasons that your phone calls aren’t converting into sales.

And credit where credit is due – to two Bike Force stores – Gerrard from their Subiaco franchisee, and Joondalup (can’t remember the staff member’s name there sadly. The individual staff who answered the phones at these locations were professional and personable. They knew and understood that phone calls mean sales, and took the time to answer my reasonable questions. If Joondalup wasn’t closer to me, Gerrard and Subiaco would have got the sale.