Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Now this is what I call a deal.

My colleague in Indonesia borrowed the office mobile phone for a week and was rather surprised to receive messages and calls from some guy named Mohammed (NOT the prophet so please don't give me any religious hard talk) which were obviously addressed to the last user of the office mobile, someone who clearly took the view that whilst the office mobile phone was in her possession, it would be entirely at her disposal.

Text message read: "I am crying today. Because goodbye with you. I not strong now goodbye. I crying now."

That was followed by a sad little call from the non-prophet asking after the last user of the office mobile, who shall remain unnamed.

I suggested to my colleague (who is now wary of crying men on telephones) that perhaps the mobile phone operators in Indonesia have taken a quantum leap forward in service standards and supplied their customers with a free admirer for every 2-year mobile subscription. Talk about a deluxe plan. And if you chalk up enough points with your talk-time, you get a free admirer upgrade (with new features!) after the first year.

Guess the one attached to our office mobile phone needs an overhaul.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Seminars Again

But on a happier note this time. I got an invit to speak at another seminar. And instead of blithely taking it on, only to wallow in piteous self-loathing months later when I have to start preparing my slides and seminar speech at midnight the morning before the seminar itself, I simply put up my colleague's name for it. She absolutely hates public speaking. But how else do you learn to love something like that, except by doing it over and over and over again?

They say if you try something 11 times, you will learn to love it. Whether it's bitter gourd, public speaking or fleeing from a herd of stampeding elephants. All must try one.

Anyway, I mentioned the topic she was speaking on to 2 colleagues today (45 minutes on "Drafting Warranties and Indemnities for Share Sale Agreements") and they both made their respective monkey chewing lemon faces. As if to say there's absolutely no chance in hell they would ever be caught speaking about something so boring. What's so boring about it, I asked. Granted, it's about how to draft something, but look at the material she has to work with - Warranties. Indemnities. The absolutely gripping page-turner of every legal document. I would be surprised if people in the audience didn't punch the air intermittently throughout her speech and cry "Bravo! Bravo!" or wander into the aisles and start spinning like whirling dervishes in a religious frenzy. Sometimes when I'm reviewing a document, I can barely contain myself.

Well if that's so incredibly boring, what kind of seminar topics would you find interesting, I asked my erstwhile colleagues. And this is the list they came up with.

1. Intellectual Property Rights of the Amateur Internet Pornographer
2. How To Beat the McNaughten Test
3. 10 Brighter Ways to Evade Tax

Friday, June 20, 2008

Cupcake Mania

I don't believe I ever heard of a cupcake until I was at least 20 years old. Oh crap. I just dated myself, didn't I. Well, it's true. My life right up till I was 8 was MacDonald's-free. That's probably why I'm shorter and slighter than my sister who was introduced to the magical arches when she was 2. Then when I turned 17, there was Delifrance and I discovered croissants. Finally, just before I started working, there was Starbucks and Spinelli and suddenly we were well and truly living in a cosmopolitain city. But I didn't start this post to talk about my age, which is 25. Twenty-Five, I said.

There's this itsy bitsy little cupcake store at the back end of Far East Square called "Oni Cupcakes" which sells the most amazing chocolate cupcakes. They're not Martha Stewart cupcakes with the dense sugary icing on top - they're not even all that sweet. In fact, they don't even photograph well because it's some big dark brown thing sitting there looking too cute to eat. Anyway. Given my disdain for all American desserts ("would you like more sugar with your sugar?"), I wouldn't have tried them at all if a colleague hadn't bought one for me as a gift. I took it home, left it in the fridge, left the country, came back, and it was still there. Then sometime after midnight on some random evening, I took a cautious little bite and then next thing you know there's cupcake crumbs all over my face and pajamas.

So as at the current date, I've purchased probably 20 of these cupcakes over the last 3 weeks, and what I'd really like to say to the nice girl who runs the cupcake store is this - You're really really nice, and I like you, but you should probably spend some time thinking about why it is that your chocolate cupcakes are always sold out but your 10 other flavours are always available. Maybe you should think about changing your business strategy and calling your shop "Oni Chocolate Cupcakes" or something like that. The other cupcakes are just... ordinary. Your chocolate cupcake comes straight from God. Like He baked them Himself for His special guests.

Reminds me of the Cookie Museum at the Esplanade, and the time when Rosemary (their green-eyed business development manager) spent 20 minutes trying to break my "Berry-Lite" cookie addiction by having me try every single other type of cookie they sell, of which there are about 40 different flavours. I kid you not. These people are really into variety. When we finally finished, I only had 1 question, and that was "What is your best-selling flavour?". Her shoulders sagged a little, and her smile slipped. "Berry-Lite", she said. "Thanks very much. Can I please have 5 tins of Berry-Lite".

How to Win Friends and Influence People

So we have this client that we are quite keen to impress, and that means being fairly flexible in relation to the times within which we are available for meetings and anything else they need.

The client misses a meeting with me because he's caught up in another meeting, but he has documents that need collection urgently and can I please arrange for them to be picked up from his home on Saturday, anytime from 11 am - 2 pm.

Have you ever tried getting a local courier service to do a pickup on Saturday, from 11am - 2 pm? I hope you have never had to. It's ... incredibly difficult. Especially when your request is going out on a Friday evening. After further consideration, I decide it's probably best to get this done myself. So I ask my maid if she wouldn't mind heading down to some stranger's house on Saturday afternoon to pick up some documents from his maid, for S$60 and all transportation paid. She said okay, no problem.

I head out all Saturday for various meetings, return in the evening to hear a sad sad tale of woe. I don't even know where to begin.

My maid takes a taxi to the client's house, just as I said she should. No point taking a bus or MRT and taking forever. Call a taxi, said I. Waste no time. All good, right.

The taxi driver reverses into the client's gate as he is leaving. The gate was automated - it was in the process of opening to let my maid get to the main door. Cab driver gets out. My taxi is dented. It's the gate's fault. Refuses to leave until the matter is 'resolved'.

My maid takes the documents, leaves. Taxi driver asks her to stay to be the witness. She said it is none of her business, he shouldn't have reversed into the gate, and she has to go home. Then (I really can't figure out why) she tries to save me some money by taking the bus home. Then halfway through the bus ride, she realises she still has the S$60. She gets off the bus, crosses the road, takes the bus right back to the house with the dented gate and the unhappy cab driver, gives my client's maid S$60 ("payment for the documents") and then takes the bus home.

I am left with this unhappy mental image of my client staring at the dent in his gate, with my S$60 in his hand, probably wondering what on earth is going on.

It took me 5 days to track him down, apologise for the gate (sorry, it was the taxi driver's fault) and get my S$60 back. After all, this is my maid's money, not his.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

How to set fire to yourself

So we have a colleague who has a bit of a nervous habit in that he just cannot stop checking his shirt, pants, jacket, hanky etc for loose threads, even when we're all chatting in someone's room (usually mine - it's the cleanest) and then when he finds a loose thread he will filch my lighter or someone else's and just burn it off, right there. It's a little bit unnerving to see someone hold a naked flame to their own shirt just to burn off a tiny little bit of thread no longer than a couple of millimeters, but I guess we all have different ways of amusing ourselves.

Is it just me or does anyone else think that holding a naked flame to a cotton shirt could be a fire hazard? I'm almost completely certain that cotton is flammable. Anyway. Whether he sets himself on fire one day is not really the point - my concern really is that he will do it in my office one day and then the fire could spread to my personal belongings and then where will we be. Or he could be blocking the entrance to my office when he's on fire and then how am I going to flee. Also it will be difficult to get the smell of burning hair out of my clothes. People will notice.

If we ever wanted to play a really evil office trick on him, this would definitely be his Achilles heel. All we need to do is get him a really hot Zegna shirt, soak it in kerosene, let it dry out a little, tease out a couple of threads in front and then gift wrap it.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

I feel like chicken tonight

Last night as I was trying my very very best to concentrate on a TV programme, I was interrupted several times by a new Dove advertisement which of course brings to mind their "self-esteem" campaign. And it just kills me how Unilever can seriously expect us to listen to this crap when, at the end of the day, they're just trying to get fat women to buy their products. Somewhere along the line, it suddenly occurred to someone that there is a huge market out there for fat women and no one has tried this particular tagline in years so why don't we just tell the fat women out there that they are beautiful instead of reminding them they are fat (like everyone else) and this might get them to buy our soap/ shampoo/ bathwash.

Of course we don't mention how the product will make no difference to their lives whatsoever (after all it's not a slimming product) but while they are spending their money on the product, and while they are washing their fat bodies down with our soap, they ... um... might remember our advertisement and .. um.. might feel better about themselves. Somehow. Simply because of the product.

Is anyone that stupid nowadays.

I took a quick glance at the other brands under the Unilever umbrella. Obviously Dove is a bit of a lone ranger in the "love your fat flawed female body" because they also have all of these other brands, which if I recall correctly, all use extremely beautiful, thin, young models enhanced with a massive dose of Photoshop.

Clear - anti- dandruff shampoo (Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, Pakistan)
Impulse - deodorant
Lynx - deodorant, men's
Lux - women's soap, shower gel, and lotions (Caress in the US)
Rexona deodorant
Salon Selectives - shampoo and conditioner
Sunsilk - shampoo and conditioner
Thermasilk - shampoo and conditioner
Vaseline body lotion, shower gel, deodorant (Vasenol in Portugal, Brazil, Italy and Spain)

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Gah! Faxes

So I'm working on this matter where there are about 8 parties each with separate legal representation. The first time we had an "all-solicitors" meeting, it went on for 3 hours, which is okay if you're discussing world peace, or how to end the hunger in Africa, or whether Ozzie really deserved to win Survivor "Fans vs Favourites" but it's really really not okay if we're just there to discuss a 6-page agreement, of which 3 pages are the signing pages.

And then there's the faxes. When I started working, we had faxes on thermal paper. I can still recall the "zzt" sound as the fax cuts the paper at the end of transmission. Then there were plain paper faxes, which were cool for, like, 5 seconds. Then the entire world discovered email. Or rather, the entire world, except for 5 of the lawyers on this deal, who (brace yourself) have no personal email address.

That thought alone, is mind boggling. What could they possibly be doing, if they're not sitting in front of a computer all day????? How do they live?? And does their phone still have a little rotating dial? That's probably why one of them can't seem to dial-in on conference calls - the PABX call-systems can't recognise the ratta-ratta-ratta sound that the rotating dial phones make, and just disconnect them.

So for that first meeting I attended, I passed around a little list at the end of the meeting, and asked everyone to write down their email address, so that we could correspond by email instead. Then I proceeded to write to everyone by email. I'll show em how this is done!

I got 5 faxes back. And not a single email response.

The strange thing is, the other 3 lawyers on this deal, me included, are much much much more comfortable with emails, and we have our own email addresses. This also means that we hardly expect any faxes, and it appears neither do our offices. In fact, who uses fax now other than spammers? So 2 days ago, I sent out a fax myself (by typing an email to my secretary, who typed a fax) which no one apparantly received until the very next day. Which was unfortunate, since I was trying to give notice that a meeting that day had been cancelled. I have this image of the fax being fished out of 8 different trays marked "JUNKMAIL" in various law offices by red-faced secretaries.

In an effort to get through to everyone, I tried calling each lawyer yesterday and asked them for their individual office email addresses. The first, second, third lawyer I called said they much much preferred using faxes, thank you very much (hearty laughter) and we do appreciate what you are doing, but really let's just get everything done by fax.

I feel like I'm trapped in the 18th century, she said, adjusting her monocle and sharpening her quill.