Ruminations and recipes from a small kitchen in a big city.



The idiot suit, Phil, had arranged a client meeting for 9 a.m., when I am usually inoculating myself with coffee to steel me for another nerve-wracking day. Worse, the meeting was to be miles away in an outer suburb, so I had to be in the agency at the crack of dawn. At 8.15 a.m. we climbed into Phil's look-at-me BMW. I noticed with distaste the personalised number plates that read CL3V3R. I told him 1D10T would have been closer.

Half an hour later we were in Bayswater, a land of high-visibility vests, and HiLuxes, and tradies, and plumbing businesses and BWS outlets and run-down factories. Every city in the world has its industrial areas, and their takeaway food places all have the same names. Ed's Takeaways. Eat & Go. Or even just Hot Pies. Phil drifted the BMW to a stop on the gravelled forecourt of a warehouse which had a rubbish skip out the front. We walked in through a metal door and entered a cold room with bare white walls. A low timber reception desk bore a sign that read 'Reception Desk'. A sofa sagged next to a tall urn containing those spindly dead sticks that were popular in decor circles in 1986. The receptionist popped out from somewhere, smiled and crooked a red finger nail at a CafeBar in the corner, which was her way of offering us coffee. CafeBar? My goodness me: that is almost retro. Almost. I had some, for old time's sake.

The client MD, Mr Canino, emerged from a door next to the receptionist and beckoned to us. He was bald, in his early forties, and wore a blue suit and a check shirt and no tie, and we followed him into another room which was probably the board room. We had pleasantries all round. I dislike small talk, but we did it anyway. You have to be nice to people. Especially to Mr Canino. He's a $20 million client.

Mr Canino briefed the job via a power point presentation, reading aloud every word of every frame, as if translating it from another language for our benefit. Come to think of it, it was another language: corporate jargon. Brief complete, Mr Canino handed me a print-out of the power point presentation we had just sat through. I thanked him politely. The print-out would go straight into the bin back at the agency. If I was really brave, I'd toss it in the skip out the front on the way out.

We drove back along Canterbury Road, the Eastern Freeway, and Hoddle Street to the inner suburbs. I dozed, not used to being driven. Now the factories and warehouses were giving way to endless hipster caf├ęs, where idle men wearing tight trousers and fussily trimmed beards were perched on stools reading The Age. I wondered in my half-awake state which was the real world.

In my office at 11 a.m. three sticky notes had been stuck on my computer screen. Of all the workplace behavioural offences, this is the worst. The notes went straight in the bin along with the power point brief. You'd think people would learn. I was in a binning mood. Bins are greatly under-utilised in business.

At 11.15, Mr CL3V3R came in and gave me his agency brief, based on client's brief presented at the meeting. He couldn't have written it that quickly. I challenged him.

'I wrote it last night,' he laughed. 'The client faxed me a sneak preview of the brief yesterday.'

'That means I didn't have to go to that meeting this morning,' I pointed out.

'They like to see you anyway,' he chortled. 'It's good agency-client relations to introduce the creative people.' He said 'creative' in that mock-sincere inflection you save for people with special needs.

'Screw client relations and screw you,' I told him, 'and there’s the door.' He laughed on his way out.

A little peace at last. I shut the door. Actually, I slammed it. I gave it a strategic slam. Ten minutes later I was reading a long story full of unnecessarily big words by Gideon Haigh in the sports pages of The Australian.

Then the peace was shattered. Fire drill. Some idiot wearing a red plastic fireman's hat was waving his arms like a windmill and yelling, 'All out! Practice drill! All out! Please use the stairs, the elevators are disabled!' It's always the office moron who volunteers to be firewarden. In a real fire they'd be the first to run screaming from the building. 'All out! All out!' he screeched. I stayed where I was and enjoyed the silence until they all trooped up the stairs again forty-five minutes later clutching more takeaway coffee cups.

At 12 noon the receptionist announced over the PA a special emergency lunchtime meeting called by the MD to discuss 'agency performance, revenue and profit'. I could smell another power point presentation. There had better be food. Lunch time is sacrosanct and anyone who calls a lunch meeting without feeding the attendees is a passive aggressive attention-seeker.

The belligerent MD took sixty minutes to go through twenty power point frames about EBITs (earnings before interest and tax) and the like. As if anyone understood, apart from the CFO. It's an advertising agency, not the Institute of Chartered fucking Accountants.

Thirty minutes later, a courier bashed through the door and plonked down a dozen pizza boxes from Sardinia (the pizza restaurant, not the island, although it may as well have been the latter). But he kept talking. Finally I had to get up and pointedly interrupt the MD by saying,'Oh, LOOK the pizza's arrived, let's EAT it NOW before it gets COLD!' At that, everyone just jumped up and helped themselves from the boxes. The MD kind of just stopped talking, like a toy whose battery has run down. By now the pizza was neither hot not cold, but somewhere in the middle - with the cheese half-congealed and no longer stretchy.

After the meeting I had to make an extra strong coffee to get the taste of manufactured pizza ham fat out of my mouth. My teeth felt like they were wearing footy jumpers. In the kitchen, I had one of those weird conversations with an account executive who was microwaving some packet soup. 'Why would you go to the trouble of making coffee when there are cafes downstairs?' he enquired.

'I would put the inverse argument,' I replied.

'You what?'

'Never mind.' You can't have an intelligent conversation with a suit.

The rest of the day flew until 4.30 p.m. when a suit came in and wanted to have a meeting about a rejected ad that was due to run the day after tomorrow. Why a meeting, I asked. Why not a conversation and just fix it? Because the client wanted to be involved, he said. I saw three hours pass before my eyes. The meeting dragged on forever, with conference calls, changes run in and out of studio, lasers printed out and PDFs or JPEGs or whatever the fuck they're called finally sent off to the newspaper.

I went home at 6.45 p.m..

Yesterday was not great. Today was horrible. What will tomorrow bring? I'm considering getting my pilot's licence or setting up an animal shelter in the back yard.

No comments: