Friday, 23 October 2015

Trick or Treat

When I was 8 or 9, I remember feeling really ripped off that I was born in Australia, where if you went around asking people for food, it was called 'begging'.  I was as mad as .... well .... Halloween, and I simply wasn't going to take it any more.

I watched American television. I wanted to dress up as a vampire, I wanted to bob for apples, or give apples to Bob, or whatever you're supposed to do with apples.  I wanted to eat chocolate until I perspired nougat, and carve faces into pumpkins and light candles inside them.

Yes, all of that!!!!

I guess in these days of childhood obesity, the last thing we need is to encourage kids to go door knocking for lollies.  On the up side, the walk will probably do them good.

Anyhooo where am I? Oh yeah, Halloween.

Now don't get me wrong, as an Australian adult, any area in which we don't slavishly copy the Americans is a ray of sunshine.  Yo, you know what I'm saying, dude. Holla if you hear me bro.

And even though it's getting harder to tell them apart, I'm now so glad that Aussie kids are so different from the Yanks.  Let's face it, these days in the States, the main reason they give treats to kids standing at their door, is not because it's Halloween, it's because they're holding Uzis.

Last year - 31st October - I had just driven home from the airport, just walked into the house and was looking in the fridge, hoping there was something to eat, when a knock on the front door came as a complete shock.

It was after 9.00 o'clock. Who the hell is visiting at this time of night?  Hope they bought food.

It was even more of a 'shock' when I opened the door and was greeted by a witch and a vampire. Now, either the Mormons were having a "Buffy The Vampire Slayer"  theme night, or  I was being trick or treated.

Turns out, it was a couple of kids aged 5 and 6 who had just moved to Australia from the USA, and didn't want to miss Halloween.  (I should point out that this information was conveyed by their dad who was standing behind them.  They hadn't just flown into Australia by themselves on some elaborate chocolate scam).

Anyway, they were holding out the pillowcases they were using as lolly bags - and yes, I did just chuckle when I typed 'lolly bag' - and proclaimed 'Trick or treat'.

I started to panic.  You see, I knew for certain that there was no chocolate in the house.  I knew this because I had eaten it all 15 minutes earlier.  Indeed in the past 5 minutes I'd resorted to eating Milo out of a can, with a spoon to get more of a chocolate fix.

OK Katelyn, use your head.

I knew there were some dried fruit and nuts in the cupboard, but the kid inside me knew what a crap treat that would be.  It's trick or treat, not trick or healthy snack.  I rushed to the fridge, but since I hadn't been food shopping for the week, this was no help at all.  All that was there was a 6 pack of beer belonging to my next door neighbour, who had run out of space in his fridge, a couple of bottles of wine, various cheeses and cold meats and vegies.

I briefly considered giving them the booze. but dad would have benefited.  And the unopened jar of marinated garlic, seemed equally inappropriate given that one of the kids was supposed to be a vampire.

I looked at their hopeful faces and my heart broke.  So, I ransacked the house and grabbed whatever I could find. 

The witch and the vampire ended up leaving with their pillowcases stuffed with 6 CDs, a digital alarm clock and a $50 JB HiFi voucher I had received for my birthday.  Oh, and some gold coins.

Riiiiiiiiiiight, are you all still wondering why I felt ripped off as an Aussie kid?  Really looking forward to this year. Note to self ---- BUY CHOCOLATES!!!

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Hello Telstra

I'm angry, and at the top of my 'why' list at the moment is the appalling level of service offered by Telstra (our biggest telco, for you non Aussies).

Seriously folks, I knew  I had to do something about my phone when a friend called me from the 
Serengeti recently and the line dropped out at MY end.

According to the adverts, Telstra is meant to have 98% coverage in this country.  If this is true, the
other 2% must be between my lounge room and the kitchen.  So recently, I bit the bullet, climbed 
into the cupboard under the sink where the reception is pretty clear, and gave Telstra a call.  An 
hour and a half later, I was still on hold.

An hour and a half! Don't these organisations realise that most people have better things to do 
with their time than be kept on hold?  I mean, I don't, but I'm sure people with real jobs do.

And while we're on the topic, let's talk about the 'hold' music.  The music they play is ridiculous. I 
could understand if it was 'Ring Ring' or better still 'Hanging On The Telephone' but all you hear, 
over and over again, is that bloody 'I Am Australian' song. After about the 18th time hearing 'We 
are one, but we are many' you can't help but have some very, very un-Australian thoughts.

Even worse is when the interrupt the endless repeats of  'I am Australian' to remind you about 
their 'fantastic products and services'.  Really?  Are any of these products and services related to 
actually answered the telephone?  Because that WOULD be fantastic.

If you're going to keep me hanging on for so long, keep me up to date with Brad and Angelina or 
the Kardashians. Even Rob Patt  and Kirsten Stewart (are they on again or off again? I have 
trouble keeping up.)  Hey, since we have plenty of time, explain what's been happening on the 
X Factor

Isn't there something wrong with our society when the only time you get to speak to a 
representative from your phone company , is when they call you in the middle of dinner from 
India?  "Yes actually I would like to talk to you about my long distance service provider, thanks for 
asking.  And I have a couple of other issues too.  Hang on, I'll go get my list'.

Of course, the non-stop fun doesn't stop when you finally get through.  First you get the option 
menu, which for some reason, never seems to contain the option you need.  Then there's the 
computerised speech recognition software, that sounds like it was programmed by the Swedish 
Chef from he Muppets.

Actually while we're on the topic of computerised voices, what the hell is it with Telstra and their 
misleadingly named Directory Assistance Service?

First they changed the number from the very simple 013, to something that even Rainman has to 
write on the back of his hand.  The only way to be connected these days it seams, is to enter pi to
20 decimal places.

But that's not even the worst of the 'new service'.  No, I'm talking about the new and improved 
(cough, cough) computerised voice recognition.  My God, voice recognition is as misleading a 
name as Australia's Funniest Home Videos TV program.

Just who is the mental giant who took a perfectly good system - where you spoke to a real, live 
person, who would tell you the number you wanted - and replace it with a computer.  At the very 
least, is it to much to ask for a  system that actually works better, rather than one which replaces 
people's jobs with a machine, that makes a simple phone call more difficult than conversing with 
a drunk and dyslexic Alf from Home and Away.

Seriously, have you tried this craputer?  You request something simple like "Qantas" and the 
technology translates it into "Purple Monkey Dishwasher Service".  Errr no, I didn't ask for that, 
but by now I'm feeling like I'm on acid.  Recently I asked for the number of Singapore Airlines, 
and it replied "Do you mean Frankston Homosexual Midget Waxing Service". Ummmm, no I 
didn't, but on second thoughts, put me through!

While it's novel to experience what it might be like to talk to Ozzy Osborne, I have become so 
frustrated with this lack of service, this morning I tried to be clever and head it off at the pass. As 
soon as the message kicked it, I screamed 'Operator', but the bloody computer simply replied 
"I'm sorry, I did not understand your request. Please hold for an operator."

I rest my case, your honour.

Forget the citizenship test, when new immigrants arrive in our country, just give them a pre-paid 
mobile phone and if they can negotiate the security questions at Telstra, they're in, and deservedly 

I digress ...

After being on hold for so long, I finally got through, and after giving my address, birth date, family 
tree, star sign, mother's maiden name, best friend's nickname, Snoop Dogg's real name, shoe 
size, butt size, five favourite films, secret ingredient in my nan's lasagne and DNA sample, I 
finally got through to the department I was looking for.

This is when I began to think I'd licked a Chinaman, or whatever it is you do with Chinamen,  
(Kicked, right KICKED!) because the lovely lady at Telstra - and I swear on the complete box set 
of Home and Away - said to me : "We can't help you with that, we don't really deal with phones 

Okey and/or dokey, let's go through that one, one more time, so even the speech recognition 
software can understand it : We ... don't ... really ... deal ... with ... phones ... anymore!

Ummmm but aren't you Telstra? Isn't that what the 'Tel' bit in your name stands for? Or are you 
just 'Stra' now?

I was so stunned I even contemplated ringing Consumer Affairs, but with the day I was having, I 
was worried I'd spend 3 hours on hold only to be told that they no longer dealt with consumer 
complaints any more. Grrrrrr