Monday, March 02, 2009

Light entertainment

The Scream by Pants

I was minding my own, one of my core talents, when there was a knock at the front door. I love saying that – front door I mean. I’m used to only having one entrance. Seat of Pants is so grand, it has three doors – front back and top. A rap on the door of my Hackney flat signified a neighbour. Non-residents were obliged to make their representations for entry via an annoying intercom contraption and, unless I had actually invited someone around or ordered books from Amazon, I ignored its hideous trill. The caller was only going to be some sad fuck whose job it was to convince me to do something I’d never have thought of and had no interest in. Neither did I then nor do I now have even the remotest desire to be reminded that there are people in the world of such breathtakingly limited intelligence they don’t realise it is far more noble to kill yourself than to participate willingly in the demise of civility by bothering someone carrying out the concerted task of being.

There is evidence that Seat of Pants once had Hollywood-style delusions of fortress as the heavy front gates carried a small sign that read,

If gates are locked, please buzz.

I took it down as I don’t ever shut the gates and I didn’t like the idea of people standing outside them making like the bees. It might have done terrible things to the psyches of the actual bees. So someone had walked in through the trustingly open gates and up on to the little landing and knocked at my door. The only person who was ever likely to visit me was already here and I hadn’t ordered books from Amazon. I leaned over my bedroom balcony with all the confidence and authority of a senior Capulet, to find not Romeo waiting beneath but the bastard son of Nathan Detroit.

‘Luke’, as he claimed to be, was dressed so casually he would have been refused entry to the beach. The most formal element of his attire was a plastic disk on a string bearing the words Simply Energy slung untidily around his neck. He began his spiel,

‘I’m here to save you money,’ he bleated.

‘I don’t want to change my energy supplier,’ I retorted and turned to walk away.

‘No, no,’ he asserted, opening a folder, ‘I don’t represent an energy supplier. I’m a private contractor. Don’t you want to save money?’

I immediately recalled the two times I’d returned to London after several month’s absence to discover my electricity supply had been annexed by an insidious transformer monster called Powergen. You only find out such a liberty has been taken when the mountain of accumulated post reveals a sad little letter from London Electricity expressing hurt resignation that you’ve elected to desert them after years of mutual adoration. You phone them to say you would do no such thing as that’s not the way you’ve been brought up and you honestly believe re-establishing direct debits to be more painful than giving birth to triplets. They tell you, very slowly, you must have agreeably signed a contract to do so with some snivelling little Luke who interrupted your rapt absorption in Spring Watch. As if. I felt my eyes turn to lasers.

Luke steals himself for the hard sell,

‘Look,’ I train the lasers on to his opened folder. It is full of forms filled out in spindly writing. Old people. He’s preying on old people. I recall with murderous clarity the time one such huckster bullied Ma Pants. I could hear her at the door, trying to get him to go away, sternly but politely. In the end, I went and stood behind her just so he’d know she wasn’t alone. He left, eventually. ‘Your electricity supplier is SP-something or other…’ Luke didn’t know and he was trying to get me to tell him. Who’d fall for that? I maintained my silence and fine-tuned the lasers. I spoke slowly,

‘I do not want to change my supplier. We’re done here.’

‘Why don’t you like me?’

He was genuinely shocked that I felt no obligation to succumb to his odious advances, even though I’d made it obvious I knew he was trying to bake porkies in my oven. Why was he wasting his time like this? Why is there such limited understanding of the nature of co-operation – i.e. that there has to be some discernible benefit for people to participate? Isn’t it the very essence of this ‘choice’ culture we’ve all embraced so keenly at the expense of quality? Why would someone go door-to-door and then go head-to-head with a hostile householder? Picture it, ‘oh well, since you’re being so coercive and condescending, a combination which I find curiously charming, give it here you cheeky chappy.’ I think not.

And then there’s the choice that’s more like a kidnap. The sheer chutzpah of the Powergen episodes was confounding, even on the back of twenty-four hours of in flight existentialism. Place yourself in the Powergen boardroom during the conversation that must have precipitated this ingenious growth strategy,

‘The people aren’t buying our transfer argument Howard.’

‘That’s not good, Brendan. I know, let’s just change them over without asking. They probably just don’t want to be bothered with the details. After all, we’re a great company. Why would they not want us to supply all their energy needs going forward?’

Both times I complained vehemently to Energy Watch, the industry guard dog. It transpired that forging people’s signatures is common practice in the cutthroat energy supply business. It seems once people have been co-opted, they quite often can’t be bothered to go to all the effort of changing back.

Life’s administrative tasks hold no thrall for me. My time is worth infinitely more than the money I’d save by swapping a shark for a snake. I chose my energy supplier because i) it uses renewable energy, ii) I had a personal recommendation from someone who is not criminally insane, iii) it isn’t Singapore-owned, (although China might have snapped it up this morning).

The gracious life transformation is very nearly complete. After more research than went into The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, I have rationalised my communication needs and have gone totally wireless, thus deftly avoiding the certainty of half a dozen calls a day from people trying to flog me everything from tea towels to tap water. I now have a little broadband stick from a company that is unfortunately Singapore-owned but also the lesser of three evils. The other choices were a notoriously incompetent Australian company hated here more than Pol Pot and a British company owned by the person I despise most in the world, ‘Sir’ Rich Bastard Brandname. There has also been another secular adjustment – I’ve become a student. Yes friends, I have enrolled in the Larrikin’s End School of Fine Art and Advanced Macramé. I’ve threatened to do it for years and now I’m a fully passported citizen of Bohemia. This is bad news for you folks as you’ll now be getting a regular dose of my extremely bad art with every post. In this instance I’m afraid there is no choice…