In my official capacity as an ‘Online Product Development Manager’ (don’t ask me what it means, I think it was the result of one of those websites that does random job title generation), I’ve been talking to librarians and anyone else I can corral into a room about online reference products: care, choosing, feeding and using of.
This morning, as part of my ongoing campaign to stay in bed later than 5.30am, I had cunningly arranged a meeting at a local learning establishment that, it turns out, is only 10 minutes from my house. Score! Also, I had brazenly employed our friendly neighbourhood Hobgoblin as my contact, and he had done a great job in rounding up assorted relevant people for us to talk to, as well as agreeing to join in himself. Admittedly, I did have to pick up colleagues from the train station but all they had to do was get on a train. I was doing the hard stuff, like picking up the doughnuts. This was all going to work like a charm.
My first inkling of trouble was when I arrived at the train station and there seemed to be quite a lot of people there. A few minutes later, the train had not arrived. Hmmm. Now, in the six months of my commuting I have not had any train problems at all. I may have been running late on many a morning but the train has arrived reliably on time. This morning, however, there were problems along the line; the train was delayed.
Ok, well, I can call Hobgoblin, then I can call my colleagues and we can figure out how late we’ll be. Calling people, I discovered, is much easier when one inputs the correct number into one’s phone. I dial. The call goes nowhere. I swear loudly, causing a group of nearby workmen to blush and make disapproving tutting noises. Fortunately, the local taxi company has a phone directory and is willing to let me use it. I track down Hobgoblin, explain the situation, get his number again and promise to call back with an update. He is, of course, entirely charming.
I try to call my colleague on the train. Once again, my call goes nowhere. Repeat of above swearing scenario. The worst of it is that I know full well about my own inability with numbers, because whenever I read one, write one down or add it to my phone I usually transpose at least a couple of digits. I try to call another colleague at work, to get the first colleague’s correct number. His number doesn’t work either, and it is quite, quite obvious that the gods are sitting up there having a grand old laugh at my expense. Bastards.
I am reduced to looking up the number for the company switchboard on the mobile internets, and thankfully that is something I do manage to get right. I speak to my colleague in the office, and explain the situation. He starts laughing at me, but goes in search of the necessary phone number. Success!
I phone my stuck-on-the-train colleague, who by this time could almost have walked from Manhattan. She tried to call me but apparently, I gave her the wrong number for myself, performing my now perfected Getting the Numbers the Wrong Way Round Trick. Should I even be allowed out on my own? Bizarrely, when she called the wrong number it went to someone else called Rebecca, who seemed surprisingly uninterested in the fact that they were stuck in SoNo.
My poor colleagues finally stagger from the train and we give serious thought to heading straight to a nice restaurant by the sea and recuperating from our stressful morning. Instead, I call Hobgoblin and say we’ll be there by 11am, and in fact, we are. And in fact, everyone we meet is very nice and very helpful, and from our perspective the meeting goes well and nobody says anything like ‘You people couldn’t even get here, why should we trust you to build a reference product, and you know you can’t bribe us with doughnuts, don’t you?’
But just in case, I leave the doughnuts behind.