Saturday, 29 August 2009

Another Day in Paradise

If you're looking for Wordzzle, it's the post below this one.

I actually hate this Phil Collins song. Who does the sanctimonious little drum-goblin think he is, trying to make us all feel guilty because there are people out there who have to beg a living on the streets? If he's so worried, let him donate a few mill (he probably does, actually, thinking about it, the git).

I'm well aware that there are people who have to spend their days begging for change. I know because I passed a guy doing just that every day last week as I made my way through the Old Street underpass to get from my hotel to where my course was being held (BEA Weblogic Server Administration, in cause you're interested).

Anyway, this chap sits at the entrance to the underpass, so you have to pass him whether you're on the stairs or the ramp (clever, eh?). I, like most other impatient, busy type, just pretended not to see him. Don't meet his eyes, then you won't have to feel guilty, will you?

Except that I did.

A bit.

Just not enough to do anything about it.

Now, what this post is actually about is the sheer contingency, the sheer randomness of that thing called luck.

On Friday morning, I awoke in my hotel room to find the bill they had shoved under the door "for my convenience at check-out time" included a bunch of charges to me personally that should have gone straight to my company which had booked the room in the first place.

Now, I really dislike confrontation, I do. I had even managed to grit my teeth and not got worked up when some stupid woman punched me in the ear on the Tube a few days previously (Ok, it was an accident, I think, but still).

Anyway, I was not relishing the thought of having to have a fight with the hotel about what was on the bill, so I was in a bad mood. The mood was made worse by the fact that I now had to get packed and ready more quickly than I had planned in order to allow more time for the checking-out process. This is always hectic on a Friday when everybody else is doing the same thing, and the possible disagreement, threats (me), tears (me again, probably) and freezing politeness (the hotel staff) would only make it longer.

I stumped downstairs, ready for the fight. Luckily, the queue for checking out was small (bonus) and I was soon at the counter, looking into the smiling face of the improbably pretty young lady receptionist.

Careful to be calm and polite, I explained the situation and showed her the booking form which clearly laid out what was to be charged to whom, and held my breath as she tapped keys on the computer, which seemed to take quite a long time. Maybe she was writing a blog about bolshy customers.

"That's alright," she eventually said brightly, "I'll just amend the bill and there will be no additional charge."

I almost felt let down by having my fight taken away, but not for long.

I strolled out of the hotel to find that the sun was shining, the air was warm, and I had loads of time to get to the course so I could just take it easy and enjoy the walk.

Now, here's the contingency of luck bit that I just know you've been waiting for: the guy at the bottom of the steps got a couple of quid in his outstretched cup – just because I was suddenly in a good mood.

Here's a photo of the area just above the underpass, that I took about two minutes before giving the chap the two quid.

Have a great weekend, peeps!


  1. Why-ever you did what you did, the recipient still came out ahead. I hope it added to your feeling of well-being. You could compound the feeling by sending a letter to the hotel naming the receptionist with all kinds of appreciation. (I know, they screwed up in the first place, but these little letters mean a lot in an employees file.) Does the idea make you want to barf with goodwill? I'm not sure if I'm serious or not.

  2. Ah,the begger. I have made a point not to give them money, specially the hobo types, I do though go and buy them a loaf of bread and a pint of milk (try swopping that for booze). Anyway, in my town we have a begger called Mike and he is really interesting as a person, maybe I sould interview him for a blog?

  3. now see... I'm just a bastard.. being close to the poverty line myself, for most of my life I just don't see how begging can be an option.. at least try and do something for it, sing s song, tap dance.. something, I don't give money unless I get a show, there's no excuse. Also I'm biased because one of my foster brothers (from when I was young) kept in touch with me mum and said he had quite a lucrative business blatantly begging at the train station in Cheltenham.. he said he was making up to eighty pounds a day! (fifteen or so years ago)
    Charity is great, it's just most of the time I can't help but think they've probably got more money than I have, for sitting on their arse looking sad.. (which I do every day for nothing!)!

  4. oh, and thanks for the book tips, they sound right up my street!
    And yes, i would love a hand at getting the song mpthreed... I'll wait till the Ronald gets back though and we'll get a version with his geetar genius on it.. really appreciate the offer!.. :-D
    Will call by tomorrow to catch up with the wordzzle... cheers!

  5. An old saying about casting your bread on the water comes to mind. It has always worked for me. On behalf of the beggar:
    Thnk you". What he does witht he money is his problem, giving the money is your blessing.

  6. I doubt there are many people, (in the UK) who relish having confrontations and arguments; most of us seem reluctant to throw a wobbly when the service or food is not up to what we expect. But when push comes to shove we will have a go.

    A month or so ago we drove from Scotland to Lincolnshire to see our daughter and the grandkids. We spent three nights in an hotel as our daughter's home is too small to accommodate us.

    On both the Friday night and Saturday night there were wedding parties in the hotel. That was fine; the music and dancing ceased around midnight. However, on Monday morning I was about to depart when the pretty young receptionist (a Polish girl) asked me how I was going to pay. I'd booked online and had been given the costs and had submitted my debit card details. I'd assumed the hotel had been paid.

    OK, I'm mistaken. The receptionist produced a bill. It was for about £60 more than what I'd booked for. The extra was for drinks at the bar!

    What! We'd not even set foot in the lounge and bar area as it was crammed with wedding guests.

    The receptionist looked puzzled. "But we have your signature for every bar order you placed. Room number 49."

    Sorry dearie, but that's wrong. Next she had to get the actual document which I had supposedly signed for drinks. She then compared it with my signature on the forms I signed on arrival. Clearly not me. Bill amended immediately. She said the bar manager should have checked the room card (with signature inscribed) each time he took an order for drinks down to room 49.

    Just a little contretemps, but annoying none-the-less. The Polish receptionist apologised profusely. "Not your fault m'dear.." and we left.

  7. Good for you! And I think the phrase "freezing politeness" will have to go into my next novel. Brilliant!

  8. @ER - I have been known to send in letters of appreciation for a job well done but didn't get to it this time, lazy git that I am. I think we all need to say thanks more than we do so I'm not about to barf just yet.

    @Smoke - I like your approach of offering some concrete help that can't easily be used by the recipient to add to their own destruction. Must remember that idea.

    @Watercats - Your comment about the guy making a good living at the begging reminds of when I lived in Ireland. I was coming along O'Connell Street in Limerick and there was this little girl in the regulation thin cotton dress begging outside the shops. She had no shoes or coat and it was cold and rainy. As we passed, a van drew up and she ran over and got in, whereupon her parents (I assume) gave her back her shoes and a coat and whatnot. It really is a business for some people it seems.

    @Human - I have to say that when I gave the beggar the money, he very politely thanked me and wished me a nice day which was cheering. I'm also a bit conflicted about giving to beggars, but I like to think that, as you say, it's a way of casting one's bread on the waters and you just don't know what good may come of it.

    @PhilipH - Well done to you for retaining your poise in that situation. When I had my meals at the hotel last week, they didn't check the room card either. Fortunately, no-one tried to stiff me for drinks and whatnot.

    @Viewtiful_Justin - Lovely to read you again. I rather doubt that "freezing politeness" is original to me, but it sure is a great phrase - and I still want to read your novel about the D&D group.

  9. Love how the photo give physical context to the story. "BEA Weblogic Server Administration!" That just too much. Administration of logic? Go make some music...


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