A busy day

Friday July 29, 2005

This morning I almost fell into the trap of wishing for quieter times. Three major tasks in my to-do list, all of them involving difficult telephone calls. Not my favourite activity.

Knowing the foolishness of wishing for quiet times, however, I set to the first task and called the estate agents to deliver an ultimatum—reduce the asking price to ‘x’, re-advertise, and sell our house before the end of the contract or I shall terminate. I was at my best, cool, assertive self. Sometimes I’m grateful for those truly dreadful assertiveness courses I suffered when I was a working manager. The reception was coldly polite and I put the phone down thinking the message had arrived but no-one was home to hear it.

Then the Ford dealer, reporting the missing owner’s handbook. The salesman dealing with me was not available so another of his breed took my message and said they’d call me back. They didn’t. Another firm, assertive phone call heads my to-do list for tomorrow.

Finally, to the bank, speaking to the team that handles my accounts, asking for their help in a minor problem area. That was, as I expected, handled professionally and swiftly. Perhaps they should send car salesmen to banking school. Yes, I did say ‘banking’. I doubt they need additional practice in an alternate spelling of the word.

Then I sat back, congratulated myself on a job well done, and resumed the increasingly tedious job of loading archive photographs to Flickr. Their servers are still being tediously slow and subject to long intervals of non-availability. It’s clear that they know they have problems because for an extended period the whole site was down, showing a message to tell me that ‘Flickr is having a massage’. Highly droll.

All I need to make me a happy customer in these circumstances is a straight forward message in plain English saying that, yes they have a fault, it’s caused by ‘x’, and they’re working on it, hoping to be finished by ‘y’. Like most other Internet service suppliers they don’t do that. I tried to find out more on the forum page where, in the middle of tediously repeated help requests from users, they have a staff member monitoring and, occasionally, responding; sadly, that page was ‘not available’.

It’ll get better, I know that. Flickr is recently become a part of Yahoo!, and they have the resources to solve any problem. Currently, Flickr is getting wide, and appreciative cover in the popular technical media. Yahoo! would not appreciate the loss of that good publicity.

Just as I was taking a late morning coffee break, the phone rang. It was the estate agent, telling me that they have a couple wanting to view the house. Hallelujah! I confirmed the time and put the phone down, reflecting on the effectiveness of thinly veiled threat when applied to the gel-haired estate agent breed.

That was when I panicked, and embarked on a two-hour intensive house-clean and making-ready-for-viewing session. Haven’t worked so hard in a long time, and I was perspiring heavily when it was done. The house sparkled, though, was well-aired, and smelled fresh and inviting.

Nice couple. From Suffolk, they told me they were sold, under pressure from their buyers to complete, and in need of a fast transaction. I told them that I’d have no problem with that and could easily make a mid-September completion. The body language behind their enthusiastic reception of that obliged me to conclude that they were being economical with the truth. Nevertheless, I waved them off down the lane feeling reasonably optimistic that they might just go ahead. I give it a slightly better chance than 50/50. I’d be delighted if I were proven to be wrong.

Following on that, a conference with the local couple wanting to buy our house, informing them of the drop in price and the increase in urgency. They were delighted, and set to the job of re-instructing their estate agent accordingly. I’d really like to sell the house to them and they know that. They are realistic, though, and do not expect me to hold up any deal for their sake. A little later there was a flurry of activity from their house and garden, with much cutting of grass, sweeping, and cleaning of windows. They’re a decent, hard-working family, and I like them immensely. Not to the extent of delaying any possible alternate sale, however.

And, finally, a quiet evening, playing with Flickr when it was up, and enjoying a background screening of Twister—one of my favourite movies for easy viewing.

When I hit the pillow I was happy and relaxed, and deliciously tired, dropping off to sleep almost immediately. Can’t complain at that, even though I had been obliged to deal with both car salesmen and estate agents in the course of a busy day.


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