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» Vomit Pt2

Fear of flying
This is cheating a bit because it's not my vomit but it has scarred my memory permanently.

In days gone by I used to spend a lot of time flying across the Atlantic, one of the perils of a long distance relationship. Leaving aside the cramped seats, shitty food and grumpy passengers one of the regular features was turbulence.

One flight we were having a particularly rough time of it. The Fasten Seat belt light had gone on within an hour of leaving the ground and had stayed on and the plane was jumping around like a first time raver on a good pill.

Now turbulence itself isn't a problem if you know anything about aircraft. Planes can take an incredible amount of punishment before anything serious happens and in the event of a sudden loss of cabin pressure or a reduction in the number of wings you're fucked anyway so it's not worth worrying about. However, lots of people get really freaked out by turbulence, both mentally and physically.

This flight was about the worst buffeting I've received and inevitably people started throwing up. In days of yore sick bags were automatically issued in the seats but now the cabin crew have to hand them out individually it seems and they were tearing up and down dealing with little bags of recycled airline food. The more people were sick th worse the plane smelled and you had a vomit chain reaction forming.

But the worst of all, the worst I've ever seen was when the plane hit a massive air pocket – a downdraft that left it dropping like a stone. One of the cabin crew levitated up to the ceiling, there was a cry of horror from the bathroom but the image that will haunt me to my grave is the sight of a mushroom cloud of vomit rising up from behind one of the forward seats, drifting higher and higher until we were through the downdraft and it splashed down. I can only hope the producer was the receiver.
(Thu 7th Jan 2010, 20:37, More)

» Bad Management

PC Direct's last laugh
Some of you may remember the late and seldom lamented PC Direct magazine in the UK.

Back in the depths of the first dotcom bust the publishers decided to shut down PC Direct. This came as a bit of a shock to the staff, some of whom had been headhunted from competitive titles for Direct's relaunch not six months before. The news that they were suddenly out on their ears and unlikely to find new jobs on the whim of crap management left them understandably pissed off and seeking revenge.

Now it was well known that the publishing manager on the title was a tad on the lazy side. Before a magazine is sent to the printers it's the publisher's job to give the proofs a final once over before OKing them, but the journalists knew that in this case the manager almost never did and just signed them off automatically before buggering off for the weekend.

So when the magazine hit the stands there was a management explosion. The cover was a masterpiece, with a picture of a new handheld computer that had been reviewed under the timeless headline 'Best hand job ever!' Every contact email in the magazine, from subscriptions to tech support, had been changed to the publisher's personal email. But all this was as nothing compared to the letters page.

The letter of the month was a standard "is this a good time to buy a PC?" that computer magazines get sent by the truckload. But the editor decided to answer it, and all the other letters, honestly. Thus:

"Computers are constantly evolving and for every advance in speed Intel gives you Microsoft will produce more bloated software to absorb the spare power and ensure you have to upgrade again. It's a vicious circle that screws the consumer but it keeps us all in a job, until recently that is.”

Other letters were similarly blunt, including making reference to the magazine having the life expectancy of a hummingbird's fart in response to one letter from a reader threatening to cancel his subscription and telling another reader that they were a fool who shouldn't be allowed near a computer. Basically it was the page we all dream of writing but never get the chance to.

There was very little management could do, apart from grin and bear it. The manager who signed off on the proofs was got rid of and the entire former staff were blacklisted by the company. However, they'd done such a class job stitching up management that finding jobs elsewhere wasn't too much of a problem.

The lesson to managers – screw with your staff and they will fuck you, and not in a good way.
(Thu 10th Jun 2010, 17:51, More)

» Eccentrics

Spanners the chemistry teacher
Now I've come to the conclusion that all chemistry teachers are a bit odd, and encouraging eccentrics into the profession is a good way to keep them out of harm's way.

Take Mr "Spanners" Spandrel, our 'O' level chemistry teacher. Mad as a sack of badgers, but great fun with it. He lost an eardrum after an attempt to make the school fireworks really exciting, an incident that saw an oil drum fired about 100 feet into the air before embedding itself a foot deep in the rugby pitch.

Other highlights include blowing out the front of a fume cabinet after an experiment with sodium went badly wrong, a detailed ten minutes on the production of LSD that was only stopped when the bell sounded (wish I could remember the details) and a slightly sweaty recounting of the sexual proclivities of Marie Curie.

As a man he just screamed eccentric. Imagine the hair of Einstein after a severe electric shock, the dress sense of a man who'd been dipped in glue and dragged backwards through a Salvation Army reject bag and fingers that both trembled and were stained with more obscure chemicals than you could shake a stick at.

However, like Bagpuss, he was loved by all and a lot of us turned up for his funeral (sadly a boring old heart attack - we'd all envisioned him dying of something more exotic like developing a new toxin or opening a gate to the nether regions of hell). Many of us then spent a happy afternoon/evening in the pub swapping stories about sundry weird lessons. Spanners, I salute you.
(Thu 30th Oct 2008, 21:10, More)

» Too much information

Parents and orgasms
So far neither of the parents has managed to explain why they got divorced (and it's been over 30 years) so in an effort to get some background detail we got mum drunk last Christmas.

Since she can drink like a navvy and still maintain snag froid this was no mean feat. Nevertheless we persevered and before too long had got her to an acceptable level of inebriation. What followed turned out to be TMI for me and way, way too much TMI for my sister.

So when the question of why they broke up was raised she still refused to say exactly but came out with the following:

"Your father and I always agreed we wouldn’t discuss it but put it this way – if I'd have slept with him before we married you two wouldn't be here. I didn't have an orgasm until 1979."

My sister's jaw dropped but sadly I was too pissed to stop the next question slipping out.

"What mum, you mean to tell me masturbation wasn't invented then."

At this point is a black hole in the ground had opened up my sister would have slid into it with nothing more than a grateful whimper.

"No," mum replied.

Then, the final piece of TMI.

"But I tell you what – I've had more since turning sixty then I've ever had in my life before."

Pass the brain bleach please.
(Fri 7th Sep 2007, 11:10, More)

» Pubs

Dealing with problem customers
I spent a couple of happy summers working behind the bar in a Devon resort. Great job in many ways but made all the better when you could take revenge on a problem customer or four.

Back in those days you could smoke in pubs and the bar had a separate children's area where smoking was barred, but as a consequence kids weren't allowed in any of the other sections of the pub.

Now most people saw the sense in this but there was always one family a week who didn't get it. Either they tried to light up in the children's room or they brought the kids into the main bar. Once the error of their ways was explained most backed down.
Some didn't, at which point Pete the landlord would have to be pulled away from sinking pints of Directors with the locals in the main bar - an event that would mean days of slightly sarky comments from him about staff 'not being able to get laid in a brothel' or an extended rant about the poor quality of sperm that had dribbled from my father’s undoubtedly insubstantial penis down the chunk of lard my mother called a thigh – depending on how late into the drinking session he was.

Pete, being a six foot eight ex-Marine with a face that looked like it had been dragged over the rough end of the Falklands* and biceps not dissimilar to relief maps of the Himalayas had something of an advantage in negotiations with customers. Sadly he tended not to see that others not blessed with the same advantages might have a tougher time with it.

So instead of disturbing him we'd be polite but firm and get the families to shift their precious little snowflakes into the children's room where they couldn't run around without their clothes on, play catch with the vintage horse brasses or vomit down customer's legs**.

99% of people were fine with this, or chose to leave, but for the really arsy ones got a special gift. We'd throw in a round of drinks for the kiddies.

Now you might think this was rewarding someone for being a gitwizard but the dilute orange juice the pub, and I understand most pubs at that time, used had an important quality, besides looking more disturbing that Robert Killroy-Silk's skin. It contained ephedra.

Ephedra, sadly banned since 2004, occurs naturally in bitter oranges and used to be added to crap dilute orange juice to give it a tang. However, its effect on small children was a joy to behold, being roughly the equivalent of giving them Kate Moss’ daily dose of nasal supplements while applying slight electric shocks to the motor response centres of their brains.

Before long the little bastards were deep in the midst of a speed crisis, particularly if they’d gulped down the free drink as soon as possible, which they invariably did. They'd find it impossible to keep still, the hands would start flapping and food would be an anathema. Inevitably they became completely uncontrollable and could legitimately be asked to leave the pub.

We’d take side bets as which parent would lose it and hit their snot-covered little charges before the end of the lunch. As an additional bonus we knew the parents faced an afternoon of sheer hell until it wore off.

The moral of the tale, be nice to your bar staff. The wages are shit, the hours are long and we have to take our amusement where we can find it.

* It had
** All real examples
(Thu 5th Feb 2009, 23:57, More)
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