In some respects, it's quite a lot of fun to concentrate so hard that you keep wondering why the the music has finished, and can only conclude that it's because the last 45 minutes whistled past. Anyone who thinks that locking oneself inside headphone and really going for it is a bad thing is a total moron. It's nice to occasionally break into a mental run, and that's exactly what I've been doing. If I could get all this software to actually bloody work, then I'd get the big hit of job satisfaction that I've been saving up for.
Emerging from the office like an over-wintering animal emerging from a long period of hibernation, feeling slightly unsteady on my feet and slightly blinded by the light, I jumped into the car and sped back home. I was immediately called upon to go out to get some food - mmm... nutritious chicken...
I just re-read that and thought it said "Notorious chicken". Mmm... no...no..no...notorious.
Anyway, this isn't just another tale of some food I ate. It's the start of an evening's adventure. No really it is. Remember that I'm moving to Reading, and remember that I had put some of my stuff into my car. Well this stuff had remained there and needed shifting. Also, the bed in my girlfriend's room has been getting shorter (well, it feels that way) and we're both suffering from aching backs from being cramped together in it. So, we set about preparing the room for an official move in.
After a bit of preparing, we gave up and moved my stuff into a different room in the house where it's piled, rather than unpacked. This is fine for now, but not forever. However, the giving up was a mere waypoint on the journey to the main event. We made our second trip in a few days to Ikea in Wembley. This was born out of a decision to just go ahead and buy a bed. We pretty much knew what we wanted, but had to consider things like mattresses and colour. So, off we went.
Bear in mind that it was 10pm when we set off. However, the Ikea is open until midnight, so it seemed possible for us to travel there, lounge around in the seemingly-over-appropriate-for-the-time-of-day bed section and then even buy the items. This wouldn't be the first time this year that I bought a bed from Ikea. In February, I ran into the Gateshead store, bought a bed, picked up most of it, and drove it back to my Newcastle house - with a minimum of fuss (apart from finding the warehouse where I had to pick up the larger bits). However, I had a van with me. No van this time, so we also needed to arrange delivery.
Now, I admit that turning up to a big shop at midnight on a Wednesday and expecting to be able to choose a bed and get it delivered by the weekend might sound a bit like a tall order. However, I didn't quite expect that. I did expect to be able to choose everything, pay for it, and have it come at some point in the not too distance future. That's what the likes of Ikea have you believe. Theoretically this should have been possible. It wasn't going to be easy, though.
I suppose that matters were not made easier by the fact that we were dealing with two members of the low-paid night staff. When I say we, I mean me. When I say low-paid night staff, I can only assume that these poor unfortunates, one of whom was quite new, were low-paid. They were both immigrants and the British employment ethic involves exploiting immigrants wherever possible. I don't condone it, but I do observe it. Anyway, we got off to a rocky start with the two, I shall call them "Moussaka" (for the girl) and "Slade" for the bloke. That's close to their names, but then, like a lot of stuff in Ikea, the exact names were hard to remember, so you remember a word that's close.
By this name substitution system, I wanted a "Mallam" bed with a "Hasselhoff" mattress and a "Gran Turismo" mattress protector. We were dealing with Moussaka. We went through the system and put everything on the order, except for the mattress, which was marked as out of stock. Bear in mind that all I wanted to do was pay for the items somewhere and have them magically turn up at my doorstep at some point. I didn't care how their system worked and I didn't care how they made it happen. However, I was soon to learn how to care.
Firstly, I was told that I would have to come back to the store when the mattress was in stock if I wanted to order it. I wonder whether anyone else would have put up with that and said something like "Oh fair enough then, see you in a few days." especially, if they lived some 40 miles away. The people serving me already knew that I'd traveled from Reading as we discussed delivery first. Don't get me started on their delivery charges. The more expensive the items you buy, the more they charge for delivery. Surely, they stand to profit more on more expensive items and so could subsidise the delivery? Apparently not. They'll deliver really cheap stuff for £30, rising to £70 if you spend enough with Ikea. I guess that some of the extra charge is insurance against them knackering something expensive, but I wasn't impressed. It felt like punishment for spending more with them. I told you not to get me started on the delivery, and now look... back to the problem.
Once we'd established that I didn't want to keep popping back 40 miles from the house, they came up with the inventive idea of telling me to try another store. They debated whether Croydon would be nearer me than Wembley. This is an interesting question, but hardly covered the issue of the petrol I'd already spent coming to the store. It's again worth pointing out that I wasn't expecting them to magic a missing mattress up and give it to me there and then. I wanted to pay someone to amass the items and bring them in a van when they had them all. I didn't care where they came from. Let their delivery driver go to Croydon if he wanted to. It didn't make a blind bit of difference to me.
Having been told that I couldn't order something that wasn't in stock, I was prepared, grudingly, to go hom with the shopping list and phone in the order or internet it, once the items were in stock. I was told that orders can only be made in person and paid for in person in the store... with the 70p credit card surcharge, which makes sense when you're paying the Ikea tax (approx £15-£30 worth of shit you have to buy most visits to justify having turned up), but seems a bit tight when you're spending, say, £600. I was starting to get a bit pissed off at all of this. I wasn't prepared to keep coming back and I told them to find a way for me to order what I wanted for it to be sent when it was all ready.
"Slade" had one of those Michael Caine in the Italian Job moments. He said something like 'ang on, I've got an idea and started frantically pushing buttons on a screen and collecting my address. He was doing an order from the central warehouse. Bingo. Then he started trying to discourage me. "You do know it won't be delivered until at least July 7th". I had a tool against this, I hailed my girlfriend, who was relaxing on a nearby bed - "July 7th okay?" she nodded. Then he tried again "That's July 7th at the earliest, it could be later." and I demonstrated my indifference with the girlfriend trick - "How about 10th July?" - another nod. Why should this be a problem?
Then "Slade" pull the masterstroke of the night. He explained that the this order could only be for the mattress. While they can order from the central warehouse anything that's out of stock, they can't order stuff that's in stock. So, I might be facing the items coming from two different sources and two delivery charges. GENIUS!
However, while we were doing this and I was having the limitations of the system patiently explained to me, and while I was marvelling at how little they understood the impact of what they were telling me - i.e. "You run around after the holes in our system and maybe we'll let you spend £600 at the end of it, if you can still be bothered." - "Moussaka" was playing a blinder. She rang the hub. This is the place in Ikea where the stuff is kept. She just asked them to have a look to see whether they had a mattress of the sort we wanted - incidentally this is Ikea's most popular mattress and more were due in that week, anyway... which only made it more frustrating for me.
Result! the hub person, let's call them "Pastrami" - I never heard their actual name - discovered three mattresses. "Slade" asked them to check that they were in saleable condition (good idea). There were no problems. Then "Moussaka" rang a chap called Marcus at the delivery place and explained to him that we'd be appearing with paperwork which seemed to suggest we couldn't have the bed, but we could. She also told me how to explain to the people on the till that they could sell the item to me. Ok.
We went to the till and I paid a lot of money, plus my 70p. Then we went to the home delivery place, waited a while, spoke to someone who seemed just as capable as Marcus of dealing with my slightly complex delivery issue. Then we left the store at about 12.15am.
The bed should be with us on Friday.
I'm not going to hold my breath. Friday is still a day away and I'm no David-Blaine-breath-holding-champion-actually-not-so-good-at-it-as-I-thought.
That was needlessly stressful. I hope reading about it isn't.