As the old joke goes, it’s all about the timing. Of course, that only works when you say it. I was trying to work out how to make it work by writing it down but it’s just not possible. Like this:

ME: You know the secret of great comedy?
YOU: Wha-
ME: Timing!

See? Doesn’t work.

However, it is not the timing of great comedy that I wish to blog about today, it is the timing required to get home feeling at ease and smiling. I feel I can comment on this today because I was a victim of awfully BAD timing this evening.

At work I started a new project. I have to collect record cards (which may or may not be there), scan the images (which may or may not be there), give them an increasingly difficult file name (which only makes sense to Kevin and the computer), fill out two spreadsheets and, eventually (well, after Kevin has resized them because I do not have Photoshop on my machine) drag and drop them into MIMSY. It took a good two hours to get a handle on this.

To be fair, Kevin isn’t the greatest trainer in the world. He tends to get sidetracked by irrelevances. This is fine when you’re writing a blog, I hasten to add, but can be annoying when you’re trying to hang onto the last instruction, waiting for the next one to appear beyond the comma. It goes something like this:

So you scan the image and save it on the M drive…hang on, I don’t think you have access to the M drive…maybe you should save it…actually when we did this before it was all saved locally and anyone could pick it up…no, that’s no good because…anyway, I’ll work that out later, for now save it to the J drive…

And so it goes. What could have taken about half an hour was effectively stretched for two hours. I didn’t mind. It gave me a chance to formulate a system that would help me work my way through the list of objects, cards and MIMSY records.

The first thing I had to do was go into the store and gather up some cards. This is not so easy. I had to make a group on MIMSY first, in order to know which record cards to pull. Then I had to get Kevin to let me into the stores which are kept securely locked at all times. Then I had to wade through the millions of filing cabinets in the store, searching for the record cards.

While they are in numerical order, it’s not so simple as looking for 23, 24, 25, 26 and 27. Oh no. There are two types of record card: the older ones numbered with the year to begin with (1987-2536) and then the newer records which start with an ‘A’ followed by up to six digits. OK, that seems easy. BUT NO! It gets messier. Computers being pedantic means that the number 1235 will come before 527 in a sorted list – because the sorting starts with the first digit – so when looking for an ordered list of records, you find yourself going backwards and forwards along the filing cabinets looking for the records rather than one after the other in the same cabinet.

But there’s more! The first filing cabinets have the old numbers that haven’t any photographs and the second lot have some that do and some that don’t. Along with finding the ones with photos, I also have to note down the ones that don’t, which means going through both these filing cabinets when I can’t find a record in one of them.

OK, so let’s assume I have a pile of record cards and have made my way back to the desk. Now I have to scan the photograph on the card, save it to the appropriate directory, then enter the relevant information on two spreadsheets – one is for Kevin (and me so I can keep track) and the other is for MIMSY (for automatic upload which we probably won’t use). When I have gathered together a group of images (separated in folders for landscape and portrait) I send them over to Kevin for re-sizing and, upon being given his nod, I drag and drop them into MIMSY. Then it all starts again.

Naturally this all took a bit of getting used to but I soon had a fairly reasonable system going and was (sort of) flying through them. Lunch came and went (outside today because of the half term hordes) and I was back into it again. When I next looked at the clock, the time for leaving was very close at hand.

This is where the timing starts to come in. Because I had a stack of cards that had to be replaced in the filing cabinets and because I’d not performed this delicate task before, I took longer than anticipated so I ended up leaving ten minutes later than usual.

Ten minutes? Ha! What’s that…nothing, surely. Well, not at half term! My God! The crowds at South Kensington Tube were horrendous. I managed to walk behind a couple of workers who steamrollered their way through the tight knotted crowd of parents, squabbling kids, strollers and babies. You didn’t know where to look. Look down to avoid the tiny little people or look up to avoid running into the exhausted parents.

Finally our little group of exhausted workers reached the barriers. The woman in front of me, who had been huffing and puffing with fury all the way across the thoroughfare, asked the guard why the crowd was there; what the problem was. His answer was short, crisp and spoken with the skill acquired from repeating the same phrases for the past few hours and the knowledge he would continue intoning them for a few hours to come.

Half term. Free museums,” was all he said.

Getting through the barriers was only half the battle. The stairs down to the platform were awash with bodies. It was difficult to know when the stairs actually started. At least if you tripped you would never fall down but be swept along onto the platform and, hopefully, deposited near a door for the next train. I managed to keep my footing to the bottom of the stairs and headed for the only bit of the platform not populated with strollers and balloon clutching, chocolate covered little hands. I was not alone. This was where most of the other peak hour travellers, just wanting to get home, were standing as well.

The Tube train wasn’t too bad, if I ignored the noise of thousands of little voices trying to be heard over each other, at the same time. Mind you, it did mean I couldn’t hear any bloody, tinny music bleeding through cheap headphones – always a silver lining somewhere. Somehow, I managed to get a seat at Victoria as a lot of them left for the peak hour trains home. At Embankment, the rush for the Northern Line took on the appearance of WWI soldiers heading over the top, trying to dodge the bullets of tiny bodies racing around corners and bounding down stairs with frantic parents screaming names out after them.

Waterloo wasn’t much better with more screeching, more strollers, more war weary parents trying to get to the main station. By this time I knew I had no hope of catching the nice 4:30 train so I strolled over to Nero’s for my coffee – one of the best things about half term is that kid’s don’t drink coffee so Nero’s was deserted – while I fumbled with my mobile because I had a text.

What time is sunset tonight?” the text read.

I stood for a moment, stunned. The text had arrived at 4 but there’s no reception in the Tube so it had taken half an hour, chasing me through the tunnels, before finding me at Waterloo. It took me a moment to take this in. Sunset? How…what…why…SUNSET?

At Waterloo there is a big screen, just above the train indicators, which gives news, sport, show business headlines and the weather, with interspersed ads. It’s quite a handy distraction if you’re waiting for your train to be indicated. For some reason, I was convinced that the weather segment had the sunrise and sunset information included in it. Of course, this is the last update I saw so I had to wait a good five minutes for them to scroll round. To say that I was sadly mistaken, would be an understatement.

I took out my phone and did what I should have done in the first place. I went into http://bbc.co.uk/weather and read it off the screen there. (Really, I’m a bit simple sometimes.) Of course, while I was doing this, my eyes remained glued to the train indicators, in case my platform was announced. There were still strollers and frazzled parents milling around and I HAD to get a seat home or I would kill someone. I quickly texted off the time of tonight’s sunset (17:48 if anyone’s interested) and waited impatiently.

Suddenly the platform number appeared and, in a solid mass, 500 people, all without children and desperate for a seat, surged towards the barrier to platform 9. I knew my ticket wouldn’t work because it hadn’t on my morning journey (I don’t why but this happens sometimes and is very frustrating) so I went to the manned barrier to be let through. Of course, the guard there was chatting to some loser who didn’t have a ticket. There was no hurry. They discussed the weather, the cricket, the problems in Libya. Eventually, the guard let me through by moving his arm as slowly as possible until it reached the unlocking mechanism, allowing me egress. My thank you may have been slightly sarcastic.

This put me at a distinct disadvantage but I managed to get the last good seat by knocking out a few holiday makers and kicking aside their children. I sat and sighed and thought about timing. I then sent off another text, apologising for the shortness of the sunset time one which consisted of just the time.

Timing. Had I left work at my normal time, things would have been vastly better but this one little detail snowballed into an absolutely awful journey. It wasn’t until I walked through our door and the puppies slobbered all over me that I felt any type of relaxation.

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1 Response to Timing

  1. Mirinda says:

    Might be the funniest entry ever!

    My favourite bit is the war image and the huffy puffy lady.

    For readers, I requested the sunset time – I was trying to work out what time I’d have to leave my room to have a decent walk before dark.

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