Joel in One

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Joel's occasional blog.

Land of the Free

April 10th, 2009

This week, I went to the American Embassy for a new visa.


The only way to book an appointment is to call a premium rate number – £1.10 per minute. For some reason, they kept me holding on. When the information pack arrived, the letter didn’t include directions so I spent a further fifteen quid on the phone finding out which tube station to head for.


The visa photo had to be 2 mm wider than a standard passport photo and was only available through their own recommended photographers – another £10.


I paid £60 in advance for the application and had to present my receipt to get into the building.


Every day, 650 people go through this process. Upon arrival, I was told to expect a 4 hour wait.


I was kept in an airless room. My mobile phone had to be switched off and the laptop I had brought along to pass the time was taken from me at one of the security points.


Once inside, I handed my forms in, took a ticket – number 376 – and was told to expect a four hour wait. Seconds later, they called number 104. I took a seat. To add a little excitement to the procedure, they don’t call the numbers in strict numerical order. Consequently, I didn’t even dare read a book for fear of missing my turn.


I don’t know what they did with my paperwork but, when ‘376’ was finally called, the only question they offered was, ‘What’s your favourite joke?’ I said, ‘Ask me an easier question.’


After my ‘interview’ I joined another line for the courier service – another £9.50 + 30 minute wait – to have my passport and visa returned to me on a motorbike.


I left the building and took out my wallet to pay the ‘exit fee.’ There wasn’t one. Someone’s missing a trick.

Trainers

April 10th, 2009

Occasionally, I suffer from delusions of grandeur. I had an attack this week.


On Monday, I went to ‘Sports World’ in Watford for some running shoes. It was difficult to decide which type was best suited to my feet. Two issues compounded my confusion. (a) I don’t know my own shoe size. (b) The store didn’t have a device to measure it with. Eventually, I settled on a pair of blue Nikes with shock absorbers in the heels.


On Tuesday morning, I put my new trainers on and started my usual 2 mile run through the neighbourhood. After the first mile, my feet were in so much pain that I had to stop and call a taxi to take me back home.


An hour later, I was back at ‘Sports World’ with the trainers and my receipt.


They wouldn’t give me a refund. They wouldn’t even let me put the value of the trainers towards a more expensive pair. They said, ‘You have worn them so we can’t resell them.’

I was furious.


It was at this point that the delusions of grandeur began to kick in.


The manager said, ‘It’s the policy of ‘Sports World’ not to give refunds.’
I said, ‘It’s the policy of ‘Joel’s World’ not to leave until I get a refund.’


‘When you buy something from us,’ he continued, ‘You’ll adhere to our policy.’
‘No,’ I said, ‘When you sell something to me, you’ll adhere to my policy.’

After 20 minutes of this jolly banter, they threatened to call the police and I left … without a refund.


If anyone would like to buy a pair of nearly new, size 8 Nikes, they’ll be on ebay tomorrow. No refunds.

Locksmiths

April 10th, 2009

A few years ago, I lost the keys to my flat and paid a locksmith to open my front door. I was fascinated by the various techniques he deployed and considered the educational benefit of watching him at work to be tremendous value for my £80.


This week, I went for a run. In order to avoid jogging with more than is necessary, I separated my door key from the rest of the bunch, . When I returned home, I forgot to re-attach it and went out again a few minutes later.


Later that evening, whilst I waited for another locksmith, I recalled the previous experience and attempted to break into my own flat. The neighbours supplied me with various tools and, as I set to work, they gathered round to watch.


My first efforts involved a twisted coathanger, which I stuck through the letter box with the aim of looping one end around the catch on the inside. It was too flimsy and cumbersome so I improvised a more elaborate plan.


A large pair of pliers and a ball of string were placed at my disposal. I tied one end of the string to the end of the handle, whilst keeping my foot on the other end, and fed the pliers through the letter box. I was aiming to clamp the pliers around the door catch and twist it open. Every time I dropped the pliers, I used the string to pull them back through the letterbox.


The pliers were too short to reach the catch so I extended the handles by tying a chisel to each one of them. Now I had the device I wanted. I fed the chisels, pliers and string through the letter box and was eventually able to grab the catch between the teeth of the pliers. It took several attempts but – once I’d found that perfect combination of gripping and downwards pressure – my front door slid open.
My neighbours applauded and I took a bow before stepping inside.


Two minutes later, the doorbell rang. It was the locksmith.

Telemarketing

April 10th, 2009

A few minutes ago, I started to write this column. It was going to be about one of my favourite comedians, Adam Bloom, who will headline The Comedy Bunker this Thursday night. I was about fifty words in when the phone rang.


“Hello Mr Sanders,” said the voice, “I was calling to ask if anyone has ever had a shortfall on an endowment mortgage.”
“Millions of people,” I replied, “Don’t you watch the news.”


I hate telemarketers. Last year, I registered my telephone number to be removed from all telemarketing databases. It didn’t work.


Usually, I interrupt and say, “Can I have your home number? I’ll call you back later.”
After an awkward pause, I’m generally told, “My home number is private.”
“This number is private too,” I say, “It hasn’t stopped you from calling me though, has it?”


It’s at this point that the phone goes dead and I’m left to wallow in regret over another lost opportunity to replace my windows.


It’s a shame those calls don’t start with, “This call may be recorded for training purposes.” They could release the highlights on CD, albeit with a ‘Parental Guidance – Explicit Lyrics’ sticker. Telemarketing could become the new rap.


The worst telemarketing moments occur when picking up the receiver triggers a recorded message. How can anyone be expected to vent their frustration at a recording? The telemarketers are cheating. It was the same when speed cameras replaced real police officers.


I called Adam Bloom to seek his opinion. He was on another call… buying some new windows.


Adam Bloom will be appearing at The Comedy Bunker on Thursday, November 24th. Chris Lynam – well known for inserting a firework into his posterior and lighting it – will also be on the show. No-one will be phoning to persuade you to buy a ticket. If you’d like to come along though, the doors open at 8.15 pm.

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