Sunday, 30 June 2013

Mistaken Identity.

On Wednesday, I received a call on my mobile from an unknown number. Nothing unusual about that perhaps. I'd normally refrain from answering, as it's inevitably someone trying to sell me something, or hassle me about something I've already purchased. However, I was expecting a call from an airline about some flights I've booked for a wedding this month, so I picked up. Almost instantly, I regretted this decision.

"Is that Mr. Martin?"


"Oh, hello, this is Louise calling from [a bank]. I spoke to your wife earlier about taking out a loan with us for some home improvements."

Alarm bells started to ring. Partly because Louise wasn't an employee of the bank that I use, but mainly because I have neither a wife, nor a home. Well, one that I own at least. And yes, I mean the home rather than the wife. Although the idea of renting a wife may seem appealing to some. 

"I'm not sure you have the right Mr. Martin."

"This is definitely the number we have to reach you on. You did say you were Mr. Martin?"

At this point, I was unsure what to think. It could have been a simple administrative error, but equally Louise (if that was even her real name) could be a confidence trickster, trying to steal my identity, and/or my money. It might be too late already. She had my mobile number and my surname, which would surely be enough to track me down - suddenly, being bundled into the back of a van, and waking up in an ice bath, missing my kidneys seemed a very real possibility.

"Well, yes, but it's a common name. I'm not even the only one in my family."

"Right. Could you confirm your address for me, please?"

Oh, sure 'Louise', so you can dispatch a mob of heavily-set thugs with a very rudimentary grasp of renal surgery to my exact location, to part me with two key components of my urinary system? I've seen Taken, I know how these things work - You'll have to do better than that.

"I'd rather that my internal organs didn't end up on eBay, thank you very much!"

"I'm sorry?!"

I then realised that Louise hadn't been involved in my inner monologue, which I appreciate could have made my outburst seem a little odd. Thankfully, I managed to style it out.

"Sorry, it's a topical reference. I'd rather not give out my address over the phone, if that's okay?"

"I see. It sounds like now might be a bad moment. Is there a better time to talk?"

She could clearly sense I was a nut that wouldn't crack easily. Like the few pistachios in every bag, which simply won't open, at least not without destroying a few fingernails in the process. Pistachio trumps manicure, Louise.

At this point, I probably should have told the truth about my lack of spouse, or home ownership, but it was too late. Had I mentioned this immediately, I'm sure the whole thing would have been laughed off, and Louise and I would have parted ways permanently. But now I was Liam Neeson: I would look for her, I would find her, and I would kill her. Well, maybe not kill, but at least force her to update her contact records. 

"How about tomorrow lunchtime?"

"Sure. When do you normally have lunch? Does 12.30 suit you?"

I assume this was some sort of ploy to find out when my inner workings would be at their 'cleanest' for the Butcher of Bucharest to whip out, and pack into an M&S picnic cooler, bound for the black market. 

"12.30 is perfect. I'll speak to you then."

Louise didn't ring back. I like to think she sensed that I was not a man to mess with. In reality, she probably realised there had been a basic data-entry error, or was simply terrified by my online auction outburst. 

Either way, I still have my fictitious wife, my fake family home, and my very real kidneys. We're thinking of having an imaginary conservatory built.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Bad Ideas.

"Remember, there's no such thing as a bad idea."

This is a phrase that I hear with alarming regularity, particularly at work, and often in Brainstorms, or whatever political correctness dictates we now call them. 'Thinkdrizzles' or something, I expect. 

It's a piece of idiom that I've never fully understood; Clearly there is such a thing as a bad idea. I can think of three right now:

1. Inflatable shoes for cats.
2. Toasters for kids' paddling pools.
3. Justin Bieber's parents foregoing contraception.

And the list goes on. Obviously, the principle is that even a poor suggestion may prompt a better one. This is fine, but I'm certain that there would be a better way to express it, rather than providing a caveat for completely abandoning the filter of common sense before speaking. 

"Shall I wear a condom, darling?"

"No, don't worry, a child would be great for our relationship, and it's not as if two normal Canadians like us are likely to produce one of the world's most hateful and precocious teenage megastars, is it?"

"Well, I don't know, there was that blood pact we made with Satan."

"I guess... but what the heck - you only live once."

I don't have the precise transcript from that conversation in 1993, but I can only imagine it ran more or less along those lines. 

On the subject of 'ideas', it's time for the (even more) self-indulgent bit of this post. I've been asked a few times of late where ideas for tweets come from. My response is usually that I have a sweat-shop in Bangalore, churning out vast swathes of 140 character combinations for me to review and post. It's a polarising answer, but the truth is that I don't really know. 

Often the seed of a joke will come from something I hear in conversation, or read in the paper (ok, so it's normally online, but there's something about reading actual newsprint which appeals to my desire to appear more cultured, and permissive of the wanton destruction of our planet's natural resources). 

However, I then regularly dedicate time to making it work in 140 characters to the best of my ability. Sometimes a minute, but often it will percolate for a few days, or even weeks in some cases. I think this is why I'm easily riled by responses of "surely it's better if...", or "would be funnier with...". They may well be right, but like a protective mother, it makes me want to attach electrodes to their genitals, and perform unspeakable acts of cruelty on their extended family and pets. I've often wondered whether the people I admire on twitter, or indeed as writers in general, have similar routines and habits, or perhaps just a complex algorithm. And where they get their electrodes from.

That said, Twitter itself is quite often the inspiration. If you haven't seen @MooseAllain talk about the 'Hive Mind' of Twitter (here), it's well worth a watch, as it describes something that I agree is unique to the platform in terms of stimulating creativity. It could be a half-mention of an Eighties TV show, an unusual turn of phrase, or even a picture of a Parisian bakery (note to self, do a 'French knickers made of bread/Boulingerie' gag), which sparks something else. And that's why I love it. Especially when you watch the process unfold in front of you. I'll often see a great tweet, and know exactly where the inspiration has come from. And it's a wonderful thing to observe.

Now, returning to the topic of bad ideas, I'm off to write a film adaptation, where a robot Arnie travels back in time to Ontario in the early Nineties to perform a vasectomy. The Sperminator.