The Internet is Rubbish Now

You may be able to tell that I am upset. The Internet did this to me. I gave it many chances. I forgave and forgot. But no more.

We are all now in a weird place, don’t you think? Real retail shopping mall shops are failing us but so now is the Internet. And, after some reflection and consideration, the Internet is actually worse.

Over several weeks I shopped for clothes and shoes in massive malls. It was not a good experience; I am not a great one for shopping. After work, I would drive, park, and trudge through a mall, scour racks and shelves, try on items and struggle to refrain from despair.

Jeez. It’s not that I am a fashionista, thrifty, picky, unusually proportioned, or have anything terribly untoward going on. Really. It should never be this difficult.

I just wanted a pair of casual trousers or jeans that (a) had a zip fly, and (b) fitted me. The cost is not an issue. But it turns out that the button fly is massively dominant, and I have extraordinarily short legs (73 cm or about 29 American Imperial Inches).

This is a surprise to me because my legs have not changed in all my adult life, and I used to be able to swing into a shop back in the 80s, 90s and early 2000s and find a wide selection in my leg-length. So something has changed.

Maybe this is why I see so many hipsters folding up their trouser legs.

Additionally, I discovered to my horror that some manufacturers don’t bother with the traditional tried and tested measurements, and go for small, medium, large and XL. Yes, in menswear. For men. Crivvens, what is the world coming to?

Worse still – some labels are just wrong. It’s fake news all over again; I’d find a pair of trousers at 73/29 leg and it would cover my foot with the material – clearly longer than the label suggested! It is insane! Same with shoes. I’m a 44 (9.5 UK) – but some 44s I couldn’t get on if my foot had been lubed in goose fat first.

The shop assistants are hopeless too; it used to be a thing of annoyance in the past when assistants would ask if you needed help. My recent experience is that NO-ONE ever approaches you in any shop whatsoever. You could spend more time shopping for an assistant than shopping. And when or if you do find someone and ask for help, they say unhelpful things like:

“Yes, some manufacturers make a big small and some made a small small, so you have to ignore the label and just try everything on.”

I thought all that was bad enough, but the Internet was far worse.

For goodness sake, what is the point of a search engine that doesn’t provide results based on what was input?

It seems to me that – irrespective of what you type in – and regardless of syntax, the results (for pages and pages) are just plain wrong.

It seemed too odd, so I looked into it as much as the search engine would let me. It seems to be more about search engine optimisation (SEO), Google rules and algorithms, and less about the original concept of returning matches. Web pages now are Active Server Pages (asp and aspx) – or unsearchable for other reasons, so it’s not entirely the fault of the search engine.

Not only that, but the cookie and data exchange will inform the visiting site to change to suit an advertising and marketing brief.  The resulting web page (and prices) are based on what device you are using, how expensive and new it is, where you are on the planet, your history in terms of searching, shopping, and surfing. And who knows what else? Dynamic targeted marketing.

This does not take into account important things like (a) you could be shopping for a gift or searching on behalf of someone else, (b) you could be using your firm’s computer, routed through their London office, or (c) using a borrowed device.

The end result is a grand waste of time.

Ergo, the Internet is useless.

Trousers apart, I tried a lot of shoes and had to admit defeat. Clarks’s range is now tiny, Brantano has vanished. Deichmann never has my size, and I resorted to the likes of JD Sports and even Debenhams. No chance – and I am far from being fussy or “into shoes”.

As I liked the shoes I already have, I decided that I would try to get the exact same ones to replace them. My thinking was that I would not have to try them on – so perfect for Internet shoe shopping.

I tried all sorts of hacks and subversions – TOR browsers, cookie cleaners, search syntaxing, different search engines, reverse image searches and more besides. I eventually found a shoe that would exactly replace my old ones from a UK shop at a reasonable price of about £35.

When I went to the checkout, the web page had “Super fast delivery” ticked – and it wouldn’t let me untick the box! I had no option other than to accept £7.75 super fast delivery. That upped the cost considerably – I thought about all the weeks of time and effort already spent and decided to go ahead this one time.

Instead of £42.75, my credit card was charged over £48 because of a currency transaction! – Yep, they were coming from abroad – despite all my effort to search only UK shops and websites. Argh! All for a simple pair of size 9 lace-up grey/ blue casual canvasy shoes.

An unwanted increase of 39% on the price. And it turns out “Super Fast Delivery” is 7 to 10 days.

Eventually I received a pair of size 8 Beige Converse All Stars. In case you are not keeping up – this is a completely different shoe in every possible way.

Okay – if you have read this far, you are probably thinking I’ve ranted and got off my chest a gripe over trousers and a pair of cheap shoes, and that the problem is really just me as a person or my inability to deal with tech or shops or whatever. But is that true? I don’t think so.

I have just had venetian blinds made wrong and delivered late – twice. It’s not convenience, it’s not cheap, and it’s not a simple click. It’s just getting in the way. The Internet is like a bad translator or a deaf friend.

I think my experiences are typical; I hear others, younger and older with similar tales. We have ordered a bed online recently – and that is a saga too.

So what are we going to do about it?

We do what everyone does: we can accept it. We take the holidays we are given by the cookie monster fed Internet. We can accept delivery of clothes that don’t fit and either send them back or sell them on. Or we can return to real reality. That’s what I plan on doing.

I have finally realised that I need to cut out the Internet and take my chances in REAL LIFE.

And one more thing –  only shop when it is absolutely necessary.

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How to Get an Instant Divorce

I was once witness to the terrible consequences of loose talk, and have been very careful ever since.

This happened years ago. John and I were in the pub trying to chat up two girls who had already told us they were married.

I had seen this all before – girls who were married didn’t go out on the town by themselves. If they weren’t lying, then they were unhappily married. That was John’s theory, so we continued undeterred – and they seemed to like it (and us) – however, as the drinks flowed, talk got looser.

It turned out that Julie was indeed unhappy in her marriage, her husband was a useless unemployed drunk. She was fed up earning all the money and working long hours just so that he could lie on the couch all day drinking.

John had had a few by now. He knew he was too drunk now to make good any amorous advances, but his mind still worked, albeit without the usual constraints of caution, propriety and inhibition. This was one of those turning points. A game-changer.

He leaned forward and spoke so softly that we all had to lean in to glean what he was saying.

“I say you dump this guy and move on; you can do better for yourself and you’re not getting any younger.”

“But I can’t – he needs me, he depends on me…”

“No, no, not at all; you’re actually keeping him down. Cut him loose; it would be the best thing for him. Believe me.”

“But where would I go?”

“Go? No, you go nowhere – he goes.”

“But I can’t just throw him out without a reason.”

“Is he bad to you?”

“No, not really, he’s bad FOR me. As I said, he just does nothing. He’s always just lying there zonked out on the couch in front of the TV, a waste of space…”

“If I could tell you how to get rid of him in the quickest, easiest and most painless way possible, would you be interested to hear it?”

“I’m telling you he won’t go just like that, it won’t be easy …”

“But it could be; I know a way – and you’d be the hero too, you’d be the good guy and he’d be the bastard. Would you be interested in hearing the plan now?”

“Yes, I flippin’ would, because that’s nigh on impossible, John, seriously!”

“OK, here’s what you do: you go home, you find him zonked out on the couch as usual, dead to the world, right?”

“Right.”

“Right, so you carefully place the lamp on it’s side on the carpet, and do the same with ornaments, pictures, and whatever else you have. Make it look like there’s been a struggle and things have been knocked over. You can even extend the idea to another room, pour something on the carpet, whatever.”

“And all this while he’s drunk asleep on the couch?”

“Exactly. Now you need to rip your blouse, get your hair pulled this way and that, ruin your make-up. Girls can do wonderful things with make-up. All that matters is that you have to look like you’ve been beaten up in a big struggle. Then pick up the phone in the other room and cry and sob and wail down it that he’s gonna kill you and plead for help to the police.”

We all stopped and looked at John. Julie’s eyes were as big as her surprise could make them.

“But the police will arrive and wake him up – he’ll just say he didn’t do it…”

“Ah, but,” John said, “They won’t believe him – they’ll see you, they’ll see the state of the place, and they’ll drag him out of there in two seconds flat.”

I chipped in: “Just say he passed out waiting for you to come out from hiding or something.”

“But – and I’m only asking for the sake of argument – what would happen next? Wouldn’t he just get let off a warning or something” Julie asked.

“Well, the police will warn him not to visit you because you would have seen a lawyer.”

“A lawyer?”

“Yes, a lawyer – to stop this violence once and for all…”

“What violence?”

“All the months and years of suffering that he’s put you through, and that you so skillfully hid from the world. The physical and mental torture you kept behind closed doors, you poor thing!”

“Jeez. He’d deny everything…”

“Yeah, and who’s gonna believe an unemployed drunkard who beats his caring wife and then blacks out?”

And that is how the evening went. Drinks were drunk, thoughts were thought, drunks were ejected onto the street, into cabs, and home to sleep it all off. It was just chat, it was pub banter. We knew she wouldn’t have the gumption to carry out such a nefarious plan – who could?

Look, she must have loved the guy to get married in the first place. She must still love him if she’s been putting up with him as he is. And like most women, she probably thinks she can change him. And like most wives, she’ll be long-suffering.  If they don’t survive, or prevail, after a fashion, they’ll eventually split up somewhere down the line – because that is what happens.

That is what is supposed to happen.

But Julie did listen, and what she heard resonated within her. She had the power now, and she liked that. She could be proactive, she could pull the plug any time that she wanted, and that was excitingly empowering.

When she got home to find her once-beloved lying on the couch pissed, and beside him was a half-finished takeaway curry and a splash of vomit drying into her good carpet,  she realised that she was no longer in the mood for all this.

.oOo.

It was six months before I was back in that particular bar. I was early to meet up with a couple of pals I hadn’t seen since uni, and there she was in a booth. I caught her eye and nodded in polite recognition – the usual cursory acknowledgement before turning to the barman. She was suddenly beside me.

“I did it!” She pulled on my elbow.

“Eh? What? You did it?”

“Yeah – I did it. I got rid of Charlie!”

“Charlie?”

“Aw, don’t you remember? We were all here a few months back and your pal John came up with a scheme to help me get rid of Charlie…”

“Nah! No way! Are you saying you did one of John’s madcap schemes? You took all that seriously?”

“I am – and I did!” She beamed.

“Jeez. You seem happy on it…”

“I am indeed. Never been happier – I have a new man too.” She indicated a chap over in the booth. “He’s great. We’re great. Together. It’s night and day. John turned my life around – when’s he coming in?”

“Oh, he’s not – I am not meeting up with him tonight, just other pals as it happens.”

“Ah, well, I wish he was coming because I would just like to than him for being a genius!”

“Did it all go to plan then?”

“To the letter. Charlie didn’t know what hit him! You know what’s most funny about all this? Charlie believes he’s been blacking out and battering me. He believes it himself!”

“You’re joking!”

“No – it’s been the best thing for him too; he’s dried out, sorted himself out, turned his life around. He’s even about to start a wee job! I just cannot thank you two enough! If Charlie knew, he’d probably thank you too!”

And that was that. From a careless, half drunken rant, a dream schemed up on a lager’d evening to pass the time – an amusing diversion… to wham! And lives have changed forever! Cause and effect. Consequences.

And before you think that it all worked out for the best – just as Julie told me – it didn’t.

Julie’s was only one side of the story.

Charlie’s version was rather different as we found out later… but that’ll keep for another time.

 

Painful Admissions

“It’s Health and Safety gone mad”.

I hear that phrase a lot on telly and radio. But I really do get a lot of Health and Safety stuff at work. Most companies are pretty good these days – there are CSCS cards and other site safety measures, including risk assessments and toolbox talks. It’s all common sense and routine for the large part.

I admit that it mostly doesn’t apply to us suit-wearers in a remote office situation, but we still have to try to follow the same rules. We have monthly meetings in the big boardroom on Health and Safety that are, frankly, quite bizarre.

At one of these, the only female raised a major safety issue with an Incident Report because she went into the small office kitchen to make a cup of coffee, and slipped on what-she-described-in-the-documentation-as a “Branston Pickle” that some other kitchen user had dropped on the floor and failed to clean up in the course of making a sandwich at lunchtime.

I was telling this one to a chap just last week. This chap was returning to work for the company after a three-year spell of self-employment that didn’t work out. He laughed, but then recalled other tales of years gone by.

Apparently one of our co-workers had raised his hand at one of these Health and Safety meetings to draw attention to the fact that company car boot lids could be dangerous; he reported that he had accidentally shut the lid on his own head earlier that morning.  In fact he had completed the incident form and wanted to send it in as an incident.

Yes; he was grassing himself up for being dangerous to… himself!

OK. I laughed. But wait, I was told, there is more to this – at the following month’s Health and Safety meeting, the co-worker raised his hand and wanted to draw attention to the dangers of hitting one’s head on the company car boot lid.

Everyone remembered this from before, and as they muttered dismissively, the foreman showed us his bandaged head. That’s right; he had done it again.

And once again he had completed the forms reporting the incident officially.

One more strike, and he would be in danger of losing his job.

 

Blending In

My son was recently invited to a birthday party.

The invitation stated conditions. Not merely the date, time and place – but also that it was a Nerf Gun party and everyone had to be in army camouflage.

Well, an 8 year old wants to oblige, so we had to have a panic trip to the shops to get camouflage trousers.

KIDS-CAMO-TROUSERS

After an hour  in a major mall, we managed to source camouflage trousers. He was delighted; he wanted to fit in.

I dropped him off at the softplay centre for the party. he was the only one who had bothered about the camouflage theme. Seriously.

As I drove away, it occurred to me that I was worried about my son not fitting in, that he would stand out because he was in camouflage.

Then I realised how preposterous / ironic that was.

Summer Better Than Others

There is a heatwave in Glasgow presently. It’s Not Good. It’s uncomfortable in too many ways. It is certainly not a feast for the eyes. A holiday this is not.

Days of relentless sunshine have taken their toll on Weegies and their usual activities. The bums who drink cheap wine and superlagers in the public parks year round now have to contend with families and pets, and vice versa.

Everyone is sunburned or tanned to a burnished mahogany.

As a man, the thing that gets me is that females whittle clothing down to a risqué minimum and then, as they mince around or lounge about on bits of grass, frown at you for having the audacity to glance at them during a scan survey of possible places to set up camp with the family.

I am genuinely not interested in lusting after their bodies, and would prefer it if they either stopped dressing like that, or stopped trying to make me feel guilty. Their frowns and eye rolling compete with my eye rolling, sad head shake, and exasperated tutting.

The truth is that my eyesight is not what it was. But they won’t know that. In addition, I am happily married and perfectly satisfied, so I would like to be left in peace and equilibrium.

Then there are those women who wear veils and black gowns. Why are they going to sunny parklands or beaches – I don’t get that. I have no problem with them doing so, it’s up to them, but I have to say it doesn’t look comfortable, and they ain’t getting a tan that is for sure. They also seem to be attracted to me; they always set up camp very close-by. Unlike the scantily-clad girls, these women see me as an elderly unthreatening safe haven.

The main annoyance with a large group of these women and their children is that if you feel that they are too noisy, and decide to relocate, it looks like you are a racist or something.  If they drop litter everywhere, you feel you can’t say anything, so you sit in silence, and avert your eyes.

You decide to make the best of it – get out a sandwich or a wee sausage and a soft drink from the cool bag. This brings over the dogs.

The dogs walk onto the blanket, knocking things over, and stick their noses into things – while their owners shout and come over to pull their away by the collar. You feel like saying that the sign clearly states that all dogs are to be on a lead, but you don’t. You just throw away the contaminated picnic into a bag for the litter bin later.

Time for a kickabout with the lad. In consideration of everyone else, you play one-touch – passing the ball back and forth as quickly as possible using alternate feet, but your son treads in a big runny dog poo. The wipes are produced and everything is disinfected.

You settle down for a read, but the breeze has changed and the smoke from the portable barbecue fired up by a hipster and his moll catches your breath.

A man in a red Adidas track suit, accompanied by his sister or daughter (possible both) – also in an Adidas track suit, settle down and decide to play their favourite Now That’s What I Call Very Ethnic Music 25. It’s lively and has complex beats and traces of melody, and it is just loud enough to gain your full attention despite their crap smartphone speakers.

You think about relocating, but there are groups of people drinking wine over there, and screaming babies and prams over here. It’s getting busier every minute, and you realise that there will be a traffic jam to get out of the park unless you make a move right away.

As you pack up, you are hit on the head by a tennis ball. “Sorry!” you hear, as you toss it back to a tattooed man in shorts and slip-ons. His son is (despite the heat) wearing a Spiderman onesie.

You try to put your litter in the bin, but it is overflowing, and covered in flies and wasps – and large seabirds have pulled a lot of stuff out and everything is strewn about the area of the bin. You try to stop your daughter seeing a man peeing into the nettles by suddenly coming to life as super Dad the child lifter-upper.

As you pack the car, the midgies come out and nip you to the edge of reason. The drive out of the park is fraught because cars have been abandoned in passing places – which have been grabbed as parking spots by the SUV drivers. The air con hasn’t kicked in yet, but you can’t open the windows because the air con is switched on. It’s hot and the traffic lights only let one car through at a time.

Every petrol station has a queue for the car wash.

There are road restrictions because there is a Women’s 10K run on, as well as roadworks, diversions, and a funeral procession. The supermarkets have run out of ice cream, water and sun lotions. There are rows of empty shelves in the beer aisles.

You park and take the family for a stroll after the hot car trip home. But all the pubs and restaurants that can, have the windows open and for once the smokers are at one with the rest of the drinkers and eaters. Dogs and ciggy smoke everywhere.

There are a lot of bad tan lines, uncomfortable looking people trying to get through this infernal heat and unnatural blue skies. The holiday clothes have been dug out of the suitcase and pressed into service early.  Men are wearing long shorts, which, with socks, reveals only 25 mm of actual leg to the elements.

Adult men in shorts is, was, always has been, and always will be an abomination. I do not need a tan on my legs because I am the only one who sees my legs, so what’s the point? Also wearing long shorts looks really bad, and it is not in the slightest bit cooler.

It is weird having holiday weather at home because it is not holiday. You don’t have a pool or the sea to cool off. It’s got all the downside and none of the upside.

I’m praying for rain, and looking forward to my real holidays!

 

The Biscuit Tormentor

My mother usually ended her supermarket shopping trips with a tea break at the supermarket’s café.

She would park her trolley after removing her newspaper and digestive biscuits. On ordering a cup of tea, she’d relax with the crossword, dunking her biscuits in her tea.

On this particular day, a lady slipped into the booth to share the table. My mother glanced up and gave an acquiescent nod to indicate that the seat was not taken. Mother was engrossed in her crossword and the teacups arrived.

She then became aware that the woman opposite had taken a biscuit and was dunking! So she cleared her throat, and made something of a display of taking the next biscuit and dunking. That ought to do the trick she thought.

Mother was astonished to notice that the woman had the bare-faced cheek to reach into the pack and remove another digestive!

Well, this just won’t do, mother thought. She moved the packet from the centre of the table into her side, and she took her next biscuit while tutting and slightly shaking her head.

This woman paused in her reading of her paper, looked up at mother – and pulled the pack back to the centre of the table, removed another one, and dunked!

Well, that was that! Mother couldn’t concentrate on her crossword anymore. She finished her tea, got up with an “how dare she” attitude, and left, thinking that this woman was welcome to the rest of the pack.

biscuitdual

She put her groceries in the car, returned the trolley, and drove home in a fluster.

When she arrived, she sat for a minute in the car, trying to calm down.

“What is the world coming to?” she wondered.

After a deep breath, she composed herself and took in the grocery bags, and as she started putting the things away, she came across her packet of digestives, and the sudden, horrifying realisation that it was she who was scoffing that woman’s biscuits, and not the other way around. She was mortified with shame and embarrassment; what must that poor woman have thought of her as she sat opposite, openly stealing her biscuits from her, right in front of her face?