Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Happy Holidays

  1. For a change, I've actually been trying to work this week. Following up contacts, phoning up publishers for review copies of books, sending off pitches by email. And I get the same response every time. "We're away for the Xmas Holidays...we'll be back on the 5th of January." Dear me. To actually forget that it's Christmas tomorrow is, to put it mildly, astonishing. We did put up a Christmas tree a couple of weeks ago, but it sits in a corner forlornly. Even the Small Noisy One ignores it now, although that's probably because we are terribly slack parents and still haven't sorted out his presents yet*.
  2. I usually send Christmas cards to friends and family. Last year, I was way too disorganised to do anything about it, so I took a picture of the Small Noisy One by the tree (most difficult - he was far more interested in the tree a year ago, and strove mightily to eat it whole) and bunged it in an email. This year, I was better prepared, and actually went in search of cards to purchase. I asked the mother in law where she thought I could find them. "Steimatzky's," she replied, giving me the look she usually reserves for the simple and feeble minded. Not my fault that I assumed that Israel was genuinely a Jewish State...however, it wasn't that simple. The cards were either (a) disgusting (b) Russian or (c) both disgusting and Russian. An email with an updated picture will be sent round tomorrow, methinks...
  3. It is Channukah, the Jewish festival of Light, this week. The narrative of the holiday revolves around a miracle involving a small portion of oil, used to keep the Menorah in the temple alight for 8 days whilst it was beseiged by its enemies on all sides. (Very potted summary.) By a sensible and logical extrapolation, this means that people traditionally eat lots of Sufganiot - Doughnuts - and Latkes - fried potato patties - this week. This I quite like. Most civilised cuisine (he says as he feels his arteries clog and his waistline expand irrevokably...)
  4. Rhetorical question. Sufganiot, I presume, is the plural of Sufganiah - a single Doughnut. However, I have never heard the singular in conversation, or written, or used in any context whatsoever. Does this mean that it is forbidden to eat just the one Doughnut in a sitting?
  5. There was a Chanukkah party at the Small Noisy One's Gan, his Kindergarten, on Sunday night. As you may imagine, it was fairly chaotic at times, with thirteen small children putting on a show in a tiny class whilst assorted proud parents breathed down their necks, shooting and snapping and tumbling other each other's feet...I almost had a heart attack when the lights were switched off so they could pass the first candle of Channukah around. Fortunately, there were no Michael Jackson moments...
  6. So: 'tis the season to be merry, to be with family and friends, and to wish goodwill to all men and women on earth. Whatever faith you subscribe to - or not - please have an excellent Holiday!
*It was the Small Noisy One's birthday last weekend, and he received lots of presents. Far more than he would know what to do with. So, if we don't get ourselves sorted out this morning (rather, if I don't, since the Feminist Mrs Goy actually has a job to go to every morning), one could quite justifiably recycle one of these. New wrapping paper and Bob's your Uncle! See, we're not that bad...

Monday, 8 December 2008

Under the Rader

Years ago, I worked - for the grand total of a day and 3/4, as I walked out mid-shift - in telesales, flogging protective wall coating that could probably double as a biological weapon to doddering old women, harassed parents trying to put their kids to bed, and people whom we believed to be soft in the head, but in possession of a valid debit or credit card.

Just kidding. About the biological weapon bit. Everything else is gospel truth. Anyway...

When I was recruited, I was conscious, if somewhat uncaring, of the fact that I had been recruited because I had/have what can be defined as a 'neutral' accent. 'British' base, but without any regional undertones. Clear 'Nigerian' inflections, but not so much as to allow anyone other than an expert to identify it as 'Nigerian' - not that there is any such thing as a Nigerian accent, but that's another matter altogether - or even, heaven forbid, 'African'. A couple of West Africans, clearly more confident and competent in thinking/talking on their feet, but with more pronounced regional accents, failed to make the cut after the initial 'audition'. I did.

If I had any scruples, this probably should have bothered me a little, but I needed the money and pushed my reservations to the back of my mind.

My boss was a Jewish guy from the area - this was in Edgware, North West London. We'll call him Haim.

Haim was a nice enough chap, very smooth talker, and was reputed to be the highest earner in the firm - we were paid (or rather, they were paid, since I walked before I was entitled to even a brass farthing) a minuscule salary and hefty commission.

After I lost my fifth - or fiftieth? - lead in a row, Haim suggests that I listen in on one of his calls to see how it was done.

The guy was a marvel. By the time he had finished, the dowager he was speaking too had invited him over for tea, never mind the fact that he had just sold her £400 worth of bio-terrorism. But what struck me was that he introduced himself to her as 'Jeremy'.

I had to ask him. Wouldn't you?

He shrugged. 'They're not going to buy anything from a Jew, are they?'

We Blacks, generally, are more occupied with the discrimination - real and imaginary - that we face ourselves in our daily lives, and I don't think that before this conversation I had ever contemplated anti-Semitism in anything other than the most abstract of terms. (Oh, this was long, long before I met the Feminist Mrs Goy). I was surprised, about his fears and his response, and said as much.

He grimaced. 'That's the way of the world.' And went off to make some more sales.

What made me think of this?

This morning, I recieved a call from a call centre here in Tel Aviv Central, someone trying to flog me something or the other. I was happy enough to practice my infantile Hebrew, but the person at the other end soon got fed up and indicated that he'd get an English speaker to call me back.

Sure enough, some fellow calls back a minute or two later, chap called Gilad. or Ehud. I forget. Good, masculine Hebrew name, anyway. Also broad mid-western American accent. One could almost picture the cornfields and long hot summers skinny dipping in the river in his voice.

We chat for a bit, the conversation comes to an end, and I want to make a record of it - in case I need to raise Cain about someone trying to rip me off in the future. So I ask him for his name again.


'But I thought you said your name was...Ehud?'

His sigh was palpable. He explains, slowly, hesitantly, that when he tries to make sales in Hebrew, the moment he tells the potential customer his 'American' name, the sale is as good as lost.

Prejudice is an odd thing, no?

I have work to do. Have a good day.