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Friday, 25 May 2018

Shallilo hosts Tom Ashworth again. A timeless story of jobsworths

second guest blog from Tom Ashworth



My cement mixer stopped working the other day. Normally, this wouldn’t register as a calamity but seeing as how I was in the middle of pointing along, high wall, there was a distinct possibility of having to mix the mortar by hand - with my back! - if I wanted to finish the job sometime before winter.

Cost of a new one was out of the question; somehow, without me noticing, the price of cement mixers had ballooned out of all proportion and now equated to something like the National Debt. I’m sure I never paid anything like that ten years ago. Anyway, according to Geoff who holds a professorship in fixing things, the solution to the problem was to repair the old one and I phoned up the company that had manufactured my trusty machine. In the intervening years this company, subject to numerous take-overs, had blossomed into a multi-national, multi-million, all plastic and glass, megalith and the conversation went something like this.

Good morning, how can we help?
Hello, I’ve got a cement mixer. It’s ten years old and the electric motor has stopped working. It just hums when you switch it on but if you hit it with a stick it starts to spin.
I’ll put you through to Sales, sir, they’ll sort you out.
Good morning, Sales.
Hello, I’ve got a cement mixer. It’s ten years old and the electric motor has stopped working. It just hums when you switch it on but if you hit it with a stick it starts to spin.
You need Parts, sir, I’ll put you through.
Hello, Parts.
Hello, I’ve got a cement mixer. It’s ten years old and the electric motor has stopped working. It just hums when you switch it on but if you hit it with a stick it starts to spin.
Sounds like you need Spares, sir, I’ll transfer you.
Good morning, Spares department.
Hello, I’ve got a cement mixer. It’s ten years old and the electric motor has stopped working. It just hums when you switch it on but if you hit it with a stick it starts to spin.
Technical, sir, you need the Technical Department.
And he put me through to Technical.
As soon as ‘Technical’ answered in a strong Midland’s accent I had a picture of him in my mind. He was a man of a particular age, wearing a brown warehouse coat, possibly a flat cap, chewing the end of a pencil, leaning on a counter and staring at an unfathomable piece of machinery.
Hello, I’ve got a cement mixer…
I’ll bet it’s a CS300 series. Is it yellow?
Well it was originally.
How old is it?
Ten years.
Does it hum when you switch it on?
Yes.
Have you tried hitting it with a stick?
Yes.
Capacitor. It’s your capacitor, part number CS5900148.
And don’t let them overcharge you. They try to charge over the odds on these capacitors.
And there you have it. At the deepest heart of these shining beacons of 21st century industry is a man in a brown coat.

God bless him.

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