Tag Archive | absurd

The old pricing paradigm

It’s been a while since I ventured to write on this topic, but a recent revelation has brought me to the point where I must ask a question:

In an industry for which there are no discernible standards of any kind, how does one arrive at a price for their services?

I learned from a friend that somebody that I used to know has, despite frequent and vehement protestations to the opposite, taken up with a certain BNP and is charging $160.00 per hour for Tarot readings. Granted, that breaks down to $80.00 per half-hour session, but most industries base their data upon hourly rates, and so shall I.

I suppose in some respects the actual amount of money is not the point of my query, but it is worth noting that $160.00 per hour is a phenomenal rate of pay. According to data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, an anaesthetist earns on average $124.10 per hour, and that’s pretty much the highest rate of pay in the country. Perhaps I should add legitimate rate of pay. I understand that there is an award rate for anaesthetists.

No, the point of my query is how one arrives at that specific rate for that specific service. What paradigm or point of comparison was used to arrive at the rate of $160.00 per hour?

I can’t speak for other people, of course, but I am of the opinion that in order to justify the outlay of a significant quantity of money there needs to be some sense of value in the transaction. I might pay a little more for better seats at an event, for example. I might pay more for additional features on a motor vehicle. But when it comes to services such as Tarot readings, the concept of value for money becomes a little blurry. In days of yore one might have crossed another’s palm with silver in exchange for their divinations. That, in today’s money, translates to a few bucks, as far as I’m concerned. I personally have been the recipient of this particular individual’s tarotic deliberations and can attest to their mediocrity. I’ve had a number of readings done over the years and very few have been particularly impactful. I suspect that this person will sex things up a bit when there’s hard cash in the offing but does that represent value?

It is my contention that people in the business of making a career out of their (or others’) spirituality feel as though they can charge whatever they like for their services. In my previous articles I have made clear my view on these practices. I believe it is unethical to charge $80.00 to spend 30 minutes talking about one’s interpretation of the Tarot. People who save lives for a living don’t have the audacity to ask that much of their clients. People who have earned the highest qualifications and dedicated their lives to the betterment of themselves and other people don’t charge that much. To my knowledge the only others who feel as though they can charge whatever they like for whatever they do are criminals, CEOs of large multinational corporations, record company executives and charlatans. They all conform to the “old pricing paradigm”:

There’s one born every minute

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Pranks and what shouldn’t have been

I’ve been reading about the 2DayFM DJs and their prank call to the hospital in which the Duchess of Cambridge was staying for treatment. Much as you’d expect, there are some parts of the media calling for the severe discipline of these two young people and another part rather pompously justifying their actions and telling the rest of us to just calm down because they’re not really to blame.

Blame is the thing, though, isn’t it? I imagine the family and friends of the nurse who seems to have taken her own life as a result of this debacle would feel like blaming someone for what happened, if only to help make sense of what would otherwise seem a senseless loss.

Blame seems to be apportioned in increasingly stupid ways in this case. You could blame the two DJs for making the call, but then they are just a couple of people trying to be amusing for our benefit, or at least the benefit of their employers’ advertising revenue. They claim they weren’t trying to be invasive of privacy, in fact they claim they were surprised their inept antics weren’t spotted immediately and the call terminated. They also claim that the decision to air the call was made by people higher up the chain of production, which is undoubtedly true, and so it’s really not their fault that any harm resulted from the call.

So yes, it was the 2DayFM management that are really responsible for the call being aired, but of course they claim that they haven’t broken any laws so really they’re not in the wrong. They tried, they claim, five times to contact the Hospital and couldn’t get through to anyone. The Hospital claim they received no calls. To my mind, at least, the decision by management to opt to seek forgiveness rather than permission and air the call anyway was cavalier, to say the least. Irresponsible, definitely. But their actions can be justified by the fact that they are simply trying to make their product stand out in a competitive marketplace. So it’s not exactly their fault, either.

The nurse who took the call and forwarded it through to the nurse treating the Duchess could be blamed for making an error of judgement. People will tend not to, quite rightly, because we’re all entitled to make mistakes and after all, this is the BRITISH ROYAL FAMILY we’re talking about here. The pressure of dealing with the Monarchy in person, combined with the pressure nurses are under just in their everyday course of duty must have been huge. Hence, if this error of judgement really led to that nurse taking her own life as is being suggested then it’s hardly surprising. I’m not much of a monarchist but I am a professional person and I would feel pretty awful if I allowed a breach in privacy like that to happen. So she’s not really to blame, either.

Then who is to blame? Everyone seems to be looking around for someone to pillory over this incident, but unsurprisingly they are looking in the wrong place. Instead of looking all around, they should be looking within. We’re all to blame for what’s happened. Every time we partake of the culture of celebrity we’re enabling these kinds of events to occur. Every time we gossip about people we don’t know personally for no reason other than that the details of their lives seem more interesting than our own, we enable these kinds of events to occur. Many Australian journalists are making merry with the irony of the UK media being up in arms over this in the wake of the Leveson Inquiry. It’s as if they’ve never seen hypocrisy before. So much of the media is occupied with gossip, celebrity or otherwise, that it’s all some people ever talk about. Numerous people make a living out of making the regular lives of people sound salacious and entertaining. Of course even more people feed off this information, become absorbed by it. The really awful part of it all, apart from the “dumbing down” of society that seems to be accompanying this trend towards gossip (which, I acknowledge has been happening for at least a few centuries – and ironically really took off  during the “Enlightenment”), is the fact that an industry has been created merely to perpetuate the process. Huge sums of money are being wasted on this kind of information. Who benefits from it? Am I a better person for knowing who, or indeed what, “Snooki” is? Of course not. The only people who benefit are those who profit from it. Everyone else is just a greasy little cog in a dirty big machine.

It’s absurd. That’s the best description for it. Not only does the inane nature of popular media result in moronic pranks like the one that sparked this all off, subsequent moronic behaviour acts as tinder to set the incident ablaze. When lives are threatened, damaged and lost because we live in a world where there’s apparently nothing better for people to think about than taking the piss out of other people they’ve never met and shouldn’t have any business interfering with, it is absurd. That the people who actually profit from this absurdity actually refuse to see that there’s anything wrong with that, and indeed retort that they should be able to do whatever they like to whomever they like and can pay for the privilege, that’s absurd.

Where is the meaning in any of this? Why should we tolerate it? Comments are welcome.

Mediocrity Man 3 – The Reckoning

Phil always took the train home from work. It wasn’t a complicated decision: he lived too far away to walk, he didn’t own a car and he refused to ride a bicycle because he felt it left his elbows unnecessarily vulnerable to scrutiny.

Travelling by train brought with it some difficulties at first, but Phil had learned to overcome them, gradually, through a process of positive self-affirmation and unflappable determination to be left the heck alone. He came to treat the train as his “Fortress of Solitude”, a place not unlike that of the Superman comics, a place in his mind where he could exist entirely separately from the rest of the world, and more importantly keep enquiring minds from attempting to probe his innermost secrets through the arcane and mysterious art of “small-talk”.

Phil was deeply suspicious of small-talk, even the name seemed misleading. The first (and last) time he had allowed himself to be engaged in this activity he had come within a hair’s breadth of revealing almost everything about himself in what seemed to him to be only a few sentences. The instigator clearly knew more about Phil than he was comfortable with, because this individual, whose name could have been “Steve”, felt from that moment onward he could broach virtually any topic with total impunity. But Phil didn’t want to know Steve’s opinions about sporting events, television programming or “women, eh?”, and was intensely relieved when Steve’s attention was drawn abruptly to another office-party-goer with whom he had clearly established even greater familiarity at an earlier juncture, and he went away.

Catching the train home was an activity Phil had made into something of an art. He prided himself on what a symphony of procedural sophistication it had become. The trick, initially, was to break it down into parts. Firstly, he would ensure that the walk from the office to the station took exactly twelve minutes, allowing for the inevitable delays caused by the teeming mass of less organised travellers – queueing, and such – so that he could catch the 5.38pm train. In other words, not the train all of these other people were clamouring to get on. Arriving home 20 minutes later was an infinitesimally small price to pay for a less crowded carriage.

Once aboard, Phil would find a seat and build his fortress. The seat had to be a two-seater, not a three. On rare occasions when no such seat was available, Phil would simply disembark and wait for the next train. It had to be perfect, or it wouldn’t work. Just as a house needed firm foundations, Phil’s Fortress required appropriate seating parameters. The next two phases of the construction involved two props: a device that stored and played music with a set of large headphones and a book. Each element had been selected with tremendous discretion, along with some minor trial-and-error “tweaks”. For example, too-large headphones attracted unwanted stares, whereas too discreet might imply that whatever is being listened to isn’t so important that the listener shouldn’t be interrupted.

The choice of book was more problematic. If it was something other people might find interesting then that might encourage unwanted attention. The same can be said for something too uninteresting, which would also promote staring. Phil eventually decided the safest course was to find relatively small books that had nondescript binding at the second-hand book shop. That way he could maintain his focus whilst obscuring the content of the text at the same time. Today’s book was a 19th Century treatise on the nature of creosote.

Once headphones were in place and book open, Phil would adopt an expression he had decided after some practice in front of his bathroom mirror gave an impression of a deep, cultivated level of concentration. He hoped that this would repel small-talkers, either because they might be fearful that he would either fly into a rage for being interrupted (unlikely), or intimidate them with the details of his obviously very specialised and possibly rather occult and unwholesome interests (yes, that seems more likely).

“Seven-hundred-and-sixty-three days since last incident,” Phil reminded himself as he found his seat. Everything proceeded as planned, his Fortress was sturdy, his headphones were in place and his book was open to the last third. He had begun to settle into his fifteen minute journey when the unthinkable happened.

An unkempt man sat down heavily in the seat next to Phil. Although he was no expert on such matters, Phil sensed that the man had been drinking. He was aware of the fact that the man was being studiously ignored by everyone else in the carriage and Phil reminded himself that he was still in his Fortress, that it was impenetrable by all, that he existed in a place where the cares of such men as this could not reach him. The man nudged Phil with his elbow and nodded solicitously at him.

“Eh?” The man said, and then said it again, with another nudge, to add emphasis.

Phil shifted uncomfortably in his seat for a moment and evaluated his position. He could continue to ignore the man until he went away, but he had noticed on the way in that there were not many free seats. Then, if he continued to ignore him, the man may choose to persist, and escalate his attention-seeking behaviour to truly unacceptable levels.

“Eh, mate? Eh?” Said the man, with much nudging and nodding.

Phil chanced a polite nod and weak smile before returning to his book.

“M’name’s L.P., mate. Wotcher readin’ there?”

Phil wasn’t sure what to call the stage beyond which a cringe ended and the next uncomfortable sensation began, but he’d reached it. He scoured his mind for options and decided his best bet would be a kind of awkward mime he hoped would convey “I can’t hear you, I’m wearing headphones and I’m listening to something I really enjoy and oh, look here’s this book I’m reading and… well, you know… sorry”

L.P. either wasn’t sure what Phil was trying to convey, or didn’t care. He continued:

“Yeah, mate. L.P. Not like the records, ya know? Not like Long Playing,” L.P. drew the syllables of those last words out, carefully. “But Lonely Place.”

That actually surprised Phil, and caught him off guard. By the time he would otherwise have kicked himself for looking at L.P., it was too late. L.P. noted the acknowledgement with another nudge (My elbows! Phil thought) and continued.

“My mum called me Lonely Place, because she said I was born in a really lonely place, ya know?”

Phil allowed himself to consider what sort of a place that might have been. L.P. kept talking.

“Yeah, she was real lonely, in this lonely place. I arksed her once where it was, an’ all she said was that she wouldn’t ever go back there.”

Phil was overcome with a sadness, what he assumed was a kind of empathy for this unusual, most likely drunk man who had intruded upon his Solitude, broken down the walls of his Fortress and made so little sense in the process. Against his better judgement, Phil decided on this seven-hundred-and-sixty-fourth occasion he would break with tradition and engage with this man in some form of conversation. Phil removed his headphones and looked at L.P.

“Did you ever find out where it was?” He asked L.P., whom he’d only just realised hadn’t stopped talking during his reverie and was already changing subject to something someone else had told him the other day. But when Phil spoke, L.P. stopped.

With a wistful look, he said “Yeah. I did.” His expression began to change from wistful to pained and Phil was instantly even more sorry he’d asked.

L.P. gestured to one of the more offensive stains on the linoleum floor of the carriage with a tilt of his head. “It was over there.”

A large tear welled in the corner of L.P.’s eye, then rolled clumsily over the weathered skin of his cheek, magnifying a trail over some of L.P.’s more excitingly broken capillaries. Phil was dumbfounded. Before he’d had time to absorb this bizarre revelation L.P. had sprung to his feet, raised his arms above his head and turned to address all of the occupants of the carriage, most of whom remained in their Fortresses.

In a voice that suddenly took on a tone reminiscent of the most fervent television evangelists that Phil had remembered watching late at night while he couldn’t sleep for the worry, L.P. declared:

“I reckon…. I reckon that we all are s’posed to be here – all of us – right now!”

It was Phil’s stop. He let the nice old lady, who seemed a little startled, get out first.

“Zero days without incident,” he muttered.

The return of Mediocrity Man

Phil worked at a computer programming firm, where he specialised in windows. There was nothing at all that could in any way be described as extraordinary about Phil or his work. He simply did what was required of him and nothing else. Ambition was not a motivating factor in his life.

Every day he would sit at his terminal in his small and unadorned cubicle alongside the other 50 or so programmers in the room on the 19th floor of one of the more architecturally aspirational office buildings in the city. Phil’s work life was quite blissfully monotonous and he really quite liked it. However, he was completely oblivious to the fact that every one of his workmates seethed with bitter resentment for him.

They were unable to comprehend how he could lead such a peaceful existence, apparently unhindered by the pressures that drove each of them to medications for stress, anxiety and other ailments their working lives induced. They were utterly absorbed in their frantic, desperately competitive and miserably unrewarding careers, which spilled into their equally hectic, vacuous social lives. They would spend an inordinate part of their down-time bitching and moaning about Phil, whether it was during coffee breaks or at fashionable bars and cafes. They would carp on endlessly to their spouses and partners about this guy at work who just didn’t seem to get it, who wasn’t a team player, who thought he was too good for them.

Phil, of course, kept to himself and dreamed of his windows and remained utterly unaware that his co-workers never stopped once to notice how much of their precious time was devoted to such an unassuming and ordinary person.

But then, at work, nobody knew about his secrets.

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