Thursday, October 24, 2002

JB Rivers, Hyde Park

Thursday, October 24, 2002

Service: * * * 1/2
Food: * * * *
Ambience: * * * *
Babe Count: * * * *

I take a short cut from Auckland Park to Hyde Park tonight. I drive up Beyers Naude Drive all the way to the concrete highway, drive north, exit at the William Nichol offramp, and go South until I reach the parking lot of my favourite shopping mall -- Hyde Park Corner. I'm sitting at JB Rivers, and I've got ink all over my hand.

This guy sat right in front of my view of a blonde with cleavage restraint orders served by the local gendarmes. Any man who does that to me deserves to be drawn.But before I get into details about my meal, you may be wondering what the heck I'm talking about with this "short cut" business. Yeah? Well, if you're not familiar with Joburg, it's probably a good idea to tell you that I turned a seven-minute trip into a half-hour marathon.

But you know what? The time flew. And that's cos I was talking to Heidi for the first time, trying to not find a destination, trying to find an excuse not to stop. (If you're a traffic cop, please note I was using my little walk-and-talk hands-free thingy for the entire duration of the call, right up until Heidi's battery ran flat and left us both in the lurch.)

Who's Heidi?

Oh, just this babe I've never met, but have connected with profoundly via email. (She's an Aquarian like me, but seems to have none of my antisocial traits. Neat huh? Only thing is -- she lives in Somerset West, a mere 16-hour car trip if I don't take any short cuts. But her honey-soprano voice is good enough reason to keep on dreaming.)

Big hair. Nuff sed.So I'm here at one of my keenest hangouts, a place where horse-riders hang out, with their tight jodhpurs, saddle-sore inner thighs, and wind-burnt blonde hair.

I've had an exhausting coupla days. On Tuesday evening some dude calls me just as I'm about to leave work and race home to compose a Ben-Hur epic email to Heidi. "Are you available to do a corporate video?" he begs. What? Is the Pope fond of communion wine? Am I trying to amass enough personal fortune to buy a video projector? Of course I'll damn well do the job. I'd sell my mother to get movies sprayed on my lounge wall. Oh, hang on. I've already sold her. That's how I got the surround sound.

So I rush off to his office to get briefed. Seems like a cool job. A 13-part series of 3-minute advertorials for a major retail chain. We agree that I'll call the client the next day to set up a meeting.

So it's Wednesday. I spend an hour battling driving rain all the way to Fourways, and spend a pleasant two-hours mollifying her. It appears as though this situation has spun out of control. Bad writing from the previous scriptor. And a client nearing panic. She's a tall, thin, pert, ex-model sorta jaded-beauty. Thick Afrikaans accent, but keeps speaking English when I speak Afrikaans. I give up.

"Can I have a script tomorrow morning?" she asks, her voice shaky and thick with anticipated doom.

"Uh... I'll certainly give it a shot," I say, not believing a word of it myself. "But maybe lunchtime is a better time to aim for."

I drive away and call the production house. I've got to pick up all the files crammed full of info. He says cool, and how did the meeting go?

"Jeeesus. She's extensively pissed off with this whole process, and I had to do some serious damage control on your behalf," I say. "I hope you've got lots of money in your budget for me."

Laughter. Non sequiturs.

I pick up the files, head for Wiesenhof in Cresta, and spend a very tiring three hours reading all about this major retailer.

I decide not to write the script that night (being last night).

Instead, I get to sleep at 11pm, and set my alarm for 5am.

I wake up this morning, turn on my computer, and start typing faster than a supermarket shopper with a piss on board. I get a draft done, go to the loo, brush my teeth, eat a dried hunk of smoked goatsmilk cheese from my almost-empty fridge, then reread my attempt. I judge it way better than the previous writer's lumpen prose, and email it to the prodco and the client. Shower. Go to my day job at the SABC.

Get a phone call from the client at around three o'clock.

"Roy, I've got your script in front of me. I've got it right here in front of me. Right here. Can we talk about it?" Her voice is filled with suppressed rage. Quivering. She could actually be on the verge of tears. If I play this wrong, she's going to burst a bra strap.

"Noreen," I say (not her real name; name's have been changed to protect the innocent, namely myself), "I'm hearing the frustration in your voice. Obviously the script isn't up to scratch. Do you want to tell me about it?"

"Up to scratch? UP TO SCRATCH? It's completely unacceptable!!" Twang. There goes one bra strap.

"Okay... I'm listening. What about it doesn't work?"

"Nothing works! You clearly didn't listen to a word I said last night!" Twang. The other strap's gone. This woman's in free range territory now. "This... this section about... about... about how many people we employ and how many shops we have... it's just completely wrong!"

"Okay... I'm looking at my notes. 44 000 employees and around 400 shops. And it said the same in the press kit."

"But I told you to look on the website for the most up-to-date information! It's not 400 shops! It's 412!!!" Schplit! The dress itself seems to have come adrift, and I'm fighting back a vast and scornful laugh. This woman is an honest-to-goodness suckwit.

So anyway, it turns out that most of her feedback is actually on stupid issues like that. Like the order of a set of attributes of this wonderful retail giant. "Lowest prices has to come BEFORE widest range!"

So I rewrite the thing and send it to her at around 6pm.

And in the interim, the production house calls and agrees that I ought to be paid a serious amount of money for the way I'm managing to keep this client feeling as though she's in the loop.

So as soon as I get my cheque, I'm going off to buy that video projector, a DVD machine, and a new computer. Viva retail!

As for my food at JB Rivers -- excellent as usual. This time I've opted for a turkey, avocado, tomato, provolone and lettuce open sandwich on wholewheat bread with honey mayo. Superb. And the waiters love watching me parody their over-wealthy under-tippers with my sketchbook and dip-ink pen. Hence the ink all over my hand.

And I'm missing Heidi already.

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