Archive for business

Lifetime GM

Posted in Classic Sci-Fi, Lucerne Village with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 22, 2012 by javedbabar

Because he worked the nightshift, TJ hadn’t seen much of Mr Kazantzakis, who was either in his office or remained in his room. Mr Kazantzakis had run the Lucerne Valley Hotel for twenty years and was scheduled to continue for twenty more. The hospitality industry realized the value of loyalty and required senior employees to commit for life.

Mr Kazantzakis’ title was Lifetime General Manager, but it would be more appropriate to say Working Lifetime General Manager. His contract expired when he hit sixty-five. TJ had once asked him what happened after that.

It was the only time that Mr Kazantzakis had avoided a question. He had turned away from TJ and wiped something from his eye, his snow white hair shook a little, and when he turned back his moustache was wet. TJ never again asked him about his future.

Mr Kazantzakis was a hospitality services professional. He was responsible for all areas of the business – revenue and costs, marketing and sales, effective planning, delegating, coordinating, staffing, organizing, decision making, and other day-to-day operations. He had ultimate authority over the hotel and reported directly to its owner. Mr Kazantzakis managed the management team, created and enforced business objectives, oversaw projects and renovations, and handled emergencies and other issues involving guests, employees, the facility, the media, local government and suppliers. His contract also stated that he had “Many Additional Duties”, whose acronym was MAD.

In his time working there, TJ had only disturbed the LGM four times during the night.

The first time was when a group of friends had booked out the second floor. They had a very noisy party and many guests complained to reception. TJ went up three times to ask them to keep the noise down, but to no avail. He had no choice but to wake Mr Karantzakis. The LGM went up to the second floor, saw that people were having good clean fun, and instead of closing down the party, invited all the other guests along. He said, “You are up now anyway, so you may as well enjoy yourselves.”

The second time was when TJ had double-booked the entire hotel. Four buses pulled in simultaneously and two hundred people poured into the reception area, wanting their rooms. TJ panicked and called the LGM, who sized up the guests, chatted to a few, and declared that this would be a Swinging Sixties weekend, with two couples in every room. It was a good way for people to make new friends; how good was entirely up to them. There were no requests for refunds.

The third time was when police were searching for a murder suspect. A witness said that earlier that night, she had seen the victim entering the Lucerne Valley Hotel. The police wanted to question every guest there. The LGM turned the procedure into a Whodunnit? game for the guests, and loaned the police inspector his chequered jacket and pipe “to look like Sherlock Holmes”. He asked TJ to play Watson.

The fourth time was when a guest slipped in a puddle of beer that he had himself spilt moments earlier, and threatened to sue the hotel. The LGM took the man into his office and that guest was never seen again. Later that night the LGM asked TJ to remove a heavy wet bag from his office, and gave him a packet containing $10,000, which he said was for “Inhospitality services.”

The next morning at 6a.m. TJ heard heavy footsteps coming down the main stairwell. He was tempted to say, “Good morning, Deathtime GM.”


Repo Men

Posted in Lucerne Village with tags , , , , , , on July 18, 2012 by javedbabar

It was Dimpy’s third Spatial Studies class. She’d made up the title in a burst of inspiration, or maybe desperation, when her Museum Director’s job was cut from five days to three days a week; she’d needed a way to feed herself and her one-year-old daughter.

She’d heard that Lucerne Valley College had received an Authority grant and was keen to start new courses. They’d accepted her proposal for a course in Spatial Studies, which she’d said was “a multi-disciplinary approach to the element that surrounds and defines material objects.” In truth it was a made up course hoping to fill student’s gaps in knowledge.

Two weeks ago she’d set them a trick question saying only “Your homework is to remember your homework”. Last week however she’d set them a real task.

“Right,” she said, “Who’s done homework?” No hands went up. Oh dear, she thought, they think I’ve set them another conundrum; I’ve created a habit that may be hard to break. Still, I had better continue.

She pointed to a girl who was loud among her peers, but quiet when it came to teacher. “What’s your name? Okay, Simone, where’s your homework?”

“I haven’t done it, Miss Kashi, because my father doesn’t have work, and I don’t have a home. That’s why I can’t do homework.”

Nice wordplay, thought Dimpy, but hardly believable. She stared at Simone and raised her eyebrows. Simone felt pressured, and said, “It’s true, Miss. There’s nowhere quiet to do it.”

Dimpy was embarrassed by her oversensitivity to Tom last week – thinking he was the victim of child abuse, when the cause of his aching arm was dragging around his fat cousin. She wouldn’t be so gullible this time. “Why not?” she said.

“Because we live in one room at the Valley Motel. The television is always on, and my mum and dad are shouting.” Other children were sniggering; it must be a joke. “Why do you live there?” said Dimpy.

Simone became serious and said, “Miss, I’m sure you’re aware of the economic downturn. I know that you have a job at the Museum too; I’ve seen you there. So you have two jobs, that’s great, but lots of people don’t even have one job…”

Dimpy was feeling bad; she’d been wrong about the girl, but she didn’t want to stop her now. Simone continued, “My folks had a tire shop in town. They’d struggled for years, building up debts, and whatever money came in was drunk away by my dad. They lost the tire shop and the bank took our house. The repo men took everything, even my computer. We can only live in the motel because my dad knows the guy there. We’re all looking for work, including me. But while I’m looking I thought I’d do an extra course. I got a grant for it. That’s a good thing isn’t it, Miss, even if I can’t do my homework?”

Dimpy was teaching the Spatial Studies course, but realized that some of her students knew more about spaces than she did. The gaps in their lives were bigger.


Posted in Infinite City, Lucerne Village with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 9, 2012 by javedbabar

Because of a no-show, Bobby had managed to get a spot at the Speed Networking event. He was more comfortable at these side events, than being jostled on the main floor of the New Ideas Show. He was given a name badge and asked to sit in the inner circle of thirty chairs.

Each person seated there would have two minutes with each of the thirty participants in the outer circle. They had a minute to expound their professional backgrounds and business goals, and then switch roles, before the outer circle rotated. The first man sitting opposite him looked very serious indeed. He wore a grey suit, affixed with his badge but without completed name.

The host of the event, a bald man in a blue blazer and red cravat, rang a dinner bell and conversations began. The nameless fellow said to Bobby, “Hello, I’m Jonathon Andrew, legal professional. Shall I start?”

“Sure, go ahead,” said Bobby.

“There is a distrust of lawyers among the general public.” The man licked his lips too many times for Bobby’s liking. “It’s a long-term issue, going back to medieval Europe, even Biblical times, accusing us of false and frivolous litigation, false documentation, deception, procrastination, even excessive fees! Can you believe that, men of our learning and talents? In current times this distrust is growing, leading to a significant drop in business.”

He’s very frank, thought Bobby; I wonder if he’s like that in court. Bobby knew what he meant though. When a dispute with his ex-wife had arisen, he had himself bought a legal self-help book rather than consult a lawyer. The dispute cost $7.99+tax to resolve, rather than $300+ each.

Jonathon Andrew continued. “To increase demand I am looking for people who are able to travel at short notice. Ideally single males, with good communication and survival skills.”

“What for?” said Bobby, unconsciously licking his lips.

“I’ll admit I was a sceptic at first. I thought it was just green hogwash, but after seeing so many hurricanes, tornadoes, tsunamis and floods in recent years, I believe in the reality of climate change. There are sure to be more large-scale disasters like these. The poor victims must be helped to recover and rebuild their lives.”

“I’ve always wanted to do be involved in foreign aid work,” said Bobby. “What a great way to promote what you stand for.”

“That’s the spirit, boy! You’ve got the idea exactly.” He gave him a big wink. “And if we make some money in the process, why not? There’s always someone to blame for every disaster, regardless of whether it’s natural or man-made.” He licked his lips again. “The deal would be one-third to me, one-third to you, and one-third to the victim, minus fees of course.”

The bell rang indicating that the lawyer had massively overrun. There was no time for Bobby to talk about himself. He was in truth glad it was time for his next date.

Speed Networking

Posted in Lucerne Village with tags , , , , , , , on July 8, 2012 by javedbabar

The New Ideas Show was not what Bobby had expected. He’d imagined a wild bunch of inventors with lab coats and wild hair, making robots bleep and crystals glow. The village’s glassy community centre – known as the Transparent Temple – was instead filled with slick suited and booted individuals constantly tapping screens and talking – to you or someone else, you couldn’t always say – promoting their internet hosting and search optimisation services, and generally giving you a headache.

He’d found respite in the audience of Devils’ Den, a show where amateur entrepreneurs sought to impress expert investors, but now that was over, he was back in the melee.

Bobby noticed a new group forming in an offset area; maybe another event offering haven. He strolled towards it but was stopped by a bald man in a blue blazer and red cravat, who said, “Have you booked?”

“Booked what?” said Bobby. “Isn’t this a free event?”

“Yes, it is. I meant have you booked your spot for Speed Networking?”

“Erm, no… I haven’t.”

“Well, I’m sorry, all the spots are taken. Business people’s time is precious; it must be used profitably. They booked their spots online. Since the economic downturn, these events are very popular.”

“I’m sorry, I’ve heard of Speed Dating but…”

“Speed Networking is a way to accelerate your business contacts; for business people to share their backgrounds and goals, and gain exposure to new markets and vendors. It’s a structured environment where pairs of people each speak for one minute, and then change partner.”

“Oh, so you meet here, and if you like each other, then you make a date – I mean a meeting.”

“Yes, but there’s an important difference between the two. Speed Daters try to narrow their choices; Speed Networkers wish to broaden their connections.”

More people approached. “Excuse me,” said the bald man and welcomed them in. The Speed Networkers began open mingling, and made small talk, while being served bright canapés, cheeses and wines. Were these the kind of people he wished to mix with, thought Danny. Such serious people.

He decided that you never know. Any one of them could give him a break. He may as well give it a go. “When is the next one?” he asked the bald man.

He said, “Actually we’ve had a no-show. The group is unbalanced now.  Do you want to join now?”

As the chairs were arranged in two circles of thirty chairs each, Danny wondered what he should talk about. The only ideas he had right now were for a “spice cream” van and an African sandwich shop. Who would be interested in those? But then he saw that a few people ahead there was a man with a beard and turban, and beyond him a woman in a bigger, multicoloured turban, and matching kaftan. Today may be his day.

Devil's Den

Posted in Lucerne Village with tags , , , , , , , , on July 1, 2012 by javedbabar

Bobby had lived in Lucerne for six months. It was in truth as beautiful as when he’d first seen it – those stunning black and white mountains at opposite ends of the valley, with forests, lakes and rivers between – but its sheen had worn off somewhat. Just because a place is beautiful, he’d realized, doesn’t mean that you can find work there. He was fed up with selling muffins and pumping gas. He needed to start his own business; he had some ideas but no clue what to do with them.

He was delighted to hear that their glassy community centre, commonly called the Transparent Temple, was hosting a New Ideas Show. This was a forum for business start-ups, and those providing ancillary services, to promote themselves in a community-minded atmosphere. He saw many trucks coming on Friday, setting up for the weekend show.

On Saturday morning Bobby entered the Great Hall, which was full of bright stalls and banners. There were sandwich and massage franchises, internet hosting and search engine optimisation services, all competing for your attention. There were also branding and shipping specialists, designers, printers, accountants and lawyers. They all introduced themselves, presented data, gave you their cards, and wanted yours – to receive special offers and enter prize draws, they said. Their chatter was overwhelming.

Bobby came to a quieter area set with chairs, and joined the audience there in expectation of something interesting. The scheduled event soon started. He recognized the host, Collette Vapinski, a glamorous lady famous for being famous. She said, “Hello everyone! Welcome to Devils’ Den, a place where our panel of expert investors quizzes amateur entrepreneurs about their business proposals, and if they are impressed, offer funding in exchange for shares.”

“Without further ado, I will introduce our expert panel. First we have Amisha Jordan, known for her faith in traditional and low-tech technologies. She is quoted as saying, “When the world runs out of fuel and you’re living back in the Stone Age, I will be dancing with Leonardo in the Renaissance.” There were boos from the crowd.

“Next we have Arthur Choo, once chief economist of the Bank of Canadia, now author of the bestselling book, “POP: Principle of Profit”, which promotes the open market as the most rational medium of exchange.” There was polite applause.

“Finally there is Juno Osh, founder of Farmbook, who believes that open source technology and social media not only build healthier communities, but will actually save the world.” People cheered wildly.

“Okay, who is brave enough to be the first to enter the Devils’ Den?” She looked around before her eyes settled on Bobby.

Was this his moment? he wondered.

In business isn’t it now or never?

He recalled the term prime mover advantage from a business book he’d browsed at the library. This is where initiative meets opportunity and the winner takes all.

He waited too long though. Collette Vapinski’s gaze moved on. She pointed to a tall guy with glasses, who got up and walked to the stage.


Posted in Classic Sci-Fi, Unknown with tags , , , , , on March 28, 2012 by javedbabar

“Ok! Back up! Back up! More! More! More!” Lugus called out. “Ok! That’s it!”

The truck stopped and hissed, dropping an inch. Its cab door opened but no person emerged. There was a faint noise like someone talking, but someone far away. Was it the radio? Eventually a hand appeared, drawing his attention, beckoning him. Lugus walked to the cab and peered upward. The driver’s ear was glued to his phone, with a hellish woman’s voice pouring out, sounding like pork skin crackling and spitting. The driver listened intensely but also tried to break away. Clients these days were really rude, and changed their minds like the weather. The poor trucker was not to blame.

Lugus waved his left arm about and mouthed to him, “What do you need?”

The driver covered his phone’s speaker and said gruffly, “Road job – Footballs – fill her up.”

Lugus wandered to the loader. Rocky’s was Lucerne’s premier, and only, sand and gravel merchants. The gardening centre and hardware store sold some material too but you couldn’t take them seriously. Any serious project – a road, driveway, or private beach – required a visit to Rocky’s.

Lugus bore responsibility for maintenance of the fourteen bays. It was his idea to give the different aggregate sizes memorable names. The smallest size of sand was called Pollen, the next up was Smack – a British term for heroin, then Coke, Salt, Peppercorn, Coffee, and Granola. The Gravel range began with Pea, followed by Bean, Eyeball, Football, Basketball, Swissball, and ultimately, Asteroid. The latter was anything over a metre wide. The colours of the sands and gravels varied dramatically, but Rocky’s dealt in size rather than colour. The colour was just whatever it was.

The driver’s arm appeared again, wanting attention. The pork skin crackling continued on his phone. Lugus had started up the loader, preparing to fill up with Footballs. He left it running and hopped out. The driver covered his phone and said, “Sorry pal, change of plan – beach job – Salt – fill her up.”

Lugus wasn’t annoyed. His job was to serve. So he nodded and headed back to the loader. His boss had told him about the Wentworth Scale for particle sizes, ranging through Clay, Silt, Sand, Pebbles, Cobbles, and Boulders. It was a comprehensive spectrum but lacked a sense of humour. His Pollen to Asteroid system was way more memorable, and made work fun. That’s why truckers drove to Lucerne rather than Strattus. It gave them a word to reflect upon – for example “Eyeball”– rather than a dull descriptor like “One-inch-minus crush.”

The drivers liked coming here but their bosses tried to dissuade them, saying that Lugus’ system was flaky. What did they know? Had they ever even held a rock? He looked into a more descriptive system covering composition, texture, and genesis – including weathering, explosion, earth movements, and meteoric – but then thought, “Screw them!”

He was about to fill up the truck with Salt. The arm appeared again waving frantically. “So sorry – Dike job – Swissballs.” Lugus closed his eyes and nodded. He pointed the loader towards the Swissballs.

Two years back he’d spent a summer working an excavator. It was really hard initially – with many controls and twelve motions to master – but after some days he’d became proficient. It was a huge infrastructure job on a Valley farm, but seeming more an excavation of an ancient culture. He’d imagined being in Greece, Egypt, India or China, digging out a temple. Maybe it would be fun to work with archaeological teams, finding tombs, treasures, and mummies. Working with a mix of delicacy and brute force. The Mughal culture of India, he’d heard, “built with the might of Titans and the skill of jewellers.” Uncovering wonders also required this approach.

The arm appeared again, and Lugus raised his eyebrows. The trucker was deeply embarrassed saying, “Driveway – Peas”. Lugus nodded and began immediately – to help the trucker as much as himself. Once the load was in, ownership transferred. He filled the truck with four scoops of Peas. That’s it. A dust cloud arose and drifted across the yard. All was lost for a moment. He could be anywhere; any place and time. The trucker waved his arm in panic, then both arms. He jumped out of the cab and spoke into the phone urgently. He called out to Lugus, “Why did you fill it so quickly? There’s been a change of plan!”

“I’m sorry pal. I was just following your orders. I can take it out if you want, but there will be a 25% charge.” The trucker relayed this to the client, and then said, “She says we’ll take it.” He whispered to Lugus, “Thanks pal.”

Lugus knew that there wouldn’t be any problems. The client would be happy with whatever he sent, and would use it for something. All rocks were the same essentially. During his summer excavating at the farm he’d made an important discovery. He had uncovered an asteroid deep in the earth, a smooth black block 2 metres wide, with glassy sides. Set within it were fossilized pollens. That’s what had inspired his aggregate naming system – running from Pollen to Asteroid. He knew that their source was the same.