Something for the Weekend, Sir? Taking my place in the boardroom for the weekly “sit-down” meeting, I make a faux pas: I try to make polite conversation. In my defence, I claim temporary confusion due to a mix-up with the more casual weekly “stand-up” meeting, which is held in another room but otherwise attended by precisely the same people who are now sitting around the huge, glossy table.
I get it now: “stand-ups” are brief and chatty, while “sit-downs” are supposed to be glum and morose.
This week, though, I was unnerved by the silence as I walked into the “sit-down”… and sat down. As we waited for the project leader to return from his safari hunt around the IT Support Desktop and Mobile Customer Engagement Department to scrounge a compatible power cable – his laptop battery charge is guaranteed to be nine per cent at the start of meetings – everyone was looking down. Literally, that is: everyone was looking down… at their smartphones.
“Say, Patrick,” I pipe up, hoping to trigger a light-hearted chat, “what’s this ‘Black Friday’ all about, eh?”
Very slowly, Patrick looks all around the room before eventually meeting my eyes, tilts his head and murmurs: “Why are you asking me?” He then fixes me with a cool, challenging stare, low eyelids and high eyebrows. Everyone holds their breath. The silent room gets silenter. And a bit roomer.
I have just asked the one black person in the room to tell me about Black Friday.
As I am still stuttering something along the lines of, “Well, you know, eheh, I mean, that is, etc,” like a demented Michael McIntyre, the project manager returns with a bleeping laptop in one hand and a suspiciously short power cable in the other. He says he’d nabbed a notoriously curmudgeonly Customer Engager who was just finishing his night shift and heading home, but who then dutifully, but with considerable reluctance, trudged off to find him this cable.
He is holding a kettle lead.
A minute into the meeting, his laptop blinks out. A minute later, everyone is bored shitless and looking at their smartphones again. I am looking up "Black Friday".
For weeks, I have been receiving press releases, unsolicited marketing email and LinkedIn bollocks – a tautology, I know – telling me how important it is to spend my money in shops on Black Friday, yet not telling me why nor indeed when. My initial wild hunch was that it would take place on a Friday turned out to be correct. But which Friday? And why was it Black?
As the whole world apart from me knows only too well, it took place yesterday and the supposed shopping insanity should start putting retailers "into the black" financially in the frantic run-up to Christmas. It happens, I understand, because it’s the first shopping day of a long holiday weekend that began with Thanksgiving the day before. It’s a bit like the January Sales, I guess, except that I’d never heard of it in my previous 50 years of existence.
Well, hot-dang, hoo-whee and yeefuckinghar, you rootin’ tootin’, shankin’ wankin’ cousins from the Tea Partying land of the free and drive-by shooting. It’s just possible that one or two of us in the primitive, nomadic wilds beyond the borders of civilisation – in my case, south-east London – do not celebrate Thanksgiving. If I did, it would be like this:
To give it credit, though, Black Friday 2014 has been a marketing success in the UK in reminding lazy people like me to get buying Christmas presents before December has even begun. In the Dabbsy household, my artificial tree is up, the LEDs twinkling and the decorations already hung. Effectively, Black Friday has turned me into my own Mum. Next thing, I’ll be screaming at my family on Christmas morning not to tear the wrapping paper and will spend Boxing Day ironing it for next year.
No doubt The Reg will shortly bring you one of those Best Gadget Stocking Filler type of product roundups. I still hope to read Lucy Orr’s exciting review of the extraordinarily fascinating lightbulb she won in a hi-tech tombola a few weeks ago.
No more misery of having to operate a lamp switch manually for Lucy, oh no: now she can download and install an app, fail to connect to Wi-Fi, restart her router, update her OS, restart her phone, shout “Connect you stupid bugger” and spend half an hour on a call to a Customer Engager in order to turn on the light. Ah, progress.
In case you are more of a stop-in than a shopper, Black Friday also featured a TV ad on British commercial channel ITV2 by “intense sensation” specialists Durex just ten minutes after the 9pm watershed. A boring old ad for rubbers? Oh no, young Bucky, nothing of the sort. Instead of watching soft-focused footage of loving heterosexual couples laughing on a sunlight street or clinking wine glasses in a restaurant (as opposed to clips of them grunting and all sweaty while shagging in a damp bedsit to the soundtrack of a fan heater at the foot of the creaking bed), Durex ads have gone all hi-tech.
On the dubious premise that British people are reserved and suffer from having an emotional broom handle stuck up their arses, the concept is that they maintain decorum in public while sticking very real broom handles up their arses in private. According to the press release, the British are “tight lipped” about sex and adds, hopefully choosing its words deliberately: “Brits are still maintaining their traditional decorum when it comes to spilling the beans.”
To peek into this secret life of the rampant Brit, you point your smartphone or tablet at the TV ad to trigger a behind-the-scenes view of what they really think.
Brilliant. Instead of sitting back to watch a TV ad recommending the barrier method, preferably the ribbed range in fluorescent colours with spermicide lubricant, you can download and install an app, fail to connect to Wi-Fi, restart your router, update your OS, restart your phone, shout “Connect you stupid bugger” and spend half an hour on a call to a Customer Engager.
Durex’s press release shone light on the most popular sex toys, so I do hope some of these can be er... slipped into any El Reg gadget roundup. Certainly, I know very little about this field of product engineering. I have worked out that a “clitoral stimulator” stimulates the clitoris but why pet owners would feel compelled to purchase a “rabbit vibrator” to vibrate their rabbits is beyond my comprehension. I shall never be able to look a Duracell bunny in the eye ever again.
And on that note, I’ll leave you with the idiomatic slogan that make Durex a best-seller in shit barber shops all over the UK for generations: Something for the Weekend, Sir? ®
Alistair Dabbs is a freelance technology tart, juggling IT journalism, editorial training and digital publishing. He is impressed by the quantity and variety of useless gadgets that have appeared in mainstream catalogues this year. That is “impressed” in the sense of their general awfulness having made a keen impression on him. Apart from that, he doesn’t do impressions.