Something for the Weekend, Sir? I am a time-waster. And I hate people who waste my time.
This means I know what I'm hating – have fun, all you amateur psychologists out there. I don't want to dither about but at least it's my own time I'm wasting. I am a procrastinator. That's not really the same as a time-waster, is it? Perhaps you could spend a few minutes thinking about that…
People have accused me of wasting their time. Usually in early April I like to remind readers that it's the annual anniversary of my first column for The Register, but this year I didn't bother. In the past, I would sum the number of years I've been writing "Something for the Weekend, Sir?" whereupon some wag without fail will comment: "It seems longer." Or I get the self-fucking-important my-time-is-worth-billions-of-bitcoin brigade who comment: "That's 10 minutes of my life I'll never get back."
Ten minutes to read my cursory 1,000 words on a Friday? That's a minute to read each 100 words, or, if you like, roughly 15 seconds per sentence. Per sentence! I usually respond to this particular insult that it's uncanny how complainers always turn out to be slow readers. I hope they're not sitting by the emergency exit over the wing on my holiday flights this year: they'll still be reading the instruction card long after we've plunged into the Mediterranean.
By the way, it's been six years. Comment negatively by all means but for God's sake make it funny.
British bank TSB seems to be wasting a lot of its customers' time this week, and I don't mean by its systems going wrong. Come on, we've all been there. This is our industry we're talking about: if you read The Reg, by definition you work in the (Computer Systems Frequently Go) Tits Up industry.
No, TSB's time-wasting comes in the form of its customer-facing explanations of what's happening, explanations that could only have been written by TSB representatives who haven't the faintest clue what's happening. "Our systems will be back up shortly" or "We have identified [insert the first number under 500 that comes into your head] accounts that may be experiencing a temporary problem" – the kind of uselessly generic thing that fools absolutely no-one.
My favourite was, and this time I quote: "We are currently experiencing large volumes of customers accessing our mobile app and internet banking which is leading to some intermittent issues with people accessing our services."
Or in other words, by trying to access your bank account, you are making it harder for yourself to access your bank account.
See? It's not their fault. It's yours.
It's reminiscent of the way British rail companies blame everything from their poor punctuality to the poor state of their rolling stock on "high passenger numbers". In their perversely inverted vision of the classic economics of scale, the greater the number of paying customers despite grossly inflated fares rising at double the rate of inflation, the worse the service they are able to provide.
During the cold spell last month, calls to my gas boiler maintenance insurance hotline (Corgi Homeserve, if you must know) were answered by a recording announcing that response would be slow because customers keep calling them up about their gas boilers. How selfish can these damn paying customers get? The temerity! Such a waste of our time!
Mme D has just pointed out that I wasted 2+ hours of her life the other evening by insisting that we watch Terry Gilliam's old comedy drama The Fisher King on TV. Mea culpa, V, but I'd never got around to seeing it until this week and the film always garners five-star ratings in the TV guide whenever it's shown. Perhaps it was perceived as zany when it came out in 1991 but bloody hell, it comes across as pretty annoying today, relieved only by the boring bits, these in turn enlivened by the oh-so-predictable "plot twists".
Not to worry, she's experienced worse. Her idea of the ultimate life-wasting movie is Steven Spielberg's Close Encounters of the Third Kind, an opinion that I like to point out to her is tainted by her admission that she fell asleep in the cinema. In turn, my opinion on her opinion is tainted by the fact that when the film came out, I went back to my local picture house, the Leeds Odeon on The Headrow, no less, to see the film again another eight times.
But then the films that appeal to me generally appeal to no one else. I thought Terry Gilliam's earlier effort The Adventures of Baron Munchausen was a masterpiece, as was Spielberg's 1941, both of which were massively expensive flops at the box office. Even in the genre of French art-house, which almost entirely comprises pretentious bollocks with the occasional flash of arse-and-boobies to keep the blokes interested, I am alone among friends in holding a torch for the entirely tit-free and PG-rated L'Année dernière à Marienbad.
The closest I have come to experiencing a complete waste of time watching a move is probably the most recent Pirates of the Caribbean cash-in, Dead Men Tell No Tales.
And this comes from an avowed fan of the original PotC trilogy. The reason is complicated, as I stopped watching Dead Men because it was so awful that I too wished I was a dead man after just 10 minutes. Then I stumbled across it again on TV by accident and watched a different section of the film before giving up after a quarter of an hour. Oh lordy, it was crap.
This pattern repeated itself several times over the following months, as they were showing it over and over again on a relentless cycle on the satellite movie channels. By the time I had endured the entire thing in disjointed 10-15 minute sessions, I must have spent roughly 36 hours watching this fucking shite film.
If you're ever tempted to watch it yourself, there is one funny bit and it lasts a split second, the result I believe of the American soundtrack editors not realising that renowned anglophile Johnny Depp mumbles "bugger" just before falling over. Ha ha. For all that's holy, please don't watch it just to see Paul McCartney tell a bad joke. It's really not worth it, take it from me.
Surprisingly, perhaps, I can't ever recall a piece of software that was a waste of time. I've used good and bad, well-designed and pants, and plenty of painfully slow stuff – every version of Windows ever released, for example – but none of it has impacted on my longevity.
Then again, I don't bank at TSB. And from what I read, no one else does at the moment, either.
Cue apt video to close… except I got carried away with Led Zep earlier and can't resist this decade-old throbbing foot-tapping head-nodder instead. I hope you can spare nine minutes to watch it from start to finish on your busy Friday afternoon.