Friday, 9 September 2016

Pete and his Mini traveller

After the most recent post here, I got to thinking about Peter and his Mini traveller and how that incident embodied our interaction. The dodgy clutch wasn't the only problem he had with his Mini. I recall one time he, was relaying his adventures exploring the electronics of his vehicle and couldn't understand why it wouldn't start in the cold because he was geting, 'A good spark across the points'. The old Mini used contact breaker condenser coil ignition, like most cars did then. Of course the lt circuit is energised by the battery which acts as a kind of super condenser, so that the actual condenser (the coil) gets an even current. Inside the distributor there's another little condenser (they call 'em capacitors these days) to even out the current still further, the idea being to reduce the risk of spark across the points. So I say to him, 'You need to replace your condenser, it'll cost about four pence'.

Now to explain Peter's reaction, we need to illustrate his and my demeanour with some explanation. Peter was one of those guys who was under the impression he had insight into subjects or topics that he was in fact, completely ignorant of. He though he understood how electricity worked, so to him a spark across his ignition points seemed absolutely natural. It didn't matter how much I tried to explain the principle of a condenser coil, it made absolutely no impression upon his conviction on the topic. Thing is though, I have to take some of the blame for this particular incident because it illustrated one of my shortcomings. That shortcoming would be, no one took anything I said seriously. Honestly, it could be a topic with far more serious consequences than dodgy electrics on a banger, with everyone clueless except for me and all I would get was that, yeah right look when I would offer my insight. On this occasion though, my remonstrations where backed up by another guy with a senior position in the studio but even though his relevant credentials included a stint working for the AA, the damage had been done. There was no talking sense to Peter, he'd made his mind up on the topic and he'd be splashing a ton at his local bodger.

Pete did quite well at the studio, he held something of an ascendant position, well for a while at least. Unfortunately for ol' Pete, his undoing was his presumption of his own competence again. He'd angled a position by offering to do the photo transparency processing in the studio. You could do that with the old Ektachrome stock and we had pretty good darkroom facilities so it seemed to make sense. Then one day something went badly wrong, very badly wrong. He was asked to process some film as a favour and it came out of his process tank blank. After some hair pulling and general consternation, 'let's have a look at the film canister,' asked the guy who'd been my compatriot during the condenser coil incident. When we saw the label on the canister, we just looked at each other, Kodachrome.

I made an attempt to explain, 'That's Kodachrome, processing is pre-paid, you send it to a lab in Eindhoven'. It was an awkward moment because Peter couldn't accept it, it got worse when he discovered just how basic  his error had been over the course of the afternoon. That incident marked Peter's decline in standing in the studio, the film did belong to someone in a senior position but it wasn't particularly valuable. What caused the damage was the fact that his bluff as the photo processing expert had been exposed, so confidence in his competence in other areas waned.

Peter was quite an annoying guy and I did reciprocate by doing my best to annoy him back. One evening while working late, he approached me for change for a pound, he needed some for the coffee machine. I could only stump fifty pence but I needed to buy milk for the evening and I didn't want to break a note. So I tell him to give me the pound and he could have the change. Next day he's on me, 'Where's my fifty pence?' he says, none too graciously. The following day I've got a surprise for him, I wait for him to ask again, then I reach into my pocket, 'Here you are'. I hand him a hundred half pence pieces, that I'd had fortuitously stored in a yoghurt pot at home. The best part about that was, they were being taken out of circulation at the end of the month.

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