Interesting Times
Chapter 05

Copyright© 2011 by Ernest Bywater. All rights reserved

Video Games

Matt turns his television on as his computer monitor then he lies back and goes on-line to start a search for suppliers of Video DVDs where he can buy a lot of movies and TV show sets at low prices. The initial search finds a huge list he soon cuts down a lot by adding restrictions to the search parameters by wanting only the operations in the local area, Sydney, Melbourne, and Canberra. Before long he has a much smaller list of websites he’s skimming through while getting a feel of what they carry and how cheap they are. After forty minutes he’s about ready to order from almost anyone because they’re nearly all the same stocks at the same prices with less than a dollar difference in price range for an item. He clicks to check a new site, and stops when he sees what’s an obvious bullshit marketing ploy. The site’s advertisement is enticing:

DVDs for only $10.00 each - conditions apply.

He clicks on the link to see what the conditions are because most DVDs are fifteen to forty dollars. The conditions are what makes it a bullshit ploy, but he thinks about it for a moment as the conditions read:

$10.00 DVD Deal Conditions
1. Items ordered are for a single sale.
2. Items are single copies of an item only.
3. No items released in the last six months.
4. Items are for personal use and not resale.
5. Order must be paid for prior to shipment.
6. Order must be one thousand items or more.
Free same day delivery within the Sydney area.

The deal sounds good at first glance, but no one orders that many items for their personal use in one go. In normal situations they don’t, but Matt isn’t in a normal situation. With a huge smile he goes to the section on stock lists and he starts going through their extensive list of movies and television show sets. He clicks for a copy of just about every movie and show for kids they have. Often he doesn’t even read the title when he just opens the category page then he goes down the side adding all of the titles to his shopping cart.

Lunch arrives while he’s clicking away. While feeding him Monica looks at the monitor, then she suggests some titles to add when he goes through the M and MA category television show sets as well as some of the adult rated and themed movies. Two and a half hours after he started they’re going through the shopping cart changing quantities on a few items where they found they ordered the same item more than once due to the item being listed in more than one category. Another ten minutes to add a few more DVDs of kids shows so they’ve got twelve hundred items listed with no duplicates at all. Matt calls Dorothy while he completes the declarations about being for personal use and not for resale. He selects the direct deposit payment option and he gives the delivery address as being the home of his aunt and uncle.

Dorothy answers, and Matt asks, “Dot, can I spend twelve thousand dollars for DVDs? I need to make the payment a.s.a.p., if I can. Also, can I have them delivered to my Aunt Dorothy this afternoon?”

“Matt, what are you up to now? Never mind. There’s no business money now, but you’ve enough in your personal account to cover that amount. I’ll pay it from there and we can sort out the paperwork later.”

“Actually, it’s better from the personal account.” The shopping cart is now showing the list of stock with all of the regular prices and the discount price beside it. He scrolls down to the bottom of the very long list to see it shows a regular price of $56,875.00 with a discounted value of $12,000.00. It matters not how you look at that it’s a damn good discount rate. He reads off the bank codes to make the payment to, along with the order number. Dorothy enters them into her on-line banking program and authorises the immediate payment of $12,000.00. A moment later she gives him the receipt codes. He refreshes the screen to see the message ‘Order paid for, transferred to warehouse for shipping.’

Warehouse Work

Gary and Ray aren’t happy while watching the boss leave for a late lunch with both of the office girls. They doubt he’ll be back before closing time. He owns the business so there’s no one to complain to about his actions, unless the girls take it to the industrial relations people for what they spend the afternoon doing with the boss away from work.

All of the current orders are done: picked, packed, and sitting there waiting for the courier to collect at five o’clock. There’s a delivery van that’s only used for local deliveries within a small area the boss allows the van to be used for. So the two guys have nothing to do but stand around and bitch about the boss making time with the girls they’d like to be spending time with. The order computer starts to print a job. The system is very automated: the computer takes the order off the Internet, gets the payment, then prints the picking slip and delivery docket. The only things needing human intervention are the two young men to put new stock on the shelves and to pick orders from the shelf stocks. The office girls balance the books and send orders to the DVD suppliers while the boss decides how many of which to buy.

The printer usually takes only a few seconds to print an order, so when it’s still going almost a minute later both young men go to see why. They walk into the dock office and stare at the stack of papers piling up in the printer’s out tray. The printer stops printing and is now beeping because it wants more paper. Ray goes for extra paper while Gary starts to read the order. He’s smiling when Ray comes back with a ream of paper from the stationary cupboard in the main office. The printer is refilled, the left over paper is put beside it, and both smile on reading the bottom line of page one of thirty-five. This is the order summary which shows the order value and how much has been paid.

Gary says, “He’ll spew when he sees this. That deal is only on the website as a come on to get people in. The only reason it’s programmed into the computer is he’s expecting a visit from some government guys who want to check the operation for false advertising claims. This person, Matt Dyer, is getting this lot for about twenty cents in the dollar. I wonder why he wants so many, and how can he pay for it?”

Ray responds, “Who cares! Let’s rush this through, get it picked, packed, and delivered before the boss gets back. The delivery address is inside the van’s delivery zone.”

Gary grabs a couple of picking sheets while the printer starts to print the delivery docket, “You know he may sack us for sending this one out without his OK! But let’s do it, anyway!”

Both men have very big smiles on their faces while they rush all about the warehouse picking out the largest order they’ve ever heard of, let alone seen. Even with the huge mark-ups and getting paid for most sales before he pays for the stock the boss is going to have a big nett loss on this sale.

It’s almost four thirty in the afternoon when Gary shuts the van door on the six boxes of DVDs Ray is about to deliver in the next suburb. As Ray drives out of the car park Gary rings the address contact phone number to let them know the delivery is on the way. A woman answers, and she thanks him for the courtesy call.

Delivery Discussion

Ray pulls up at the Barnes’ residence and he opens the van door. He gets out the delivery trolley and places the first three boxes on it. When he looks up at the house he sees the garage door is open and a woman is waving for him to bring the delivery to her at the station-wagon she’s standing beside. He wheels the hand truck along the drive, stops beside the car, picks up his delivery sheet from on top of the boxes, hands it over, and asks, “Missus Barnes?” Dorothy nods yes as she shows him her driver’s licence before signing the sheet. Ray notes the number.

Dorothy opens the back of the wagon, “Will you please place the boxes in here. My nephew ordered the DVDs. He’s stuck in hospital out in the country and we’re going to visit him tomorrow. He’s got a nice TV and DVD player, and now he has shows to watch.”

Ray places the boxes in the station-wagon. “That’s twelve hundred shows he has there, Ma’am. That’s a lot of watching.”

“I know, and he needs it all. The doctors think he should be out in time to have Christmas at home, but they aren’t real sure. Even if he is, it won’t be much before then. What with healing, recovery, and rehab he’ll be in hospital for most of the year.”

“Sorry to hear that, Ma’am. Hope he gets well, whatever it is.” He loads the third box and goes back for the rest. A few minutes later the rest are being put in the car while she tells him why Matt is in hospital.

Work Wars

Arriving back at the warehouse just before five o’clock Ray sees the boss is back. His car in the car park is a good indicator. But the angry look on the boss standing in the main doorway while the courier driver loads up is a real give away. Ray parks the van inside so it’ll be locked up when they close up soon. He gets out and he walks over as the courier van drives away. He places the paperwork in the office tray and he puts the van keys in the key safe, spinning the combination lock when he’s finished. He turns around to find Gary and the boss watching him.

The boss snarls, “What’s the idea of rushing that order through?”

Ray can see Gary behind the boss rolling his eyes so Ray decides to play dumb. “What’s wrong, Boss? You’re always on our backs to rush orders out of here. I’d love a dollar for every time you told us we have to ship today because the client paid today. You often quote some law about it when you do. The order came through so we did the usual thing: picked, packed, and sent it out. Being a local address I took it around so we didn’t have to eat the courier charges.”

The boss’ face goes redder with each point Ray makes. Everything he said is exactly what the boss has told them in the past. He’s just been bitten by his own work practices. There’s no real need to ship the same day as payment, but he likes using it as an excuse to ride the warehouse boys when he yells at them to show he’s important and they aren’t. This time the practice has hurt him. He snarls, “By sending the order so fast I’ve lost eighteen thousand dollars! Are you going to pay me that?”

“How can shipping a twelve thousand dollar order lose money. The prices are set by you and put on the website. You don’t strike me as being so stupid as to set a price that loses you money, Boss.”

The boss opens and closes his mouth. He’s angry as hell, but he can’t take it out on these two because they only did what he’s always telling them to do. Turning around he stomps off, snarling, “You two are too f•©king stupid to realise when the system’s f•©ked up.” Gary smiles at Ray who returns a grin. They high five when the boss is out of sight.

Afternoon Activities

It’s getting near time for the nursing staff shift to finish when Matt realises he hasn’t seen the nurse with the damaged car. He buzzes for Monica, she walks in, and he asks, “What happened to the nurse with the flat pack for a car?”

“Sorry, Matt, I forgot to tell you. She got caught up on the phone to the insurance company about it so she didn’t have time to come see you. What’s the matter?”

“Damn, and I’m starting to run short of time too. Look, can you get hold of her to tell her to rush signing-off. She has to be standing out in front of the hospital as soon as she can. She’s to watch out for a silver grey people mover with a badly dented rear passenger door. The driver will give her a lift. I’ll explain later.” She agrees to pass the message on and goes to call it through.

Matt pulls out the land papers and he studies them. But something doesn’t look right about where the houses sit on the block, and he can’t identify what it is. He puts that thought aside and studies the house floor plans with care.

About twenty minutes later Monica walks in to say, “OK, Adala left with Joe Watson. She wasn’t happy to drive off with a stranger, but she was happy when I said I knew him and he’s a good guy. Her father is still likely to spit chips when Joe drops her off. He’s traditional in many ways, but he does allow her to follow her profession. It’s just taking him time to get used to how things are here.” Matt gives her a puzzled look. “Her family is from Iraq. She’s a Muslim.”

“Oh, I didn’t know that. But Joe won’t be dropping her at home.” He sees Monica is about to explode. He waves at her while he hits Joe’s speed dial and the speaker phone option. Joe answers, and Matt says, “Hey, Dad, got any trouble from your passenger yet?”

“No, but she’s very quiet. What’s up?”

“I didn’t get a chance to brief her on what’s happening.”

“Oh. Just a moment while I hit the button to change this from hands free ear piece to speaker phone mode.” A small pause, “Go ahead.”

“Good afternoon, Adala, this is Matt Dyer. I’ve Monica here with me and she just let me know you think Dad is taking you to your home. But that’s not the case. He’s taking you to his home where he’ll give you the keys to the car my father drove us down here in. It’s a loaner to you until you get yourself organised with a new car. Just fuel it as needed and send me the bills for any services it needs. OK.”

Joe responds, “Monica, please speak up. I’ve a very scared young lady here. I think she believes I’m kidnapping her.”

Monica says, “Hi, Adala, I’m sorry. I thought Matt had organised a lift home for you, not a lift to a loan car. I know you live over near Joe so I thought it was a lift home. It’s all right, no one is going to hurt you. Helping people like this is how Matt is.”

A girl’s voice asks, in a timid tone, “You sure about that, Monica?”

“Yes! Do you want us to keep this line open until you get in the other car? Will that make you feel safer?”

“Please. I know and trust you, but not these others.”

“That’s OK. We’ll keep the line open and we can gossip. You should come and meet Matt, then you’ll understand.” Monica and Adala chat on many things for the next few minutes.

Joe pulls up in his driveway, gets out, goes inside the house, comes out with the car keys in his hand, and gets in the other car. He has a little trouble starting it because it’s sat unused for so long, but he does get it started. He backs out, turns the car around, and backs into his drive. He gets out and he leaves the engine on. Adala watches all this. She also watches while he walks around the car to get back into the driver’s seat of his car. Joe says, “The car is started. It has two thirds of a tank of fuel. The driver’s door is on this side with the keys in it and the motor on. I’m now sitting here with my whole car between me and there. You’re safe to get out and get in the other car to drive away. Is there anything else I can do to make you feel safe about this, Adala? If we’d known there would be problems we’d have sorted this out in a better way beforehand.”

“No. I think you’ve done all you can. Sorry about being like this, but you surprised me. I’m so used to any surprises being bad I’m scared of them. That’s all. Monica, please thank Matt for doing this for me.”

Things go quiet for a moment, then the sounds of a car door closing is followed by a second car door closing, then a car driving away. Joe says, “She’s left the driveway and gone down the street. I’ll head over to the school now.” The phone line goes dead when he hangs up.

Monica looks at Matt, “Sorry, I’ll stop making assumptions about what you’re doing and I’ll settle for asking you, OK?”

“That will work better. If we’d been able to speak to her before she left we’d have been OK. I should’ve told you what I was doing. While I think about it, how did your family get into growing natural fruit, and what’s the difference between natural fruit and organic fruit?”

Fruity Fun

“Well, when Mum and Dad came to the area to start their small fruit farm they’d a minor misunderstanding. Mum was expecting Dad to use the dearer, but safer, pesticides and Dad was budgeting to use the cheap ones. When they went to buy them Mum had some words to say about the dangers of the cheap ones, but they didn’t have the money for the dear ones. So Mum did some research as they had to be careful on the budget because they were starting from scratch instead of taking over an established orchard. They had a few years to live on savings before they’d get any income. They knew this and planned for it, but it was tight.” Monica stops for a drink, then adds, “One thing they’d already planned was to not buy fertiliser. Most orchards plant a lot of trees of the same type as close together as they can stick them. This means nutrients need to be put back, and that means fertilisers. They’d looked into this and they’ve their trees further apart than most orchards, plus they’ve different trees between each one of the same type, both in the row and across the row. Every fifth tree is the same. They also grow legumes between the trees. The result is the soil isn’t overworked and the ground cover puts back all of the nutrients the trees take out. So no fertilisers are needed. Mum figured she’d try some natural pesticides. But she couldn’t find any proven to work.” She stops for another drink.

Monica continues, “Dad was doing similar research, but from a different angle. He looked at why the pesticides were needed. I know that sounds silly, but it turned out to be the correct approach. You think pesticides are to kill pests, end of the story. But it’s not that simple. Pesticides are to kill pests before they can infect another tree. With trees close together you need to be on the pests quick and hard before they can get a big infestation going. Add in most pests are specific to a type of tree, and you can see why Dad’s approach was so good.”

“Yeah. Their trees are intermixed and not close. So transfer between trees of the same type is a lot harder, especially for the single tree species of pest. They don’t have to be so aggressive with the pests. If one tree gets infected they’ve got a lot more time to deal with it than most orchards do. Smart thinking. Even if it wasn’t their original reason.” Matt grins while he talks.

Monica nods yes, “You’ve got it. With that as a base to go from they looked at other ways that are more like preventative treatments. Mum found a lot of natural preventatives, most being water and certain herbs or spices sprayed on the ground and tree trunks. Some are sprayed on the trees and fruit. Strong mint smelling water keeps a lot of insects away. Get a couple of these, some other plants used as hedges, and we don’t need any pesticides. Completely natural products before the craze. There’s no difference between natural and organic. It’s all the same, except the natural fruit is washed, rinsed, and put in a cheap cardboard container with a single colour print job using a vegetable based ink. The organic gets an extra wash, is polished, and packed in a fancier box with a two colour vegetable based ink print job with the special two colour Organic Association logo. The costs of the inspection and the Organic Association membership are charged against the sales too. So they get a twenty percent premium. Neat, huh!”

Matt laughs at the variance. “I’m glad I’m cheap and chose natural. I just wanted nice fresh fruit to eat.” Monica smiles when she leaves to go home as she figures that’s a good place to leave today because her shift was over some time ago and she’s late leaving due to talking with Matt.

Family Fun

It takes Matt several minutes to work out which house plan is which house because all three houses are based on the same basic plan. He’s studying what seems to be the weight bearing walls when Joe and Mary walk in. Joe says, “That was a fun drive, but all’s well that ends well. I’ve got the rest of today off due to a cancelled meeting so I’ll hang around.”

“Good. You can look at these and tell me what’s wrong with this site plan.” He waves at the site plan for the land. Joe walks over while Mary unpacks her bag. He looks at the plan then he gives Matt a wary glance.

“OK, Matt. This is a site plan for the house we rent and some of the neighbours. What’s going on?” Mary comes over to look at it as well.

“I’ll explain in a moment. It doesn’t seem right, what’s wrong?”

“If this plan is correct the open bush area behind the house is part of the block. Looking at this the block takes in all three houses and the real back fence is a further twenty-five metres back.”

“Right, that’s it. From being at Dad’s work I’m used to looking at buildings and building plans, not site maps. Thanks for that. Hmm, I wonder why that area’s been left wild?” He shelves that to discuss later when the architect is on hand. He pulls out the floor plan for the Watson house, “This is the floor plan for the house you rent, right?” Joe examines it and nods yes. “Good. Assuming we get the approval to make any changes we want what do we want to do?” Joe gives him a wary look and he starts talking about a lot of little things that annoyed him about the house. Matt pulls out the other plans to look at them while he says, “Will one of you please write them down.” Joe writes while Matt sees the other houses have the same issues. He looks up, “Dad, have you spoken with your neighbours about those issues? Do they feel the same way you do about the small problems in the design?”

He looks up, “Yes, Alice and I’ve spoken to them. They’ve the same issues. What’s going on here? What are you up to? You didn’t just have these drop off a passing food trolley while it trundled by!”

Matt smiles. The comment reminds him about the fruit platter so he reaches over, lifts the lid off, and gets a slice of rock melon to eat. Mary smiles and helps herself, so does Joe. They both know he’s organising the fruit platters but they don’t know service has already started.

He looks at Joe, “I believe you’ve a new landlord. One who hates people who pay their rents late. So be careful to pay on time. I also hear they want to make improvements to the property. Thus these papers.”

Joe gives him a searching look while Mary looks upset because she doesn’t like the idea of new landlords. When they first moved down to the city they had another house and had a new landlord buy the place after they’d been there a few months. He gave them notice to vacate at the end of the original six month lease, so she’s worried it’ll happen again. She says, “Damn, I suppose he’ll want to move in too, like the last one did, and we’ll have to move.”

Seeing Matt doesn’t react to that Joe puts things together to say, “I think the new landlord will want to move in too. But I don’t think he’ll be putting us out, will you, Matt?” Mary looks up at the last comment.

“Not if we can do a nice extension to suit us. We might as well fix any other issues at the same time. If we do move back to Sydney this’ll still be a good investment property with a good income.”

Joe laughs while he pulls up a chair and they start studying the floor plans in detail. Even discussing what can be done with the larger yards. Mary moves her homework to the spare bed. She calls over to asks questions when she has them, but she handles most things herself.

They’re still discussing house ideas when Betty arrives with a young woman. She introduces her, “Matt, this is Nadia, a good house designer and builder. She creates them and her brother puts them up.” She turns to Nadia, “This is Matthew Dyer. Ignore his face and listen to his voice. He has wisdom, experience, and will win negotiations with the devil; if they happen. I watched him skin and fillet Harry K earlier. The best job I’ve seen. He made it look like he was doing Harry a favour while he cut the price by one fifth.” Nadia’s eyes go very wide. “He’s fair, and will give good pay for good work.” Nadia smiles at the reassurance.

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