May 052007

By the time this post makes it to the internet, several days will have passed after these events actually happened, but I just can’t help convert them to text in the ether. For posterity, naturally. No names mentioned in order to protect the innocent. Me!

I run the finance operation for a major leisure equipment manufacturer. Clearly, the internet being what it is, I’m not likely to divulge just who that is, but suffice to say it’s a national corporate entity with a presence in the United States. This trip has been to present the corporate face to the franchise dealership, assist in refining sales skills, launch new marketing initiatives and launch the finance arm, of which I’m the face. All very efficiently arranged and concisely executed, one might think.

Well, the flight to Melbourne started off badly when the four of us discovered that both in front and in back of the row we occupied, were two families with multiple screaming toddlers. Two hours and twenty minutes of noisy, annoying pestilence. I used to enjoy flying on the big metal birds, but these days, it’s just another trip on a bigger, just as crowded, commuter bus in the sky. No peace, no quiet, no opportunity to do a little reading or – heaven forbid – work. Just two hours twenty minutes of elbows and arseholes. Flying business class isn’t worth the money, nor the snacks. Surely the nations premier domestic airline can provide a partitioned creche area of two rows in the very back of the plane?

We arrive at Melbourne, deplane, collect bags and head off to the Hertz agency to collect a pre-booked Ford Territory. Car isn’t ready. We wait…..and we wait, and…..wait some more. Just as well we’re not planning on doing anything else that day besides driving to Shepperton and booking into our accommodation. One hour later than we’d originally planned, we arrive in Shepperton. The motel is, as motels go, quite acceptable. We stay two nights with the dealer conference in between. All goes well. We leave this (Wednesday) morning and head off to drive through to Newcastle where the next dealer conference – Thursday – is being held. Please…..don’t ask me why the four of us are driving 10.5 hours over 800 klicks when we could have easily driven 140 klicks back to Melbourne and jumped a flight to Newcastle, arriving a hell of a lot less stressed than we all are right now. Stressed you ask? okay you drove a long way, but the roads are excellent and it’s an easy drive? Here’s why.

Drive we did. Left Shepperton at 0800 and arrived in Kearsley, in the Hunter Valley, just after 1830. Our accommodation? The 85 year old Kearsley pub. Renovated, to be sure, but as with all country pubs, single bed rooms, and shared shower and toilet facilities. The MD was not impressed, which is putting his reaction mildly. Major fuckup would be a more apt description. The really funny part being that the bookings were made by the MD’s best mate, who also doubles as National Franchisee Manager. Nepotism, I hear you ask? Stupidity more the point. It seems the bookings were made on the basis of the franchisee manager having spent a night in this hotel at Kearsley some years ago when he and his wife were still shackled in matrimony. Now, just to clarify, he may be the MD’s best mate, but he’s also not a stupid human being, so with the essence of the trip being to portray a corporate face, why in hell would he book us and some twenty-odd dealers & wives into single bed-shared facility accommodation? The answer is fairly simple when you think about it. Romanticism. The Kearsley pub just happened to be one of the last places he & his missus shared bodily fluids, although how they managed that on a single bed in a tiny cell-like country pub room simply escapes me.

Anyway, there was an upside. After the MD spat his dummy and dragged out the laptop to google for alternative accommodation we wound up being bunked at the Hermitage Lodge, Pokolbin. At $185/night, I could certainly get used to the kingsized bed, studio apartment with all the best hot & cold running mod cons (except for internet because the builder screwed up, apparently, but soon to be rectified with high broadband wireless access). Four star rated, pending five, with some of the best food and wine I’ve been fortunate to have experienced. Sadly, doubtless due to cost, the following evening’s bunk was at a regular but comfortable comfortable motel in Cessnock, but the experience at the upper end of the Hunter Valley high life was very welcome.

Following that brief but exciting taste of how the ’other half’ pamper themselves, it was conference day Thursday, then thankfully…..even the MD admitted he’d had a gutful of dealers and let’s go taste some wine….. we briefly sampled a couple, caught a flight and came home. Sounds like it ended up okay, after a rough-edged beginning and major upset in the middle, doesn’t it? Well……the flight home. More on that later. I’m still seething and have an equally seething letter to write to a certain CEO first.

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