Tea Again

I was mentioning yesterday my inability to manage the simple task of making a cup of tea without completely fouling things up. Day 2 of the course continued the tea mishap theme in a quite impressive style.

I’ve been attending one of these “soft skills” courses – one which provides education about what to do when talking to customers. In summary, that means lots of standing up and “role-play situations” without much substance to the course. What I hadn’t bargained for when I signed up was the notion that we would be practicing shaking hands.

F***ing practicing shaking hands!

Anyway, the appraisal as to our own handshaking technique was to walk around the room, shaking people’s hands and the other person would give us a score from zero to five. Additional comments were also encouraged.

(A quick aside here: note that I am not making this up – this is actually how the course was planned and there is 10 minutes in the schedule specifically for this exercise.)

Someone approached me and we dutifully did as instructed. My feedback to him was that it was good handshake, but he did seem to “attack” me slightly by swinging his arm in from a great height. To demonstrate the point, I thrust my hand into his. Unfortunately, he was quite a slight bloke and the weight of my arm sort of resonated through his body and over to his left hand.

That would have been OK if his left hand hadn’t contained a cup of tea, but it did and it wasn’t. Most of the tea ended up across his shirt, which I guess wouldn’t have been such a great way to meet a customer for the first time.

Perhaps there was merit in that exercise after all…

Back to School

As schools across the country return back after their impossibly-long break, I’ve been back to school today too on a work-related course.

The course title is the "Client-facing Workshop": basically education for how people like myself should be when talking to customers – what to say, what not to say etc. We’re at the rather swanky New Place education centre, which features such delights as edible food and free tea/coffee. That’s a significant change from the facilities at my usual haunt of Hursley. 

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Talking of tea, you would think that making a cup of tea would be a reasonably simple task for a person like myself who wrestles on a daily basis with some of the world’s most complex software and hardware systems, but on today’s showing apparently not. Basic setup: empty cardboard cup, one Twinings teabag, one electronic hot water dispenser, one milk urn. Sufficiently-well briefed monkeys could form a suitable workflow for the end result without too many problems. That it, unless you add me into the equation.

The first cup was going well: water had been dispensed, teabag had been successfully swilled around and disposed-of and I was adding milk. Unfortunately, someone tried to duck underneath me while pouring the milk and I instinctively lifted my arm out of the way. This meant that the milk was now flowing towards the top edge of the cup, rather than the bottom. Add to this weight of a metal spoon still in the cup and the whole (full) cup toppled over, with tea everywhere. Bugger.

After one of the very helpful and polite catering staff had helped me clean up the mess, I had a second go. Another teabag went in the cup and I put the cup under the water dispenser. Press once for hot water and wait for it to fill… just about done… and push to shut off.. push to shut off.. PUSH TO SHUT OFF!!… OFF!!! Nope: too late.

By now I had an overflowing cup of hot water that was impossible to pick up and the very nice lady (the one who didn’t mock me for creating a mess where dozens of others had succeeded just moments earlier) returned from wringing out her cloth to find me pitifully trying to spoon hot water from a cup into the overflow tray of the vending machine.