I sat at the unfamiliar dark wooden table in my usual spot at The Local and gazed around me. It stood out among the other assembled faux white marble tables like the gap in a six-year-old’s front teeth. Was Carlos the Jackal setting me up for something? A distinct marker singling me out for some kind of modern-day assassin? Was I about to be Punk’d?
As Intel’s Andy Grove once said: Only the paranoid survive. They should have listened to him. I did.
Cynical Cynthia saw my disconcerted look and swiftly moved to squash the conspiracy theorist in me. “They’re repairing one of the outside tables,” she whispered behind her hand. “So you’ve got one of the inside tables.”
“Oh … okay,” I nodded. “And don’t explain it too loudly … otherwise everyone will want one.” I gestured with my head towards Clive the Secure and Con the Non-Conman huddled at their regular corner table. Cynical Cynth got the joke, beamed her smile (no gaps there, G, only gleaming pearly whites) and swept up the empty brown bottle in front of me as she swivelled to get me a refill.
I was just about to page through the magazine in front of me when a familiar sound that I hadn’t heard in weeks pricked my ears. Click-clack, clickety-clack. Only one man, and only one set of genuine Cuban heels, made that sound on the tired tiles surrounding The Local. Ray-Ban Ray was entering the room … well … the smoking area, anyway.
The click-clack stuttered to a halt and I turned to greet him. With his new man-bag draped diagonally across his chest to one hip and his laptop bag on the other, he looked like he’d just ridden in on the Pony Express. (I swear it’s the cowboy boots that get me going off on this tangent!). The red checked flannel long-sleeved shirt and purposely faded jeans didn’t help either. I stifled my laugh and it caught in my throat. A guttural “Gghhhallo!”.
“And hello to you too,” Ray-Ban frowned at me as he unloaded his bags on to an adjoining chair. He hefted out the chair opposite me and had just pertly parked what he calls his “derriere” when Cynical Cynth returned with my refill and a double of Ray-Ban’s now preferred South African whisky. Ice clinked as he raised his glass to her. “Cynth,” he boomed. “I can’t tell you how great it is to get some speedy, decent service after a long, long day.” He gulped and looked past her to see if his words had resonated with anyone else. But not even Carlos the Jackal was within earshot.
“I brought you your Channelwise,” I interrupted, pushing the magazine across the table to him. Technically, Ray-Ban is not a reseller, but because he allows me to abuse him in this column on a fairly regular basis, I give him a copy. Two copies if a relative wants to revel in his exploitation.
“And about time, too,” he barked at me as he immediately opened it and scanned for his moniker.
“I’ve had it in the car for three weeks,” I bit back. “You’re the one that’s been scarce.
“And by the way,” I continued, “you don’t have to wait for me to hand-deliver a copy. You can now download the electronic version at www.channelwise.co.za.”
“Whaddaya mean?” he glimpsed up from the pages.
“We’ve now officially launched the Channelwise website,” I explained to him. “So, in addition to a regular, channel-centric newsletter, you can also now read your favourite magazine online. It’s on the site as an e-zine; or you can subscribe and get the e-zine sent to you for free.”
He ruffled the pages of the magazine at me. “But isn’t that cutting off your nose … ?“ he quizzed.
“Not at all,” I leaned on the table. “It’s all about giving readers – and advertisers – the choice of any format they prefer. Print or electronic … on the reception coffee table or on a PC, tablet, smartphone … even on social media. Regular readers don’t have to wait for the postal services to hopefully deliver their magazine; and advertisers pay for one advert and – once they supply the relevant format – their ad gets displayed across the whole platform – the print magazine, the e-zine, the web site and the email newsletter. We write all the time about how the channel is constantly looking to add value for their customers, this is our version of value-add. Giving all our customers more bang for their buck. More reliability, more consistency.”
Ray-Ban nodded thoughtfully. “So I’d only pay for an ad once and be spread across all the different versions?”
I screwed up my eyes at him. “Yesss … but what would you be advertising?”
“My professional services,” he puffed up his chest.
I hesitated, wagging a finger at him. “Don’t tell me that’s what you’ve been up to all these evenings …” I clapped a hand over my eyes. “Arrgh! Now I can’t get that vision out of my head!”
“Don’t be stupid,” Ray-Ban admonished me. “My professional services as an optometrist, you fool, and Ray-Ban isn’t the only brand in the shop either.”
I shrugged possible agreement at Ray-Ban as Carlos the Jackal approached our table. He looked at the bag-laden chair and pulled another over from an adjacent table. He knew not to mess with another man’s man-bag. He languidly stretched as only Mediterranean men can and let out a sigh. “What a day,” as he straightened. “I’ve got ‘specials’ flying out the door as quick as I can make them. It’s the economy, I tell you, everyone wants to get more bang for their buck.”
Ray-Ban and I nodded at each other, smiling. “Funny … we were just talking about that …” I said.
“Mind you,” I continued as distinctive Greek bouzoukis blared from the outside speakers, “we could all get a bit more bang for our buck if you gave us some plates …”
“Don’t you dare smash my plates!” The Jackal bellowed, finger waving as he scrambled back inside to hit the “skip” button on a doomed playlist.
The onslaught of Greek jokes throughout the evening kept us well lubricated as Carlos the Jackal looked to make amends with a few free rounds. Thankfully, none of them were ouzo.