Thursday, 11 December 2008
Ant and Flea
Ah, the joys of chip and pin. Or flea and code confidentiel, as the French like to call it. As if to add insult to injury at this stressful time of year, not only are the shops full to bursting (surely a good sign in a recession?), but heavy electronic traffic means that the card machines take longer to process a transaction, thus leading to so much tsk-ing from customers that it sounds like a small delegation of Kalahari tribesmen. I used to work for A Large French National Airline, some years ago, and one year the annual sales conference was entirely given over to the advent of "le ticketless" - or, as London residents know it, the Oyster Card. An enthusiastic and almost incomprehensible speech in rough franglais was given by a fervent IT nerd flown over from Charles de Gaulle airport, during the course of which it transpired that they hadn't bothered to look up what the English words for "chip and pin" and "electronic chip reader" were. Imagine a room full of French and English salespeople, half of whom can't understand what their compatriot is saying, because his English is appalling but, well, English, and half of whom can't understand what the French guy is saying because his vocabulary is deeply odd. After telling us how an ant would be installed at every checkin desk, he went on to explain that you would simply have a flea in your wallet. The flea would be updated by the sales staff, and then in order to board the plane you would pass another ant. You would show the ant your wallet (at which point all the English sales staff nudged each other and muttered "Let the ant see the wallet, mate"). Then in a frenzy of sweaty specialist excitement (his) and confused silence (ours) he sat down. We were left none the wiser except that you had something in your wallet that you showed to something else. At which point another Big Boy from Paris stood up and said, and here I transcribe as it was spoken, "Euh, many thank to my esteem collègue. His words 'ave given us many food for thought. Let us all give him the clap."