Simon Carr: The Kitchen Capitalist

The story so far: the author has sold his house to finance a manufacturing project in the hope of making a small fortune to finance his old age...
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They sail the ocean blue. One hundred and twenty nine tightly-packed cartons are on the way. My ship is coming in. What can stop us now? Pirates? Typhoons? God? He wouldn't dare. He can only take so much suffering. He exhausted himself on Job.

All sorts of unexpected psychological effects are rippling around. I've tried the Paypal credit card set-up and it works. It's taken my money. I can probably work how to get it back, if I apply myself. But the site works, the product works. The moment of truth is approaching, and frankly it is terrifying. I give very little indication of that, even to myself. But I can deduce how frightened I am by certain behaviours. I am now persuading myself that I have no actual desire to be rich. I'm very convincing on this. For instance, I am perfectly happy in my nice little house; even if manorial money were to descend on me I wouldn't buy a manor any more. Money would make no difference, in fact it might be fatal. The only survival is working until one is 70.

But that's not the only depressing thing. It is now apparent how important the million daily details are. The digit-taking is becoming real. Not to mention the number of digits that everything involves. Taking an order off the tape involves all sorts of names and nouns and peculiar spellings. I can't get an economic migrant to take these details. How would Lenka, clever as she is, know how to render Snalbuns or Newkhassle? You have to be English, and even that's not enough. The English don't have the maths.

Because in every order there are 30 digits, including house numbers and the postcode. Any one of these numbers in the wrong place and everything has to be re-done. And then there's the filling out of the labels and taking them to the post office! Who's going to do that? Me? I suppose it's me. Aren't I too old to be taking sacks to the post office?

So, what do I do of a day? Come home after work and sit up late, digit-taking. Key numbers into a terminal. Get error messages. Ring customers back to see whether it's their mistake or mine. Have them get shirty because it's an urgent order and the birthday is on Wednesday, and me adopting an insolent tone to say, "It's a matter of complete indifference to me whether you buy this item or not", and them saying, "I don't like your attitude!" and me saying, "Hang on a second..." and then coming up with a real zinger that makes them so angry they hang up defeated and crushed by my superior violence and I swagger round the room with my shirt over my head making obscene pelvic gestures.

Is that what they teach in mail-order school? Or is it just another avoidance strategy because the possibility of failure is right there, in front of my face?

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