Thursday, November 01, 2007

Recession Proofing

(not Charlton related)

I think I've finally completed my search for the ultimate 'recession-proof' vocation. This is an ongoing research project for me, the catalyst for which was a conversation with a minicab driver in London last week.

"Busy mate?" I asked, as one is obliged to by the M.B.P. (Minicab Behaviour Protocol), "No very quiet indeed. The economy's in recession. We're always the first to feel it."

It was difficult not to feel sorry for the guy, though I put my sympathy on hold for few seconds whilst I made a mental note to 'sell equities, buy bonds'. Here he was trying to make ends meet by driving people around North London, and now he's feeling the pinch because some idiots in California decided to lend to people with NINJAs (No Income, No Job, No Assets). I did not dare tell him I lived in the States.

Anyhow, it got me thinking that we all needed a 'Plan B' in case things really take a turn for the worst, and now I've found (of one's home). No I'd never heard of this industry either, but from what I can tell, it's completely recession-proof, can't be outsourced to Bangalore, and most importantly, it's incredibly lucrative.

But before you think that anyone can do it, let me warn you, they can't. When Howard showed up at our door for his reconnaissance appointment, he declared in his Noo Yoik tones that he wasn't there to scare us, but just to be realistic. And then as if out of nowhere, he said, "I bet you've never seen that nail sticking out of the skirting board have you?" Christ, how did that get there? He must have put it there! But he hadn't, there really was a nail half-embedded in our skirting board, an ideal lunchtime snack for any hungry toddler. What a pro.

Once I've concluded someone is at the very top of their profession, my inquisitive mind begins thinking of multiple questions to fire at them, not least because I had decided in that very moment that I too would become a baby-proofer one day. I rattled off a series of questions, really testing his knowledge of the relative danger and probability of injury from various household items.

For example, did you know that magazines with staples are potentially dangerous (eg. The Economist, Newsweek) but magazines without staples are ok (eg. Loaded, FHM)? This might explain why children with thick parents tend to have fewer staple-related accidents. As someone who devours The Economist with a near religious-like fervour, I'm buggered if I'm giving it up on risk grounds. If he pricks his finger on the staples, it's his own stupid fault.

As the tour of the apartment went on, my questions veered increasingly towards the surreal. I even managed to begin a discussion of the Black Swans of the baby-proofing world. "How do we protect him from the unknown unknowns?" I asked Howard, who was clearly already regretting this assignment, "How do we protect ourselves against the unknown unknowns, let alone our children?", he replied with an air of irritation.

Good answer I thought, although now we were tiptoeing dangerously into the realm of existentialism. "So we shouldn't worry about that lightbulb on the ceiling falling on his head then?", I enquired, "Unless you worry about it falling on your own head, then no," he replied curtly, scribbling a note in his report that I was potentially a madman.

But Howard had not yet delivered the coup d'Etat (surely 'coup de gras'? - Ed.), because the following morning I received the estimate for the work which we needed to be done. It was $800. Whenever I receive a shock request for payment like that, I tend to create 'new currencies' which help me to rationalise the enormity of what I'm about to agree to. In this instance, Howard was asking for '808 ITunes songs', or '400 Subway rides'.

But of course, you have no choice at least not once you've allowed the baby-proofers into your home, and therein lies the recession-proof aspect. Based upon the new information at my disposal (thanks to Howard), it's simply not possible to maintain any semblance of a caring parent, and not agree to it.

How for example, could I explain to the wife that whilst I'm happy to pay for the locks on the kitchen cupboards, $30 is a bit steep to prevent our bookshelves toppling over? If you've ever been hit by John Grisham's explosive new thriller from a great height, I think you'd pay for it too.


At 2:44 PM, Anonymous Frankie Valley said...

I bet this is one of THOSE posts eh NYA? Y'know - the ones you were talking about on Saturday? Posts which you put a whole lot of blood sweat and tears into, and which you therefore want us all to comment on. I'm right aren't I? Well this is me just setting the ball rolling - comment number one! Lets hope everybody else joins in eh?

I suppose I better go and read it now... ;-)

At 2:48 PM, Anonymous newyorkaddick said...

You got it Frankie. There, that's 2.

At 3:23 PM, Blogger charlton north-downs said...

NY Is that your boy walking at 8
months! bloody hell that's early. When they really go for it just be prepared for chronic back pain.
Was Frankie secretly recording, as he seems to remember every piece of conversation from Saturday.

At 3:32 PM, Anonymous newyorkaddick said...

No, it's just some random photo from the internet. I do have plentiful supplies of ibuprofen in anticipation though.

At 4:31 PM, Anonymous marco se7 said...

Was good to put a face to your name on Saturday, along with checking on your table manners of course.
$800 does seem a little steep, especially since the improvements are only really improvements while your child is a toddler. Beyond that thet revert to being a real pain in the bum.
Interesting to see your alternative currency idea. I've always done that. As a child my mum converted everything into Mars bars which I stuck to until drinking age when it became pints of beer!

At 4:38 PM, Blogger Blackheath Addicted said...

Come now, NYA. There has to be a way of minimising the cost. As Howard seems to dabble with the philosophical it follows that he is up for a scam.

Ask him to do the necessary to your apartment and to provide a report and certificate, together with some business cards. Then you go to various parent groups and play the guilt card that seems to be working on you, hand out the cards, and get a $200 discount on your bill for each referral.

At 10:12 AM, Blogger mikewoodhouse said...

#7, I think.

My mate, a bond-trader in those days long-since "retired" back to Scouse-land, used to reckon the queue for taxis outside Liverpool Street Station was a good leading indicator.

I suspect the ranks at Canary Wharf near to Morgan Stanley might be a better index now.

At 12:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You child is one of 5 billion - i dont understand parents these days. If he pierces his hand on the nail, he learns a lesson. I bet you are one of those dads that sanitises his dummy everytime it touches the ground?

At 5:23 PM, Anonymous Tillers said...

How about converting it into an English currency. $800 is about £386 which sounds like a good deal to save your son from harm.

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