Monday, 20 October 2014

I'm retarded white trash...apparently

Today I was called a f*cking retard, told I looked like white trash and that from my appearance there was no way I could afford insurance. All of this over a car. A car!

Don't get me wrong.  I love nice things. I'm a Taurus. BC (before children) I didn't flinch at spending R3000 on a pair of jeans. In fact, just last night I was looking at a handbag I had bought a few years back. It cost R12k.  Yes, and it made sense then.  Last night I was thinking HTF did I ever justify that purchase. Priorities change. Kids change things. 

I drive the car I do because I could afford it at the time, it gets me from A to B and there's space for all my party stuff.  I no longer frequent Diesel and G Star because the reality is I don't have the disposable income I used to.  And I'm okay with it.  You're gonna like me because of me. Not because of where I shop or what I wear.

So back to me being called a 'retarded white trash uninsured hick' this morning.  I was running late for a meeting. I wasn't concentrating.  My mind was on 101 things. And I scraped the car next to me. The scratch was small and when the car guards came over to look they said it could probably be polished out.

I immediately left my details with the security and asked if he could pass it onto the driver if I wasn't back. I whatsapped friends telling them what had happened and joked that it was more than likely some highly strung woman's car. If only I had known just how highly strung.

When I got back to my car the other one was still there.  I made sure the security guard still had my details and reminded him to please pass them on. And I started reversing. Along came a woman pushing a pram and the guard asked me to stop.  He then told her what had happened.  And it just went downhill.

She looked at the scratch and let out a blood curdling scream.  I thought she was joking. She wasn't. 

The bit that follows is the dialogue between the two of us:
Her: you scratched my fucking car and you were just going to drive away! How dare you you bitch!

Me: I wasn't driving away. I left my details with this gentleman to give to you in case I missed you leaving

Her: my fuck! My fucking car (blood curdling scream). Are you fucking stupid? And I don't suppose you've got insurance have you?

Me: I am so so sorry. I didn't do this on purpose. Really I am so sorry (pathetic I know but that's me)

Her: for fuck's sake I don't need this shit now. Now I have to go to the fucking police station and report this because you can't fucking drive!
And I suppose your piece of shit car is absolutely fine?

Me: no it's not fine. It's scratched too

Her: oh for fuck's sake! Now you expect me to feel sorry for you!

At this point the car guards and the guys who wash the cars had all kinda moved away from her and were standing behind me. And they were all whispering "ignore her. Don't let her upset you.  She's behaving so badly!"

She then got into her car and started dialling her husband.  "You need to talk him and tell him you did this! I'm not having him think this was my fault!"

Her: (on the phone) I need you to speak to this fucking retard who just crashed into my car!  The fucking bitch can't drive and by the looks of her there's no way she's insured!"

She hands the phone over to me and I apologise to her husband and explain what happened and again say I'm sorry. And he says it's ok. She's just really stressed and tired. They haven't had water at home for a few days and someone recently crashed into her car. And I say again how sorry I am and that in really didn't mean for it to happen and that she's just so upset and angry. At this point she yells at me that she doesn't need to be psychoanalized by a fucking idiot.

By now I was a snotball of a mess.  I was doing the ugly cry while still trying to remain composed.  The car wash man kept looking at me and rolling his eyes in her direction.

I know I was in the wrong. I know I ruined her day and added to her stress. I know she doesn't need this right now.  I get it. But it's a car! Or am I wrong? Surely a civil conversation would have been more productive? Or am I, because I'm in the wrong, underplaying it?

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

For teeth's sake!

Let me start off by saying this is not a sponsored post. I was not paid in cash or fillings for the mentions. In fact it cost me money, but was so worth it.

I have awful teeth. I think I've said that before. At one stage (pre smoking) they looked ok, but they have never been strong, calcium rich gnashers. In fact, in my teens my dentist told me my teeth wouldn't survive a pregnancy. They would either all fall out or would crumble and disintegrate and have to be pulled out.

Thank G-d that never happened!

Emma and Ben are lucky. They have gorgeous healthy little pearlers that actually go 'ting' when they grin. And I intend to keep it that way with regular visits to the dentist.

Emma has been to Candice Schwartz four times already. On Monday it was Ben's first visit and he was a little superstar. I thought she would let him sit in the chair, play with all the different gadgets and get used to the strange environment. But he wanted his teeth polished and cleaned and he was ever so happy opening his mouth as wide as it would go.

She picked up that Emma has four wobbly teeth and that her back teeth (molars) would probably be out by her next visit. She would then put a protective sealant on them. She also picked up (by looking at her teeth) that Emma loves sweets, which is already affecting the condition and strength of her teeth. To help put calcium back in she gave us 'tooth mousse', a fairly expensive treatment which should last six months and, in the long run, save a small fortune. 

Candice also commented on Emma's breath, which we've put down to not brushing properly, when in fact it's thrush. She gave us a chewable probiotic that Emma needs to have three times a day and as well as a lozenge.

She showed Emma and Ben how to floss and recommended that we, the parents, brush at night (the most important one) and in the morning they do it themselves with a little bit of assistance from us. 

This isn't a particularly well written post, nor is it funny or poignant or deep but it's useful. Dentistry has come a long way since pliers and pulling and the sooner you get your kiddies to love their teeth, the better.

Candice can be found at Big Red Tooth on William Nicol, opposite Design Quarter. She is great with kiddies. And adults too. 

The contact number, should you want to make an appointment, is 087 351 8333

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

PR 101 for dummies. And for PR people

I've decided to do this for some PR people. For free. Today, yes, today alone I had three very close encounters of the annoying kind with PR people. 

And in case you think I don't like PR people or respect your profession, you'd be very much mistaken. Some of my dearest friends are PR practitioners, that I've known forever.

And I did it for more than 20 years. 
Occasionally I think about going back into the real world and getting a real job but the idea of doing PR scares me. 
There's a good chance I'm out of touch with the decision makers in the media industry as well as the relevant writers, producers, editors, journalists etc and to be honest, I think I've lost 'the knack' needed to be a good PR person. 

So this isn't a dig. It's more of a public service and to make sure it doesn't reek of my grumpiness I've decided I'm going to ask a few of my friends in the industry for a tip or two. However in the meantime, here are a few of my do's and don'ts when it comes to PR and media, or in my case, bloggers. 

1. Do know your blogger - 
please don't send me releases on breast feeding pumps, newborn nappies, baby formula or anything else to do with babies. If you read my blog or my tweets you'd realise both of my children aren't breast feeding, nor are they in newborn nappies. 
Today a few of my friends received a press release on weight loss. None of them have mentioned wanting to or needing to lose a few inches. But dear PR company, you've just lost yourself a blogger or two 

2. Don't let me be a number -
Send me a personalized mail, starting with 'Hi Melinda'. Mention my children, ask how I am. If you really want to impress me add how much you loved reading my most recent blog post. Even if it's bullsh@t I'll like you a whole lot more

3. Do make me feel special -
You want me to review a product? Send me the product to try out for a week or two. Let me decide if I like it or not. Let me know that I'm one of a selected few. Again even if it's crap, it'll make me like you more. If it's something for my kids mention them by name. Say something like:
"Hi Melinda 
We think Ben and Emma are going to love this little gadget. It's great for girls for xxxx reasons and little boys will love xxxx features"
Let me know you 'know' me. Even just a little. 
I used to do PR for concerts and shows. And every now and then, if I had spare tickets, I'd offer them to a journalist. Not for a review but to stay thank you. If there was a meet and greet opportunity I'd offer it to someone who I knew had children who loved the group, character or singer. In PR it's the little things that count ****

4. Don't harass me -
Your email often ends with 'please contact us should you need more information or images'. It doesn't read 'please note I'll continue to phone and mail you until you write something about this product that has absolutely nothing to do with you'. If I want to write about it I will. It really is a case of don't call me, I'll call you

5. Don't give me FOMO - 
The parallel universe of social media is small. Don't have an event with a hashtag and tweets by the dozen and three days later send me a press release with images to write about an event/product/launch I wasn't invited to. Why would I?

6. Don't only contact me when you need something - 
A while back an influential tweeter mentioned that his pet was ill. An astute and on the ball PR company saw this and immediately sent him and his pet a 'get well soon' gift. He tweeted and blogged about it because he appreciated it. I'm not saying you need to 'buy me but send me a mail every now and then to say 'hi'. If I tweet or write a blog post about my kid's upcoming birthday, send them a card.
*** I used to do PR for concerts and shows. And every now and then, if I had spare tickets, I'd offer them to a journalist. Not for a review but to stay thank you. If there was a meet and greet opportunity I'd offer it to someone who I knew had children who loved the group, character or singer. In PR it's the little things that count ****

7. Do get to know me - 
Oops. Might have mentioned that before but PR is all about relationships. Build and manage them. Maintain and nurture them. That way you won't need to 'suggest' I use your press release. And if you're sending me information on something that's relevant to me and my readers, because you know me, you won't need to bug me

8. Don't spray and pray - 
Even when I did PR a million years ago we snubbed those PR peeps who sprayed and prayed. Sending out a generic mail to 100 journalists and hoping that five write about it didn't work then and definitely doesn't work now

9. Do let me keep my credibility while keeping yours - 
Credibility for a PR person is non negotiable. So is credibility for a blogger, as far as I'm concerned. 
In my entire career as a publicist I never worked on an account or with a product I didn't believe in. I once left an interview half way through when I found out it was for a casino. Not rudely let me add, because another key rule in PR is to not burn your bridges. I can't, with conviction, 'sell' something I don't believe in. I also won't write about something I can't personally recommend. 
'Crying wolf' in PR, where every event is brilliant and every product a must-have, slowly erodes your credibility and there'll come a time no one will believe a word you say. I once wrote a mail to a journalist saying something along the lines of "I'd love for you to review xxx show but I know you'll hate it. Would you mind extending the invite to xxx because I know he/she enjoys xxx".
Possibly a huge no no to some but because I knew both journalists and had spent years building a relationship with them I could send such a mail, keeping my credibility and getting the coverage I needed 

10. Don't underestimate my value -
Like any media platform, my blog has value. It must have if you're targeting me with umpteen releases a day. You wouldn't send a print ad to a magazine and 'suggest' they run it for free. Nor would you ask a radio station to run a commercial without paying for it. Surely you don't work for free? You bill for your time, by the hour. We know time is money. It takes time to write a review, at least a decent one, so why do you expect me to do it for free? 

You'll pay an influencer a (ludicrous) fee to tweet about your product in 140 characters but I must write a 500 word review...because you asked me to in a generic email. I don't think so.

I've probably left out a few tips that'll make your life a little easier but I'm hoping these basic principles will help. And yes, I did it for free.

The one about the email that really f@cked me off

Granted I'm grumpy. We're in the process of seeing which anti depressant is causing awful nightmares and skin irritations so it's a bit of trial, some error, and a lot of meltdowns.

Granted that when I'm feeling this way I should avoid people. Which I do. Quite well. But I make the mistake of forgetting there are people inside my PC that send email after stupid email. And today one arrived at the wrong time.

The email started off with 'hi there' which means I'm one of a hundred bloggers who received it. It then continued with 'please find a press release for our new'd be great if you could write about it for's something loads of moms would like to know about'

I've pointed out my first issue with this mail. It's generic. I've been in PR for 20 years and I never sent a 'hi there' mail. Never. 

Secondly you want me to review a product, an expensive product, based on your release? I don't think so. Give me the product to try out. Let my kids play with it for a week or a month. Let me see if it does what your release claims it does. I want to see if after two weeks they're bored of it, like the majority of their other gadgets or if a game of hide 'n seek or 'monster monster' will achieve the same results. 

Let me write a review based on my and my children's experience, on what I think. Not what you'd like me to think. 
Surely I retain my credibility this way, not cutting and pasting a release sent to your 'hi there / mommy bloggers' database. 

A storm in a teacup? Possibly. But I'm not going to recommend a product that I wouldn't buy myself. Especially not an expensive one. And if you really want to feel the wrath of a possibly menopausalnotmedicatedenoughpsychomomfromhell you will send two to three follow up mails asking for the link to the post I was told to write. And then some more asking me when I'll be writing the post. 

Like the breast feeding PR person. Who constantly sends me information on the how to's and why I should breast feed. Have you ever read my blog? Have you noticed my kiddies are adopted? Have you ever read a post about me trying to breast feed them? 

Or the company that sent me food stuff for Emma. On receiving the items I mentioned to the PR person that Emma's particularly fussy with food and I can't guarantee she'll like xxx. "Don't worry" aforementioned PR says, "be honest!"

Well I was. Emma hated it, as I knew she would, and I said so. But I sent a whole lot of the goodies to the school and asked the teachers to get other childrens' responses. Which I thought was fair. Some loved it. Some like it. And a few really didn't enjoy it. Which I wrote in my review. Only to get a mail back from the "be honest" PR person saying that they would like me to remove the post and if, in future I was lucky enough to receive other products from them, they'd like to see my review before it's published. They went on to say that they had me on a short list to be their brand ambassador but following this review I was no longer in the running. 

I don't know, a different day, a different time, a different AD would have gotten a different response.  Maybe even a review. 

Nah. I doubt it.