Thursday, January 05, 2012

You can't hide the knives

We have two very nice Japanese knives, one big one for doing stuff with, and one paring knife for doing stuff with, when the stuff is small enough that the big knife becomes unwieldy.

Unfortunately, over time the edges of the knives dull. I purchased a whetstone when we bought the larger of the knives, and tried to teach myself to use it via Youtube videos. These may well be a good teaching resource, but it's hard to test, because if you start off with two blunt knives and sharpen one, you may get some comparative improvement without ever sharpening the knife properly. Or you could sharpen both knives (badly) and still not know.

What is a good way to test whether a knife is sharp? Without chopping your fingers off, that is?

I've a friend who is a chef, but she's on the other side of the Pacific, and I think airlines and Customs frown on people bringing knives in luggage, so that's no help.
I decided what I'd do is get one knife professionally sharpened, and then cut up two reasonably uniform medium sized things; once with the sharpened knife, and once with the blunt one. Then I could use the whetstone on the blunt one, and if and when it was as sharp as the other knife, I'd know I'd learnt to sharpen things properly.

Well, effectively, anyway. Once. Which isn't the same as being consistent or efficient, but we can always repeat this process until we're certain we're sharpening right.

First, get a sharpened knife. This week I've been meaning to take my knife to the office and then to the kitchen shop in Sheung Wan, where for twenty Hong Kong dollars (half one cup of expensive coffee) they'll sharpen it. Luckily, I didn't do it today.

That's because today I was on a phone call, and about half an hour into the call, as I was about to drop off, somebody (Mr A) pointed out they needed a password, and they'd been asking for the password for a month, and nobody had given it to them, and if they didn't get it by tomorrow, Big Important Project was suddenly going to hit an unnecessary two month delay. Don't worry, I said. I know Mr B, the man who dishes out these particular passwords, and he works just a few floors below me in the same building.

So after the call, I went to see Mr B. And he told me he'd given the passwords to Mr C. Who's Mr C? Well, Mr C was also on the call today, and was on the same call a week ago, and a week before that, and a week before that, and Mr A says that on each occasion he asked about the passwords and nobody knew anything about it.

I asked Mr C to send me the passwords. Then I asked Mr C why he hadn't given them to Mr A. He said he assumed Mr B would.

Bear in mind that Mr B has never spoken to Mr A. As far as he's concerned, Mr A probably doesn't exist, because what kind of person has a name that's just a single letter? That would be preposterous.

I began to fume. I began to fulminate. I began to have steam come out of my ears. My eyes spun back in my head and came up with three lemons, and a bell rang. This is worrying behaviour, especially when you only have two eyes to display a triad of fruit.

"Why - didn't - you - mention - this ?" I spat at an imaginary Mr B, probably sitting blissfully unaware in an office somewhere else, drinking coffee and smoking expensive cigars.1

People in the office I work in paused, to see me pacing up and down, gibbering, enraged. I was furious. Thinking about it now, it's nothing much to get enraged about, just another example of people assuming things and not bothering to check, but it struck me at the time as the pinnacle of indolence and apathy.

Also, this isn't the first time it happened. The last time it happened, one of my senior colleagues interrupted me and gave me one of those patronising lectures about how you can't do everything, and have to trust that the people employed in jobs are doing their jobs, rather than you trying to micromanage everyone else. Which also got me in a rage, because
(a) I really, really hate being patronised and
(b) what if it's abundantly clear that some of those people aren't doing their jobs, then somebody probably does need to get on their back and start Telling Them What To Do.
I thought of all this, and I raged some more, and I considered going out to the street and screaming at the top of my voice, and I'm glad I didn't take my knife to work today. Even if I had left it in the office and gone downstairs for my burst of primal rage therapy, word would get around pretty quick that there's a screaming man who carries a knife, and then where would I be?

I wonder if it's the job, or the lack of sleep, or the malaria pills, or trying to organise four different trips back to back, or a combination of these things that's causing me to be so cross. Or perhaps I can blame it on listening to Therapy? as a teenager, and thus inflicting angsty Irish thrash-punk on my delicate psyche.

Tomorrow, I'll take a rolling pin to work and get in a four man brawl about database retention strategies, you see if I don't.

1Sorry, Johnny Cash.


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