Day 7 Bucharest

Walking to work Ithis morning I heard a street violinist. I had to pause and take a couple of photos. What a way to work… The second training day for this particular course was focussed on how planning adds value to customer experience. This is an interesting group to work with (agency and clients). They don’t have a planner so for them to get any value from the course they will have to work out who should be doing the planning thinking and how much they can get done.

Daewoodelialeft By end of day Alexandra left with the client and account team for a post prod meeting. Leaving me to catch a lift with the others back to the agency to straighten out invoices.  Delia did the honours driving us in a Dahaitsu Matiz. This area of the city is banned to cars so she had been very resourceful to have got this far. Our carload attracted more than its fair share of looks. People didn’t seem to be in a hurry to get out of the way. And the driving technique seemed to involve driving straight at the pedestrian until they paid attention and moved. The better looking the pedestrian the more likely he was to get the full on treatment. Round the corner we found a man in a wheel chair. Fortunately Delia decided to leave him where he was. I asked her how she got into this no car area. ‘I smiled’ she replied – and we kangaroo hopped our way past the swing barrier and the guard at the gate. Smiling to get past insuperable obstacles seems to be a Romanian trait. I heard a story of a brother who has run away to Ireland where he lives illegally. Were he to try to return to Romania he would face a hefty fine. But he is well on the way to getting Irish citizenship. Realising how much the Irish loved folk band he and his friends have formed a Romanian folk music troop though none can play music. This band has a swelling and variable cast of member “musicians” which is proving an open door on getting Irish citizenship. This was but one of many stories I heard of Romanian resourcefulness in the face of obstacles whether institutional or practical.

Wallpaper We arrrived at Sister’s offices – in a leafy suburb behind the parliament building. The office looks like a startup – just enough desks and chairs to match the number of employees and the rest is space. But in every room at least one wall was given over to an elaborate wallpaper pattern.  When Alexandra swept in I asked her why the expensive wallpaper – Because this is MY agency and I’m a WOMAN she retorted. It turned out that the floor of the meeting room was hand built for much the same reason and she was still haggling with the builders for not doing it to standard.  The next half hour was given over to my very least favourite actitity namely making the numbers add up – getting the names, numbers and details on an invoice, contract and fiscal certificate required several versions before I had got it right. This is because of the need to get the dreaded stamp on the right version of the document – it means that all business dealings are dependent on physical paper originals. If I got this wrong it could take months to sort out.  Thoroughly relieved to keep it to half an hour.

Alexandra_in_the_centre_and_the_crew We went out to a Romanian restaurant. When we arrived Alexandra went in to check if there was room because we didn’t have a reservation. Leaving me sitting in the car when I became aware that I was the focus of two children on the pavement. Who after asking for money in Romanian switched to English to make the same request. I gave a reply in my best and friendliest Japanese. They retreated to review the strategy. Next was the test for English comprehension – I might not speak the Queen’s English but if I didn’t understand Romanian I must understand English – they started taking turns – the one watching while the other tried different phrases – the concentration levels were ferocious and there was no way they were letting up. I got a flashback – I had seen this scene before – in Jurassic Park with small dinosaurs – possibly velociraptors circling the car trying to find a way in. At which point Alexandra came to the rescue.  As we ate one of the topics was the work she does working with street children. One of the reasons she founded Sister was so that she could work with children’s charities and support herself while she did so. She explained that while there were gangs who used children to beg, the majority had become the main breadwinners because their parents couldn’t earn the same income. The role for the charity was to get the trust of the children – meet the parents, and find them work thus freeing the children to be able to go to school.  She broke off the conversation to head for the kitchen to negotiate with the chef for some bags of food to give to them children. They’ll still be there? I asked doubtfully. Of course they are always there.

Later several of the others in the agency turned up to continue the meal.  At the end of the evening the ever resourceful Delia took me back into the no car zone in the Daewoo. This time the barrier looked as if it was going to stay down. Sorry she said to me I smiled but it didn’t work. More remonstrations and then again the barrier lifted.  One of the questions I was asked was what advice I would give to junior planners. To which my reply was Change your job. Until you’ve done other jobs around the agency and learned how much you dislike them you’ll never be grateful to be a planner nor have the hunger to keep jumping out of your chair poking your nose into everybody’s business to make the work better. It occurred to me that if Romanians had turned resourcefulness into an art form this was exactly what made capable planners good ones and good planners great.

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