Mark Kass: A funny thing happened on the way home from the ForumAs usual, I was colour coordinated. Dark suit. White shirt. Orange silk tie with matching orange London 2012 Olympic pin proudly displayed on my left lapel. Around 10:30pm, I eventually got on to a very crowded tube train coming back from yet another networking forum in London's Oxford Street; a good night, plenty of free wine and canapés and I'm thinking to myself, " and they call this work?" I had also managed to get a fresh copy of the Evening Standard to read and find a seat so I was rather looking forward to sitting down for an hour as I made the trek east along the Central line to Kass Towers.
Deeply engrossed in my newspaper, reading about the outrageous and escalating price of Dublin Bay prawns in London and the South East, I glimpsed the next batch of commuters squeezing into my carriage like cows jammed into an abattoir truck. How lucky am I, I thought, that it wasn't me standing pressed nose-to-armpit against this very sweaty, large American lady this evening.
And then I started to hear angels sing. My focus tunneled & narrowed in to reveal this vision of God-sent beauty now on the same train as me. Right next to me. Totally gorgeous. I could have sworn this vision was now calling me "Mark! Mark! Yes you want me, yes me, I'm yours if you want me". I started staring, longer, harder and more intently and I felt my jaw starting to gape, my lips drying up and tongue getting thicker by the second...surely this is what love is?
At every glance, the calling got stronger and the vision was now glowing among a mass of bodies like a shaft of sunlight streaking through a dark clouded sky. I knew right there and then that we needed to be together. My ears filled with the sound of my own pounding heart. My breath shallowed and the butterflies in my tummy started their internal synchronized swim. At last I had seen my heart's desire. And then I heard the words...
"Oi! Olympic Bloke! Why are you staring at my wife's chest?" As if someone had flipped the off button on my iPod in the middle of the full 3 minute guitar solo from Hotel California, the angels suddenly stopped singing, the pounding in my ears disappeared and I gulped audibly as I came back to reality. This rather burly Neanderthal City-type was now inches away from my face, breath stinking of late night booze and oniony-kebabs and my vision of beauty had now changed into an angry thug of Bethnal Green, waving his garlic sauce-tainted and somewhat accusing fingers at me. "I er, wasn't staring at her er, chest", I spluttered. "Oh yeh? he yelled. "Certainly looked like it to me from 'ere, mate," he barked.
I quickly glanced at the aforementioned chest, which was rather voluminous and oozing from a blouse like billowing lava globules emanating from Mount Etna. "I was though, staring at what's on her chest.....that gorgeous looking pin badge!"
You know that moment when the Sheriff bursts into the bar full of baddies in Dodge City and the whole place falls silent? Well that is what happened next. For what seemed like an age, the whole carriage fell silent, waiting for the sound of my nose to be broken by a thug bloke.
Silence was broken instead by Ms Etnachest, who cackled with a laugh that could turn milk into yoghurt, "Wha'?? You mean this fing?" she yelped, pulling on her shiny silver Cisco 2012 sponsors pin - my vision of beauty.
"You wan' it, Fatboy...whadda I get in return then??"
Thug bloke was now rolling up his sleeves and warming up on the ropes ready to rearrange my face if my answer wasn't what he wanted to hear. Immediately I thought a sensible answer might be more appropriate as opposed to one of my usual Oscar Wilde-like witty retorts.
"We could swap?" I suggested," my orange badge for your silver one?"
By now, the whole carriage was engrossed in this deal. I've been involved in some pretty hefty, multi-million pound negotiations with some of the toughest lawyers, bankers and venture capitalist in the world in the same room and at the same table but it was never as tense as this.
Following a sharp and audible intake of breath from our fellow travelers, the tube fell silent again only to be swiftly broken by Etnachest.
"Awright then babe, a deal ! I love the colour. Dat orange is the same colour as the chilli sauce stain on his two 'undred quid shirt and 'as him an me 'ad such a great night together tonight, I'll swap your orange one for this shiny thing I found on the floor of the boozer this evening"
Oh my goodness! I thought. How someone could treat such a thing of beauty with such little respect? (I am of course referring to the pin on this occasion).
The deal was done, the thug bloke rolled down his sleeves and in my mind, my nose reset itself. The moments of fear passed and Thugbloke and Etnachest got off at Stratford mumbling things like "fat geezers always make you larf", "a geek what collects fings" "weirdo", "punch 'is lights out" etc. etc.
The tube train rattled its way further towards the Far East where I get off rather chuffed with myself and with what remains my favourite pin so far. When I got home, I de-kebabed it , removing traces of all grease, chilli sauce and bits of onion and lamb and added it to my now fast-growing collection of sponsors pins where it takes pride of place in my London 2012 shrine.
For those reading this and about to get into the whole pin-thing, here are my Top 11 hints and tips for fellow pin collectors:
1 Staring at chests of people is hazardous to health
2 Beware men smelling of kebabs
3 Check everywhere for collectable pins...I now spend a lot of time on all fours in pubs, clubs and other public places
4 Gentle banter is far better than doing stuff that may end up with your nose 20 centimeters wider than it was at the start of the day
5 Don't just check pins for validity, check for stray pieces of someone else's supper
6 Beware women who anatomically demonstrate plate tectonics and the formation of natural mountain ranges
7 Maybe consider stamp collecting, snorkeling or storm chasing as a hobby
8 Always carry a 2012 Orange logo pin when eating kebabs just in case of spillage and a selection of others for spontaneous trading moments
9 Travelling by tube is a great way to see pins...why bother with the internet or pin trader meetings
10 Be very nice and appreciative to our finest, nicest and most generous London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games suppliers and sponsors such as Coca Cola, Samsung, Panasonic, Rio Tinto, Eurostar, Aggreko, Westfield, Heineken, Adidas, British Airways, ATOS, McDonalds, G4S, Airwave, Honav, BBC, Channel 4, Dow who may want to get in touch with the author and send boxes full of pins for trading and collecting because you mention them in blogs on world-class Games related websites......thanks guys we love all your products and services!
11 See Hint #1
Mark Kass is an entrepreneur and a Director of an East London business support agency. He is a vocal ambassador for SMEs representing small businesses in consultations with LOCOG, the ODA (Olympic Delivery Authority), OPLC (Olympic Park Legacy Company) and the East London Boroughs. Now an avid fan of the Games, Mark showed no interest in sport until his East London "manor" pitched and won the rights to host the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games. He's a passionate advocate of the global opportunities the Games brings for SME's of all sizes and wants to see more people become entrepreneurs in East London and beyond. To follow him on Twitter click here.
Honav is the official manufacturer of pins for London 2012