Knocklofty’s outreach counselling service deals with many harrowing cases of authors, editors and designers bedevilled by intractable clients.

This one, from the bizarre and exotic island of Tasmania, arose from a client — a caving organisation — insisting on being awkward just once too often by requiring the acceptance of material by an unacceptable means. We were able to intervene and create an outcome characterised by renewed amity rather than extreme prejudice. This is the edited correspondence between the client, identified here as AJ, and the victim, who chooses to hide behind the unoriginal pseudonym of Jim Crint:

AJ: I don’t do FTP for many reasons which can be explained if necessary, including Tasmania’s crippled ‘broadband’; none of the printers I deal with here and overseas do it any more — too much trouble and confusion, especially with replace versions of files. Physical media — CD or DVD — are preferred, as is transmission of files by email. It may seem to be a time-saver but it ain’t.
Sorry to seem awkward, but this is experience speaking. — Jim Crint

JC: I’m used to you being an old curmudgeon pain in the arse, so no worries. I can’t see it being any harder than email (with the bonus of not having emails rejected for being too big, or having to split stuff up and send it over 10 emails to keep size down). I was mainly hoping to use it for the initial glut of info (save me burning a cd and then driving to West Hobart – save the planet and all that).

I don’t just sit at home (when I’m not at the pub) like you so I thought being able to transfer stuff this seemingly quicker way would be much easier for me (who cares if it’s easier for you?) — AJ

AJ: You’re nearly as rude as I am and I’ve had a lot more practice at it. You should score quite well on the ARSE test. Here’s the link.
FTP is a lot harder and I object to paying for the bandwidth I have to use to download it. (Yes, I know email uses bandwidth too, but it’s a lot less of a guzzler). One of the reasons why Sir Walter Scott went bankrupt was because under the postal system of the time the recipient paid for the transmission of a parcel, not the sender, and he was deluged with weighty manuscripts from aspiring authors. I have learned from his example.
Further, I am presently constrained by the legacy of the sainted Sol Trujillo, who created the shambles that is the Telstra wireless network, which is at present giving me speeds barely above dial-up at times, so I don’t want my machinery tied up for hours when it could be doing other things. That is being seen to, but I’m still not going down old Sir Walter’s road to ruin; if all my clients wanted to FTP, I’d need industrial-standard cable.
FTP, although sedulously touted by a certain class of deranged technofreaks who think it’s the greatest thing since Stalin invented sliced bread, is a big barrel of worms because, for example, no two such systems have the same rules for establishing identity and permissions, based as it is on archaic Dark Side PC technology. Too much buggerising about remembering all the technocrap when it’s only used once every three months or so. Far too geeky, suitable only for monstrous corporations with regiments of IT boffins with nothing better to do and too much bother for marginal freelancers like me. Deep-six your coal-fired PC, buy a Mac and I might, under protest and without guarantee, consider something like Cyberduck, even though I reckon that’s quite a clunker.

Saving the planet? I do this work for less than a third of what I would normally charge, mainly because I agree with the conservation values so often expressed in the publication, and partly because your long-suffering printer and fellow tunnel-rat, Trevor, is an old mate in need of substantial conservation work himself after years of hanging about in dark slimy holes (though since he’s from Yorkshire he may not have noticed the difference), even if at the same time I am aware that you’re all a bunch of flat-baroque-mad, hairy-chested loonies (including the sheilas) who are only happy when you’re up to your keisters in batshit with rocks bouncing of your helmets and horrible unpigmented arachnids crawling up your trousers. My suicidal pricing policy conserves funds you can use to have fun blundering about in Mother Nature’s bowels covered in freezing muck and hoping that that knot your crazed mate tied will hold.
Also, although my brief is layout, I put a lot of time and effort into transforming some contributions, many of them so boring that even you admit you can’t read them, into comprehensible English and manipulating crummy images. My job logs show that I’m grossing somewhere between $5 and $6 an hour on your publication. Take away my overhead costs and I’m robbing myself.
By the way, I wouldn’t normally start another job until I’d been paid for the last one — could you have a word with your treasurer?
Pubs are a lot more comfortable than caves and in them one can meet a nicer class of asshole. Try it. I’ll even buy the beer.

And I wonder if you communicate in this fashion with the bloke who sells you your climbing rope.

Now get back in your hole.

Jeeze, I enjoyed writing that. Thanks for the opportunity. — JC

JC: Crikey, that was quite a rant. I think I may have enjoyed reading it as much as you enjoyed writing it (I may try to sneak it into a future issue).

Surely you see the benefit of sitting at home being paid $6 an hour to pore over our material. If you weren’t doing it then you’d most likely be at the pub spending $20 an hour on booze – and that doesn’t even factor in the value of the enlightenment you’re receiving from reading our contributors’ fine work. — AJ

AJ: Being paid $6 an hour to wrangle what cavers think is English is a lot less thrilling than you imagine; at least clients like the Hash House Harriers can manage the odd off-colour joke. Hansard pays me seven or eight times as much for dealing with material of a comparable standard; it’s a form of voluntary cross-subsidisation that means I can afford to hang about in our charming little town’s more disreputable bars complaining to other seedy old reprobates about the superlative bastardries visited on me by my clients. And after handling stuff like your magazine and the effusions of our political masters, anyone would need a few stiff drinks. So if you need to communicate with me, I’ll be in the back bar at the Dog and Vomit. — JC

Note: Mr Crint was paid for the job and says the booze he can now afford helps with the unpigmented arachnid nightmares.