“What can we help you with?” came the gruff reply. Clearly somebody resents not being able to spend the whole day in their dressing gown. As I currently do. Over my clothes. Which are padded with cushions and pillows. Not forgetting the three pairs of socks. And the halogen heater strapped to my back.
“Err, yes, I’m having trouble using your website to submit my hours...”
“The Out of Hours team doesn’t deal with that. You’ll have to phone back on a Monday.”
“Oh gosh yes of course silly me dreadfully sorry to have troubled you...”
This is just the sort of daily interaction Lynne Truss objects to in her self-proclaimed extended rant of a book, Talk to the Hand, subtitled The Utter Bloody Rudeness of Everyday Life, sub-subtitled ‘Or Six Good Reasons to Stay at Home and Bolt the Door. She (or Ms Truss as I’d better refer to her) describes occasions where we end up apologising when we feel we’re owed an apology. I increasingly feel this way when dealing with shop assistants and check out operators. I’m terribly sorry I need to interrupt you to give you some money to pay for some of your wares, you must be awfully inconvenienced, I’ll be on my way now and try not to trouble anyone else on my way back to my shell. Then when walking home, ill-gotten goods in tow, I mentally kick myself as they are the ones that are supposed to feel grateful I’ve spent money in their shop and be the ones thanking me.
Take a recent Christmas shopping trip to HMV for example, located in the murky depths of Brighton’s Churchill Square, home to every shop you can think of on every other high street in Britain, the bus depot and several thousand shoppers. Which is several thousand too many. Already fazed after spotting a Bieber biography (isn’t that guy like 12?) I hastily selected a suitable gift (which turns out to be Part Two of Two, so now I’m faced with a return trip to find Part One) and joined the queue. I was served by a scene princess who was engrossed in conversation with her colleague, a Zac Efron lookalike, behind a raised dias of a counter just so we little shoppers know our place.
(SP swipes cards, continues yapping to Zac about her weekend).
“£4.11 to pay” (stuffs book into bag, even though I had one open ready to put it in. So much for Brighton being a green city).
I hand over money. “Thanks, bye!” I say to the back of her head as she gives her beloved Zac her full attention, FINALLY, now that pesky customer has gone.
Another occasion, this time in the Morrisons of St James’ Street. I’m trying to hold in seething anger as customer in front of me talks to check out girl about perms for what seems like hours. Check out girl starts scanning my stuff with barely a glance in my direction. “That’ll be £some money please”. I hand over a note. Meanwhile she is still talking to the previous customer, swopping numbers of hairdressers on bits of till receipt, opening the till to stuff my money in and slamming it shut again. I remind her that I’m owed some change. With a sigh she re-opens the till and fishes it out. I leave feeling like I’ve just been a bloody nuisance when all I’ve done is ask for what’s rightfully mine.
Thanks to Ms Truss, I now know I’m not alone in getting really peeved when I think back on my (increasingly rare, if you can’t tell) dealings with the outside world and its inhabitants. I won’t go as far as shouting at boys on skateboards like she does though, because I think they’re kinda hot.
I used to work behind a till so I know what a difference it can make when someone is pleasant. I even mastered the ability of breaking off conversations with colleagues to give full attention to customers. I might become one of those people that says “PLEASE” where I’m felt a please is owed. I’ve already become one of those people that shouts “helps if you press the bloody button!” to the person on the other side of the road when I’m waiting for the lights to change who is babbling away on their phone and looking up and down the road wondering why on earth the traffic isn’t slowing. Let this serve as a warning to anyone who intends to go out in public with me. If there’s anyone left after that tirade. Hello?