All entries for Friday 18 August 2006
August 18, 2006
We don't do service in this country. To the extent that when Brits in America are told by staff over there to "have a nice day" they are, in the most part, immediately consumed by a curious combination of paranoia and loathing – how dare these customer service drones lie through their teeth at me! What do they want from me? The answer rather obviously is your money with the minimum of hassle.
But at least it's expected over there. Here it just sounds absurd, the bored teenagers in the service sector don't care if you have a nice day or not and who can blame them? They're paid peanuts and can probably be divided into two groups – those who've been ASBOed with any consideration for why they are doing the things which get them ASBOed (maybe due to lack of opportunity or something to do), or they've just got their GCSE/A level results only for a bunch of sanctimonious pricks to come along and declare that the exams are so easy now that there's no point praising the youth of today regardless of the fact that they've been through a stressful exam period. Plus most of the sanctimonious pricks can't even program a video machine nevermind tackle the vast array of real life devices which youngsters master so easily.
Rare are the people in this country in service sector or face–to–face with the public jobs who can muster a bit of life into how they speak.It does make life a little nicer when you do encounter them though. Earlier I was on a train which bombarded us with the usual bored sounding drivers and guards (can anyone make the somewhat neutral word "tickets" sound more depressing than a train guard?) when the train shop assistant piped up.
Lawks–a–daisy guv'nor, 'e was a right Cock–er–nee geezer.* Bantering away he talked up the one remaining hamburger in the shop before showing a tremendous insight into the human soul by offering a train full of Friday travellers, many clearly office workers, a nice cold beer. He signed finished with the wonderful insistence that he "looked forward to serving each and every one of you lovely people, though don't all rush now as I've already got quite a crowd here". Glancing around the carriage I noticed that those people not connected to their iPods were smiling at the monologue. The gruesome reality of shouting children and the annoying laptops (declaring "You've got mail! It's not Spam!" in a false "Have a nice day voice") soon dragged everyone down to the level of mild sociopathology, but it was nice to hear someone who seemed to give a little more of a damn about us than everyone else in the service sector.
Would it be better if more people did this? It could make it less special to hear more genuine bubbliness. It's also asking a hell of a lot of people on £5.05/hour when a house costs £150,000 in a crap area. For it to work the customers would have to be nicer… which they won't be as being rude to customer service drones is the only legitimate opportunity to be rude to people to their faces these days (it seems), and there's a slightly unhealthy catharsis attached to this by the majority of people.
When I worked in the service sector I didn't find £5.05 enough to make me want to be different all the time. Sometimes I would be nice just to confuse people. It works particularly well on the unreasonably angry people, the niceness just stops them in their tracks. Thinking about it, it's probably best to keep charm, wit and individuality in reserve for these moments…
*I noticed he had a strong east London accent.