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CAUSE FOR COMPLAINT

23-02-2007

The ongoing conflict in Iraq? The imminent destriuction of the planet? Dave Woodhall would like to write about that stuff wot really matters, but he's just got to take a call.

In Chris Green's outstanding book Matchday he turns to his mate and says “Do you know what I really hate?” to which the reply is “If you're like me, everything.” And I know exactly how they feel.

The Grumpy Old Man (or more accurately, Pissed-Off Middle-Aged Man) might be a cliché, but there's plenty of ammunition around for those of us who enjoy railing against the inanities of modern life.

A couple of weeks ago I had a call on my mobile (something I hate, but not as much as I hate the people who use them as a multi-purpose life-support system).

It was Craig, or Luke, or some other name I pictured sitting in a call centre with a stupid David Beckham haircut and a big tie. He didn't want to sell me anything, oh no. He wanted to know when my phone was last upgraded so he could get me another.

I repeatedly told him I wasn't interested and after a couple of minutes he answered “I'll just keep ringing you then.” So I called back, asked to speak to Craig/Luke's line manager and complained about his attitude. It's the only language these little bastards understand.

Lo and behold the following day, almost to the minute, the same company rang me again and enquired of my health. The caller was stopped in his tracks by the phrase “Your colleague's on a disciplinary” and promised they wouldn't ring back.

I heard no more from them, but a few days later I was round my mum's house. She's neither Grumpy nor a Man. She wouldn't thank me for saying she's Old, either.

My mum and her friends aren't so much Silver Surfers as silver riders, drivers, fliers and users of every other mode of transport to get them to their endless round of holidays and trips. They're thinking of hiring a social secretary; the only way me and the rest of their children can speak to our parents is by making an appointment.

Maybe it's a sign of modern life that, while people are living longer, they're now getting miserable earlier and improve as they go on. But I digress.

The phone rings and another Craig, or Luke, or possibly Darren, wants to speak to Mrs Woodhall. It's some utility company, or possibly double glazing. I explain that she doesn't want to talk to him, and indeed she doesn't. She's busy watching one of the eight hundred TV channels she's had installed for the odd day when she isn't visiting a craft centre or touring the Highlands.

He asks if he can speak to Mrs Woodhall again. I explain again that she doesn't want to be disturbed. Three times he asks; three times I refuse. By now, surely even the most obstinate and pushy customer service operative should see that he isn't going to make a sale to this household. But he ends the call by saying “In that case I'll ring back when you're not there.”

Ringback, put through to a line manager, tell them that we're registered with the Telephone Preference Service, my mother is a pensioner who doesn't need this hassle and what kind of idiot won't take no for an answer half a dozen times?

In between these unwarranted intrusions into my privacy I ventured along West Bromwich High Street, parked in a bay and went off to get a ticket. I returned to find a warden about to ticket my car and shouted to attract his attention.

He finally turned round and launched into a lecture about how his name wasn't “Oi” (which wasn't what I'd said to him anyway) and he'd not seen anyone who the car might belong to at the pay machine.

If he'd an iota of common sense he'd have turned round, apologised, we'd have made some weak joke about the incident and both gone on our way smiling. I'd have thought they're not such bad blokes really and he'd have been at one with the world.

Instead, I felt profoundly irritated at this show of petty officialdom and vindicated when I drove off not thirty seconds later and he was already arguing with someone else.

You might think I was being overly sensitive. All three of the workers that annoyed me were only doing what they were told to do. And in a way I can sympathise because I've had my share of crap jobs and awkward customers.

However, there's a right way and wrong way to deal with people. 02 make enough profit without selling my phone number. If you ring uninvited then you owe me the courtesy of accepting without complaint that I don't want to speak to you. Wearing a uniform doesn't give you the right to talk down to me as though I've committed a crime.

A bit of common sense goes a long way and would give us miseryarses time to complain about the things that really matter.
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