Like any hard-working consumer with a grudge against the modern capitalism he so diligently feeds and profits directly from on a daily basis, I don’t like being hard done by. In fact I despise it. When I am wronged by society in even the smallest way, in particular when a popular supermarket chain has let me down by failing to re-stock the Pringles shelf, for example, I get moderately to highly frustrated, depending on the supermarket and depending on my mood and how much I need crisps (it seems even more insulting when they only re-stock with the salt & vinegar variety, as if goading me to burn the skin from the insides of my mouth, or what feels like mouths after an entire stinking tube of salt & vinegar Pringles which I am unable to resist). My problem is that I’m too polite for my own good. I can be dangerously polite, at times. I blame it on my parents – dad specifically. Growing up in a household where dad would politely listen to caller after caller attempting to sell him pointless stuff over the phone, time after time, and then say “wasting my bloody time!” to us but not to them, I didn’t have a single hope in hell. I didn’t even know that single hopes in hell existed, let alone that this would be a saying I would later use in a blog post many years later. Complaining about things? Genetically it just isn’t in my nature, and that hurts me very much, because now I am living through the most complaint-strewn period of my life. If ever there was a time for complaining, it is now. (Note: I’m talking about verbal complaints here, not written ones. I have demonstrated before, on this blog, that my written complaint skills are growing in power — such as this letter directed at Tesco’s Customer Service. It’s true that I did once almost get into a fight with a National Express coach driver, but I class that as a reasonable-furious-angry-outburst rather than a verbal complaint, seeing as he was acting like a prize buffoon.)
Fortunately, the modern evolving side of me doesn’t care much for nature, and every now and then I seem able to over-ride the nicer part of me (like the time when I asked the Customer Service bloke at the train station if I had a legal right to walk through the open barrier without a ticket and be fined at rush-hour rather than wait in the massive queue to buy a ticket and miss my train — one of my favourites. He was baffled). I haven’t quite got to the stage yet where I can work myself up into a furious rage in a matter of seconds, but I’ve definitely been close once or twice, which is very pleasing. Today’s complaint marked a serious evolution. Or at least one step in the right direction, as is probably more accurate. The end goal is to conjure up the spirit of (justifiable) complaining in mere seconds. I’m miles away right now but with every new day comes a kind of progress. I now know this. For example, just the other day I complained at the AMT coffee shop in the train station because they still didn’t have any White Hot Chocolate in stock after 2 months. Serious business.
Today’s complaint was a worthy one — it wasn’t just complaining for complainings sake, it was about my human rights and what I expect when I buy something online. It was about my Birds of Vietnam book, which I ordered on the 23rd of November 2012, and which still hasn’t arrived. Ignoring the fact that I can be a bit of a bird geek at times – no more accurately demonstrated than last Saturday, where I stood at the window for a full 30 minutes with my binoculars, watching a red woodpecker really go for it in the tree at the end of the garden – this book wasn’t just any old book. I need it for my travels. Our travels. Very soon, my girlfriend and I will be flying out to the other side of the world to basically get as far out of our prospective comfort zones as is physically possible without ending up as human sacrifices. It should be easy – we’re starting in Saigon, also known as Ho Chi Min City. They don’t do human sacrifices there — that was just an example of being really out of your comfort zone.
Anyway, last night I realised, very late at night, that the book hadn’t arrived. Quickly, I found myself looking through my 2012 diary, where I found an angry scribbled note that said CALL ABOUT MY BIRDS OF VIETNAM BOOK IF NOT HERE IN 2 WEEKS!!! Even more quickly, my rage was fuelled by the fact that I had left it much more than 2 weeks…I mean, just look at the calendar: it’s now mid January. Those bird book people were going to pay. Pay for their shocking nerve. Pay for their lack of sympathy and empathy for bird lovers all over the world. Lovers of all books, for that matter. Yes, I was being dramatic, and I felt I had a right.
Upon dialling the number of the online shop which I won’t name here, because my genes don’t allow me to do such a thing, I was pleased to discover a sense of urgency about my body: I couldn’t sit still, I could only pace up and down and around my small office room, and generally speaking I must’ve looked like a man who wasn’t going to take any shit. Sadly, that man, if he had ever truly existed, deserted me the moment the camp man answered the phone and I politely enquired and gave him my reference number, desperately calm all the while. Hideously calm. Luckily for me, after I had enquired, I could hear the typing of keys and then there was a long five-minute silence where the man attempted to find my order and discover its status. Plenty of time for anger and frustration to build to a manageable level. I felt lucky I had stumbled upon him when his computer was slow to load.
Unlike some people, for which consumer rage comes naturally and easily, I really had to work to sustain mine. At several points during the wait I found my heart beating slower and my mind veering off in the direction of what to have for lunch and other trivial things which had the potential to ruin my complaint spree. But I just about managed to hold onto it, thankfully, and so when the guy came back on the line and said that the book should be in soon and that they wouldn’t charge me to send it out, I still had enough left in me to do an impression of someone who was, at least, a little bit justifiably angry.
“I’m sorry but that’s no good!” I found myself saying, even managing to cut across the several last letters of one of his words. “I’d like a refund, please.”
OK, so the I’m sorry and the please bits ruined what would have been a good attempt, but still, you had to make exceptions. This kind of thing wasn’t learned over-night.
“Not to worry,” said the man, “you haven’t been charged yet. I’ll cancel the order, if you would like.”
“Yes,” I told him, firmly, no sorry or nothing. “I would like that very much.”
I was almost there, almost home. I could feel myself nicely angry, now. Angry enough that if a postperson had come to the door and asked me to sign for something right there and then, I may even have been able to make a moody face at him and mutter, “can’t you see I’m on the bloody phone?” Even if he or she was a postperson I had previously liked.
Then I went and ruined it, as was always going to happen. You knew it. I most certainly knew it. “Thanks for sorting it,” I said. “Cheers.” And put the phone down. Seems I still have a way to go.