Thursday, 1 April 2010

The One That Is Back. . .

I've had a very nice holiday indeed and will be back up to speed once I've had some time to catch up with what's been going on for the last couple of weeks. I was visiting the USA, so I'm well out of the loop. To say that news coverage over there is parochial is something of an understatement.

Barely a mention of the bombing on the Moscow underground, and when it was covered it was in the context of the New York authorities being very concerned about the ramifications for their transit system. Of course, because the Chechen rebels are really active on the east coast of the US, aren't they? It's obviously not only us that keep the fear well fed and exercised.

It's been a few years since I've visited the US, and I was both taken aback and delighted in equal measure by what I saw there. As I was in a warm climate I saw something that I thought was excellent, unfortunately its scope for use in the UK is limited, but what a great idea.

Run a bar and worried about the smoking ban? Here's an idea. Get around the legislation about enclosed areas being smoke free by designing a building where the sides can be removed completely. This is what one 'ale house' on the street where I was staying did. This place was huge, must have sat about 600 people. Barring the wall which contained the kitchen and toilets, the whole thing was open, but with a proper roof. It was packed. All day. Every day. People were queuing up on the street to get 'in'. It was like the world's biggest gazebo. At the end of the night, the roller security shutters came down. A great idea. I'm not sure if it would satisfy the legal requirements in the UK, but I would hope so, as the Righteous would have an anuerism about it.

Anyhow, based on my experiences, I've drawn up a handy list of advice for both the US and the UK, let's see how much abuse it generates.

Advice for Americans:

- It is not required to shout all the time. I'm standing right next to you and can hear you perfectly well.

- The mobile telephone is a very handy modern communication tool, however it is not vital for survival. It is possible to spend time not using the device. Actually tying this up with the above, if you hold the mobile phone to your ear, as it is designed to be used, rather than holding it at arm's length, you will not need to shout down it and then scream 'WHAT?' down it because you didn't get the speaker to your ear before the person on the end of the line responded. Perhaps they may fry your brain, but then if you don't use it all the fucking time, it won't matter. Besides, in your case, your brain being fried will make no appreciable difference. Spotted on my travels: A man continuing a telephone call whilst stood at the urinal and heard another man whilst sat in a toilet cubicle. A group of four people out to dinner together, all talking and/or typing on their mobiles incessantly through the course of their meal. There was no discourse around the table. I'd have fucked off and left them with the tab if I'd been with the rude bastards. Really, it is possible to be incommunicado for a couple of minutes. Not even the President is that important.

- Whilst on the subject of restaurants (and shops), basic courtesy is the mark of a man (or woman). The correct phrase to use is 'may I/could I have' before the item you require, followed by a please. It is also good manners to say 'thank-you' when it is delivered. 'I need' is not correct. Especially not you, madam. You need that large sized cola like I need to repeatedly slam my testicles in the drawer of a heavy oak dresser. Really.

- The motorcar really is a wonder of the modern age. It has transformed our cities and our societies. The car is not a panacea, nor is it the devil incarnate. It has its good points as well as its bad. So, American motor manufacturers. Why not try building something that actually acts like a car? Every car I have ever hired in the US has been like driving a motorised sofa or wardrobe, utterly feeble. Glass houses coming from the UK, I know, but really, if you build decent cars, your motor industry might not be on its arse.

- When you ask someone a question, be it directions or a question about an item, or about the country where the person you are speaking to lives; actually listen to what the person is telling you. Asking the question and then ignoring the other person does not make the knowledge magically enter your mind.

Advice for the British:

- Look at those American shop workers and waiting staff. That is called customer service. When you request an ingredient listed on the menu be left out of your dish, the correct response is 'no problem'. When the customer approaches the checkout the correct greeting is 'good morning' or at least 'sorry about the wait', it is not 'yeah?'. Similarly when the transaction is completed, it is customary to thank the customer and bid them a good day/afternoon/evening.

- When using an airline for a trans-atlantic flight, you will find seating is allocated. That number and letter on your boarding pass refers to your row and seat number. No-one is going to sit in it. There is one seat for everyone on the flight. The practice of boarding in a series of blocks is to avoid the crush and rush that happens when idiots like you rush the gate all at once. It is a fairly common practice that makes sense, and is a rule that applies to all passengers, not to most passengers except you and the sixty others who also think it doesn't apply to them. Kudos on the return flight however to the British chap who took his waddling land-whale (or should that be sky-whale) of a wife by the hand and led her to the gate when the disabled passengers had boarded as the call went out for passengers with 'outsized' items. That gave me a bloody good laugh.

- On a related point, it is not possible to leave the aircraft before the doors have opened. You're going to have to wait for your luggage once you clear immigration anyhow. Really, you won't get there any quicker. Secondly, it is not a bloody disgrace that you have to show your passport to get back into your own country. How is the nice immigration officer to know you are British unless her or she sees your British passport? Are they to take it on trust? Because I can see a real flaw in that plan.

- Socks and sandals. Don't. Really, don't. Why would you wear a pair of sandals and then put socks on as well? I would have thought the whole point of sandals is that your feet are kept cool and exposed to the air. It looks stupid.

- Sunblock. Do. Really, do. Having skin the colour of a Ferrari F1 car isn't a good look. The look of the skin as it peels is even less attractive. Besides, it makes we want to run up and give you a hearty slap. See the locals? They use sunblock, and wear a hat, and a shirt. That way they don't end up as one big lump of skin cancer. Nothing says British tourist like lobster colouring and socks and sandals.

So, a lovely break, with temperatures in the mid 20's, sunny weather, good food and a great laugh. What did I see when I came home? Having cleared immigration, got my bags and been through customs, I walked onto the concourse of the airport to see a PCSO with a very thick Nigerian accent giving a hard time to a taxi driver who was waiting to pick up his booked fare (he had one of those little boards with someone's name written on it) because he didn't have his passport. According to the PCSO, it is an offence to be in an airport without a passport. When the taxi driver asked the PCSO where his passport was if that was the case, he was threatened with arrest.

Welcome to the UK.

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