Becky says things about … commuting

A multiple choice question for you, lovely Listener.

Would you rather:

a) Peel off your own cheek, rub salt into the bloody gaping hole, then staple the skin back to your now irreversibly deformed face;

b) Attempt to crawl inside the anus of an elephant who has just suffered from what his keeper calls ‘a wobbly tummy’; or

c) Stand in a confined space with your face inside the armpit of a stranger, and breathe in not only his gasses and vapours, but the gasses and vapours of a million other people in the same confined space for an indeterminate amount of time, twice a day?

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If you have opted for a) or b), you are most likely a commuter. Hello, fellow commuters. My name is Becky, and I am a commuter.

Twice a day, I stand in a train carriage along with approximately 2,450,957 other people. There is nothing pleasant about this.

I am short, Listener. I am 5 foot 4 inches. I therefore spend a great deal of my time standing below the faces of people taller than me, and when I am trying to read my book it is difficult to concentrate when I am caught in the violent torrent of a tall man’s nose breath.

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I board the morning train looking like this:

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and disembark looking like this:

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This is displeasing. It has also taught me that tall men breathe A LOT. More than is probably necessary.

I try to use the commuting time to read a book, in order to edify my mind. However, due to the fact that I am crammed into a small box with those 2,450,957 other people, this doesn’t always work out.

Example of failed reading #1:

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Example of failed reading #2:

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Oh, the intimate proximity of others, Listener. Faces everywhere. I turn my head to the right and my eyeball brushes against the eyeball of the man next to me. I turn my head to the left, and the girl chewing gum over my shoulder accidentally bites off my nose. I am so trapped I can only stare directly at whatever is straight ahead of me. On a recent journey, this happened to be an old, faded streak of bird poo on the back of a man’s jacket. By the end of the journey I was livid. JUST GET IT DRY CLEANED YOU FILTHY MONSTER. A whole journey staring into the face of another human’s evil disregard for cleanliness. Hellish.

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As a commuter, you learn to perform everyday actions at a minute fraction of their normal spatial requirements: sliding an object out of your bag with a movement invisible to the naked eye; holding your phone against your retina in order to text. This doesn’t always work out: last week my headphone wire got caught in the spokes of my umbrella as I was trying to fold it away into my bag, and my head ended up being sucked into my own handbag.

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And what if a song that you don’t like comes on your iPod? Or if the volume is UNBELIEVABLY LOUD AND IS LITERALLY RIPPING YOUR EAR DRUMS TO SHREDS AND WILL CAUSE YOU UNTOLD AURAL PROBLEMS FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE??? There is nothing you can do about it. One of your arms is wedged against the testicles of an overweight businessman, and the other is pinned to your side by the force of 594 school children. You must spend the journey either being musically abused by the song you don’t like, or being deafened to the point of tears. The only thing you can do is just be brave, Listener. Brave.

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I entered a train carriage the other week to be faced with a man’s backpack. It was preventing me from getting my whole body inside the carriage, which is often necessary for a safe journey. I politely asked the man to take off his backpack so there was more room for me.

The man answered me with a cold, hard stare that said ‘When you die, I will not only give an incorrect church address to all your mourners, but I will visit your lonely grave and write in marker-pen on the gravestone: ‘I’ll wear my backpack wherever the f*ck I like”.

I was thus forced to hope that my body was mostly inside the train carriage, and as the doors closed, I was relieved to discover that I had not lost a crucial appendage – until I realised that my hair had become trapped in the door. I realised this because it forced my head to slowly lift towards the ceiling, so I had to spend the entire journey gazing quizzically aloft and pretending I was thinking deeply about something, with this bastard’s backpack wedged against my chin.

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Commuting is like being thrown into a Room 101 filled with all the horrendous things about human beings that you already hate. Incessant clearing of throats. Loud breathing. Snorting. Sniffing. Swallowing. Loud chewing. Random and inexplicable grunting. Loud private conversations about Sebastian’s unreliable cornet tutor or Roger’s worsening hernia, or loud business conversations filled with buzzwords and acronyms that make you want to vomit into your own sleeve.

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Commuting is the Devil’s journey. Commuting is our penance for all the bad things we have done in our lives. And our reward for our morning’s worth of psychological and physical abuse?

Work.

Brilliant.

 

Becky says things about … YouTube

Sweet Listener, we are in the presence of the most powerful threat to mankind ever conceived.

Apparently innocuous, seemingly good and true and wholesome, ostensibly gratifying, this beast is possibly more evil and more destructive than an elephant with a digestive complaint.

And what is this force of savagery and doom that places the entire human race under threat?

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YouTube??? you cry. That fantastic platform on which you can view every facet of the world, for free, in the comfort of your own home???? 

Oh, innocent Listener. They’ve got to you too.

Therein lies my point. You have every single facet of our world at your fingertips. Want to learn how to be a heart surgeon? Done. Need an idea for what to buy your guinea pig for Christmas? Check. Want to find twenty seconds of commentary from the second half of a football match between Swindon and Port Vale in 1988 that you remember watching with your dad and the commentator made a funny noise in the 73rd minute that you’ve always remembered and want to relive? No ruddy problem.

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There. Is. Nothing. You. Cannot. Watch. On. YouTube.

I have never ever not been able to find what I’ve been looking for on YouTube. Obscure TV programmes from my childhood that I’d feared I’d imagined, how to correctly apply bronzer (thank God for you, YouTube), hilarious compilations of people being knocked over by large pets. It’s all there for our viewing pleasure.

Where once we were forced to spend hours of our most successful procrastination time playing Spider Solitaire, or Minesweeper, or trying to work out how in the name of humanity you play Freecell, we now have millions of hours of people on magic mushrooms to enjoy.

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But, naive Listener, this apparent enjoyment has a dark side.

Picture this: you arrive at the gates of Heaven expecting to be handed a certificate of all the super things you have done in your life, like been continually empathetic towards the elderly, shown tremendous kindness towards tortoises, made at least two people very happy, and eaten all your fruit and vegetables. Instead, you are presented with this:

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Oh, the novels you could have written! The songs you could have composed! The dinners you could have cooked from scratch instead of scraping glutinous artificial matter from the base of plastic containers! The sex you could have had! The money you could have made!

ALL FOR THE SAKE OF SOMEONE DOING THIS:

YouTube could have been single-handedly responsible for destroying humanity before humanity had even had a chance to get itself going:

In the beginning God created the Heavens and the Earth , and animals, and a Man and a Woman, and YouTube, and thence forth everything ground to a halt, for the Man and the Woman consumed their days watching videos of cats being sick and badgers falling over rocks and lightning bolts hitting the bare dusty ground, and the Man and the Woman thanked God for creating seven whole days that they could dedicate to this most pleasurable of pastimes and this went on and on until the Man and the Woman and the animals became very old and died and then there was just the Heavens and the Earth and YouTube, and God wondered why he’d bothered.

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YouTube has created needs for us that we didn’t think we had: we now need to see what happens when someone eats the hottest pepper in the world; we now need to remember the theme tune to Blockbusters; we now need to know the absolute, categorical and unequivocally effective method of preparing vegetables. HOW DID WE EVER MANAGE BEFORE?

Ohhh, the lost hours, Listener. Just the other night I snuck in a bit of YouTube action before going to sleep (why? BECAUSE THERE WERE VIDEOS OF BABIES LAUGHING AT PAPER TO BE WATCHED), and I found myself staring at a compilation of people falling down stairs. Had I sunk low enough? No. I sunk lower when I realised

I HAD SEEN THE RUDDY VIDEO BEFORE.

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Oh YouTube. You undoubtedly do some good. Some of your videos are very inspiring and beautiful and emotional, but please – WHY ARE YOU MAKING ME WATCH THIS???

Stop it, YouTube.

Becky says things about … the first day of a new job

Let me tell you a story, Listener. A story of fear.

Yesterday I walked into my local coffee shop. I glanced at the menu board and made my decision. There was a young girl standing behind the counter. We looked at each other.

I realised I was looking into the face of fear.

The girl had TRAINEE BARISTA emblazoned on her shirt.

Ordering coffee from her felt a bit like this:

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She handled the milk jug like it contained a human heart, poured the milk into my cup as though it were the pureed remains of Christ himself, and when she spilt the tiniest globule onto the counter, looked at me as though I was going to club her to death with a raisin whirl and whispered ‘I’m so sorry – it’s my first day’, I wanted to hug her.

Because, most adored Listener, is there any fear like the first day of a new job?

My first ever day of work was at a telesales company that sold double glazing. I was 15 years old. I was presented with a sticky phone, a soiled phonebook, a chewed pencil, a grimy script, and a deep sense of everything in the world being black and wretched.

I was told to call members of the public and sell them double glazing. I stared at my besmeared equipment and suddenly realised that I had an insurmountable phobia of phones, people, talking, and life. If I had been given the choice of phoning a stranger and trying to sell them double glazing, or sandpapering my own corneas, my decision would have been swift.

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After 20 minutes of trying to devise a cunning and elaborate escape, I pulled myself together, dialled the first number and had a brief conversation with a member of the English public that went something along the lines of:

‘Hi, my name’s Becky, I’m not trying to sell you anything but – ‘

‘If you call me again I will hunt you down and I will kill you.’

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On my first day of working in a gift shop when I was 16, I realised I had a terrible fear of greetings cards. Oh, Listener, they all look perfectly harmless when they’re neatly stacked in their displays, but when you’re the poor chump who has to get them out of their box, find the right slots, price them, and stock-check them against a mystifying coding system that was devised by an evil genius in a distant subterranean lair, it is alarming.

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After emerging from the emotional persecution of greetings cards, I was handed a duster and told to dust the shelves. As a result, I discovered a snippet of wisdom that is invaluable for your first day in a new job: find a task you can do and do it very slowly and very thoroughly, thereby keeping well out of that shark-infested deep water and remaining safely in your comfort zone.

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I dusted for about four hours, bristling with terror every time a customer came near me, until the worst fear of anyone on their first day in retail was realised: SOMEONE ASKED ME SOMETHING. 

Everything went into slow motion. The customer’s words morphed out of his mouth, slowly cutting into my soul like demonic blades.

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Fortunately, there was an incredibly simple answer, and I learnt my second piece of wisdom: PEOPLE ARE GENERALLY STUPID.

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What about your first day in an office, Becky? I hear you ask. Behold, sweet Listener.

If you are unfortunate enough to be taking over someone’s job, starting work in an office is like bursting in on a recently-bereaved family, grabbing the urn off the mantelpiece, and shitting in it.

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Your desk is not your own – it is the desk of Val, or Beryl, or Graham, or whichever adorable and much-loved colleague sat there before you. On that first day, and for a fair time thereafter, you are The Person Who Took Over Val’s Job. You are using Val’s pencil. You are using Val’s stapler. You open Val’s desk drawer to find a festering, tea-encrusted mug, and you innocently hold it up and say ‘Er – is this anyone’s?’ and the office sinks into a stony, grieving silence, and before long your new colleagues have grown enormous ginger beards, are wearing horned helmets, and are telling you you are not welcome in their village.

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But there is no fear, no abject terror comparable to your first day working behind a bar.

I was 20. I walked behind the bar on my first shift to be confronted with the blank staring faces of eight men behind a gauze of smoke. I couldn’t have felt more exposed if I had removed all my clothes and straddled the beer pumps.

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The landlord then proceeded to place me two feet away from the group of customers, wrap his arms around me, put his hand over mine on the beer pump, and pull it down, all the while murmuring ‘Theeeeeeeeere we go, pull it hhhaaaarrd, don’t be afraid of it, give it a good tug now’, while the men viewed me in solemnly judging silence. I will give 50 English pounds to the 20 year-old girl who claims she would be comfortable in this situation.

I spent my first shift staring numbly at the ludicrous amount of bottles, the baffling multitude of glasses, and wondering whether I could make it through my entire barmaiding career without ever having to serve anyone a drink.

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The most unnerving thing about that first day was the exposure. In Space no one can hear you scream, right? Well, behind a bar everyone can hear you scream, and everyone can hear when you drop a glass and everyone can see when your skirt’s tucked into your knickers and everyone can see when you’re staring desperately at the bottle shelves trying desperately to see the Pernod and pretending desperately that you’re not trying desperately to see the Pernod, and there is no escape. Space is easy. 

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So I felt for that girl in the coffee shop. The only advice I can give her is that it will get easier. She will become more confident, more assured, until she will wonder what she ever worried about. She will also develop a profound abhorrence for the human race and everything it stands for, but that’s just the beauty of life.

Becky says things about … giving up booze for a month

Listener, you have before you a virtuous Becky. A wholesome Becky, a saintly Becky. A Becky so pure, so unsullied by evil, that I wouldn’t be surprised if you feel a trifle overwhelmed. I feel a little overwhelmed at myself.

Yes, most admiring Listener, I have given up booze for an entire month. I have been on the sobriety wagon for the whole of November. Not a drop of alcohol has touched my lips, tickled my nasal hairs, or been dribbled down my chin. I am, to quote my good friend Mary Poppins, practically perfect in every way.

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Why did you give up alcohol for a whole month, Becky?? I hear you cry. Fear not, inquisitive Listener. I shall tell you.

Aside from the rather alarming realisation that since alcohol became a regular feature in my social life at the age of 18/19, my body probably hasn’t gone more than about a week without saying hello and howdy to a drop of the sauce, I wanted what I was promised by other people who had given up booze for a month; namely, boundless energy, less tiredness, stunning youthful looks, dewy fresh skin, a reinvigorated zest for life, and a newly developed penchant for soft drinks.

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Considering the above, I shall present you with a series of statements that should be pertinent to my month-long sobriety. I shall also present you with a truthful account of whether these statements are in fact truthful.

Observe.

Becky gained more energy, and wasn’t tired. Once.

I shall ask Stickman to demonstrate how I expected to feel during my month abstinence from energy-zapping alcohol.

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And now I shall further ask Stickman to demonstrate how I actually felt during my four weeks without one single milligram of energy-zapping, fatigue-inducing, body-poisoning alcohol in my bloodstream.

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Listener, this experience led to my discovery of one of the greatest lies of our time: Giving up alcohol gives you more energy and makes you feel less tired. This, Listener, to put it bluntly, is a giant, hairy, stinking, heinous lie. I have never been more tired in all my life. Waking up in the morning was like dredging a pond of scummy water. For most of the four weeks I have sat slumped over my desk in a lethargic funk, wailing pathetically to my keyboard that I SHOULD FEEL AMAZING!! WHY DO I NOT FEEL AMAZING???

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I had a vague energy surge in the first week – no, surge is the wrong word – more a slight energy incline, like a small wheelchair ramp – the second week was appalling, I felt like my head had been stuffed with soggy teatowels and I was actually reduced to tears one Sunday whilst staring at my novel that I wasn’t writing and realising that I couldn’t even see it, never mind write the frikkin thing; the third week was becoming boringly energyless, and this fourth week – well. On Monday I stood at the bottom of a flight of stairs on a station platform during rush hour and contemplated asking a fellow commuter if they’d give me a piggy back.

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Verdict: A revolting lie. A lie the likes of which has rarely been seen by humanity.

Becky looks years younger and her complexion is dewy and amazing.

Within about four days of my body not receiving alcohol, I noticed that I had alarmingly pronounced wrinkles under my eyes which, infuriatingly and devastatingly, were not there before. Excuse me, I said to the God of Sobriety, I thought giving up alcohol was supposed to reduce wrinkles and make me look healthy and youthful, not worn and decrepit. 

Well, replied the God of Sobriety, alcohol can cause puffiness of the face due to increased water retention. Perhaps – just perhaps, Becky – your face has been consistently slightly puffy during your years of regular alcohol consumption, and now that sobriety has lessened your water retention your face is less puffy and has resulted in uncovering the fact that you are actually quite old and haggard and have wrinkles which were previously stretched out due to your terrible puffiness. 

So, God of Sobriety, it’s a bit like sweeping a dusty floor and discovering a really shitty worn carpet underneath. 

Yes. That’s exactly what it’s like. 

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I will admitListener, that I have noticed an improvement in my skin tone. It is less red, less blotchy, and less dehydrated-looking. And do you know what? I should f*cking well hope so. A month of nothing but water, soda water, drinks made with water, and water, should f*cking well improve my f*cking skin tone.

Verdict: Mostly a lie with a thinly veiled compensation.

Becky had a reinvigorated zest for life and enjoyed observing things she hadn’t previously noticed, like the gentle gleam of a drop of dew on a fallen leaf.

In the first couple of weeks, O inquisitive Listener, I did, despite the fug of fatigue, feel a strange lightness of being. That is to say, I was less irritable. I was able to maintain conversations that I would otherwise have found bothersome, and I was able to tolerate people to whom I would otherwise have taken umbrage.

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I also achieved more. Due to the fact that I wasn’t monstrously wasting away my life spending evenings sipping cool, relaxing, soporific wine and indulging in vibrant and witty conversation with my closest friends whilst sitting in the cosy, amiable atmosphere of a warm local pub………….sigh……….. I actually spent a lot more time writing. I worked on my novel. I wrote blogs. This is my fourth blog post this month. YOU, most fortunate Listener, have benefited from my month-long abstinence. It’s okay. You can thank me later. (An incredibly large bottle of gin will suffice.)

And guess what – I enjoyed sitting at home and being industrious. I felt creative, I felt productive. True, some evenings I was too RUDDY TIRED to do anything particularly creative, and on those evenings I angrily watched documentaries on YouTube (Most Extreme Airports and The Truth About Killer Dinosaurs were particular highlights), but most of the time I was being productive. And that made me feel quite good.

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Verdict: Almost true. A welcome motivational boost, occasionally punctuated by useless facts about stegosauruses.

Becky developed a keen penchant for soft drinks and realised that alcoholic beverages are really not that great.

I want to make this clear, Listener: my evenings at home drinking cups of tea and hot milk were fine. I didn’t miss alcohol. At all. I didn’t even think about it. But sobriety did not turn me into a hermit. I did venture out into public houses. (Come on, there’s only so much creativity a girl can take in a month.)

To learn of my experiences of abstinence whilst in a public house setting, observe the following accounts of a typical evening:

6.07pm: Approach bar. Stare yearningly at alcohol. Order pint of lime and soda.

6.09pm: Guzzle lime and soda. Relish, for about 49 seconds, in its pleasingly refreshing qualities.

6.19pm: Refuse offer of glass of wine from friend. Order second pint of lime and soda.

6.33pm: Go for a wee.

6.35pm: Return. Guzzle lime and soda. Get caught staring at friend’s bottle of lager with ‘manic look’ in my eyes.

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6.40pm: Go for a wee.

6.44pm: Return. Eye spilt droplet of beer on the bar, and quickly tell myself that licking public surfaces would do me no favours whatsoever.

6.46pm: Go for a wee.

6.50pm: Finish second lime and soda. Get asked if I want a drink. Stare hopelessly at range of soft beverages in front of me, all of which will pump me full of sugar or caffeine and rob me of precious sleep. Fear third pint of lime and soda will cause irreparable bladder malfunction. Order tomato juice. Cry a bit inside.

6.56pm: Go for wee.

7.00pm: Return. Fail to laugh at a joke that I would’ve laughed at had I had a glass of wine.

7.10pm: Descend into a sober-induced paralysis in which I watch people around me getting merrily crapulous, sip wincingly at my tomato juice, every quaff of which is like a mouthful of chilled snake venom, and contemplate asking if anyone has heroin.

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7.20pm: Go for wee. Tomato juice has quashed bladderly urges slightly, thus reducing frequency of toilet trips.

7.31pm: Have someone say ‘Becky, do you want a large wine? OH NO SORRY YOU’RE OFF IT HAHAHAHAHAHAHA.’ Plot violent and monstrous revenge whilst becoming fixated on the dregs of white wine in a nearby glass.

7.45pm: Push empty tomato-smeared glass away. Mutter a weary farewell to the merry folks around me, go home and cry into a mug of warm milk.

Verdict: If I ever see a tomato juice or a lime and soda again I will personally remove the foreskin of every man within walking distance. Alcohol is great.

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VERDICT

The best thing about giving up alcohol for a month?

THE MONEY.

Buying alcohol is expensive. I bought no alcohol. For the mathematicians amongst you, the relevant formula is something along the lines of:

sobriety x the square root of my purse / 30 days in November +  a couple of  boxes of teabags = BECKY SAVED A LOT OF MONEY.

This, my friends, was the best thing about giving up alcohol. I enjoyed not spending my hard-earned cash to fund the slow decline of my liver, and I enjoyed spending it on other things, like a new pair of shoes, a new dress, and a haircut (no I wasn’t previously some bearded hair-covered wino, I just had a few split-ends, okay?).

Second best thing, the increased productivity. The extra pages I’ve added to my novel. The extra time I’ve spent with you beautiful people.

The rest? Lies.

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But don’t take my word for it. Try it yourself. See if you feel invigorated, full of energy, rid of fatigue, dewy complexioned, and fly through life being positive and fresh and clean and ALIVE.

Alternatively, do take my word for it, and pour yourself another massive glass of wine.

Becky says things about … customer service

So, Listener. You’ve popped along to my blog expecting to hear me say things. Is that right? Well do you know what? Why don’t you just get the hell out of my face and never darken my door again. I just cannot be bothered to say anything, and what’s more, you mean nothing to me. NOTHING I TELL YOU. In fact, I would go so far as to say I DESPISE YOU AND EVERYTHING THAT YOU STAND FOR. Now GET OUT.

That, Listener, was an example of extremely poor customer service. It wasn’t very nice, was it? No. Do I feel bad for saying those terrible things? Of course I do. I hate myself. I shall go without peanut butter for a month to punish myself. Please accept these flowers by way of apology.

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But, as we all know, modern life can vomit up the most abominable examples of poor customer service, and I have a magnificent example for you. Observe.

You may have noticed that I have not said a lot of things recently (if you hadn’t noticed, that’s fine. We’ll overlook it just this once. Next time there will be hellish consequences). This is because my phoneline died a very sudden and inconvenient death, and thus my Internet connection vanished.

I was peeved, Listener. However, I was confident that together, O2 and BT, the multi-multi-multi million pound companies that provide my phone line and Internet connection, would sort it out in no time.

I rang O2.

I spoke to someone. They immediately asked me for my home phone  number. I did not know my home phone number because I do not use my home phone, I only use the Internet connection. I was assured they could go no further with my query without a home phone number.

I hung up. I spent an hour looking for my home phone number. I found my home phone number.

I rang O2.

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I spoke to a 2nd person. I offered my home phone number. ‘Oh, we don’t need that, don’t worry.’ I was a little nettled, Listener, I don’t mind admitting – but it was no big deal.

The 2nd person went on to tell me to unscrew the front of my phone socket.

‘Seriously?’

‘Yes. I need you to see who provides your phoneline.’

‘I know who provides my phoneline. BT provides my phoneline.’

‘I still need you unscrew the front of the phone socket.’

‘I’ll need a screwdriver for that. I don’t have a screwdriver to hand. I have to find a screwdriver.’

I hung up. I found a screwdriver. I unscrewed the front of my phone socket.

By this time, I was muttering rather irately to myself.

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I rang O2.

I spoke to a 3rd person. I offered them my home phone number. ‘Oh, we don’t need that, don’t worry.’ I told them I had unscrewed the front of my phone socket. ‘Oh, really? What does it say underneath?’ I told them it said BT. ‘In that case, BT provides your phoneline.’

‘I know BT provides my phoneline. I have known this all along. It says BT on the front of the phone socket. Are you telling me I have removed the front of my phone socket unnecessarily?’

‘Can you attach a phone to the socket?’

‘There is a phone attached to the socket.’

‘And there’s no dial tone?’

‘That is correct.’

‘Your line seems to be dead.’

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‘I know my line is dead. That is literally the point of my call. My phoneline is dead.’

‘Looks like you have a fault, then. We’ll get on to BT. It should be fixed within three working days. Would you rather they contact you on your home phone or mobile phone?’

‘…My home phone is dead. We have ascertained this. Again, that is the point of my call.’

‘Right, yes. Your mobile then?’

‘That would be best, yes.’

So I got on with my life. My Internetless life. Every day I received a text from O2 assuring me they were diligently working on my home phone fault. My confidence in an army of people frantically working on my home phone fault at the telephone exchange remained steadfast. I imagined it to be like in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory when Mr Salt has a factory full of hundreds of workers furiously searching for a golden ticket in thousands of chocolate bars.

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It got to day four. My phoneline was still dead.

I rang O2.

I spoke to a 4th person.

‘You have a fault with your BT phoneline.’

‘Yes. I know.’

I was put on hold.

‘There are no notes on the system. I’m sure they’re working on it at the exchange. Give it another 24 hours and if you don’t hear from us, ring us back.’

I gave it another 24 hours. I didn’t hear from them.

I rang O2.

I spoke to a 5th person.

‘You have a fault with your BT phoneline.’

‘Yes. I know.’

I was put on hold.

‘A BT engineer needs to come to the property to fix the fault. The next appointment in your area is 3,405,064 light years from now and they will turn up between the hours of 9am on a Wednesday and 11pm the following Monday.’

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So the Thursday six days later, after six days of receiving texts reminding me of the impending appointment and the fact that I would be charged £50 if I wasn’t at home when the BT engineer turned up between the hours of 8am and 1pm, I booked the hours of 8am to 1pm off work and waited to be connected to the world again.

I waited. I was alert and sniffing the air, like a coked-up meerkat. I couldn’t concentrate, Listener. Every sound, every car engine, every footstep from outside made me bolt to the window like an excitable terrier.

By 12.45pm I was becoming sweaty, violent, and desperate.

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At 1pm on the dot, I rang O2.

I spoke to a 6th person. I told them I had lost half a day’s work and the BT engineer had NOT turned up, and did he propose to give me the £50 that I would’ve had to pay him if the BT engineer had turned up and I hadn’t been there?

I was put on hold.

‘Right, I’m looking at your notes and the engineer’s at the exchange now, fixing your problem from there. He’ll give you a call in half an hour.’

He promised me a goodwill gesture, money off my next bill, a dinner and dance, the stars, the moon, a holiday in Vegas, and Llama.

I hung up. I waited a further two hours. No one came to fix my phone line.

By this time, I was nearing a point that could be considered dangerous.

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I rang O2.

I spoke to a 7th person. I told her what the 6th person had said. She went to find him to confirm. I was put on hold. I pulled my thumb off with some pliers.

The 7th person came back and said ‘Yeah, my colleague didn’t say categorically that the BT engineer was fixing your fault from the exchange and would call you within half an hour – my colleague was just conjecturing.’

I injected some heroin into my eyeball.

‘Okay, your colleague definitely said it categorically. He said ‘The BT engineer is at the exchange and will call me within half an hour.’ He was quite categorical about it. A conjecture should have been prefixed with ‘I think‘ or ‘I conjecture that the BT engineer is at the exchange’. He did not say that. He said he looked at my notes.’

‘Well there are no notes here. I’m sorry if you misinterpreted what my colleague said. I can’t tell you why the BT engineer didn’t turn up, I don’t know where he is and there’s no way of contacting him. You’ll receive a call from us tomorrow to sort it out.’

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I was so inhumanely furious I ate an entire sharing bag of Malteasers and had a bath.

The next day, the Friday, I received a call from O2. I spoke to an 8th person. She rebooked the BT engineer appointment for the following Monday. I was assured he would definitely turn up.

The following day, I received a call from O2. I spoke to a 9th person. I was informed that when the 8th person had booked my appointment the day before, there had been a fault in their system, and there was in fact no appointment booked for Monday, and the earliest appointment was Thursday.

I shut my head in the oven door.

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For the next couple of days I received texts from O2 telling me not to forget that a BT engineer was coming to my property on Thursday to fix my home phone fault, and I checked into an asylum.

On Tuesday morning – that’s Tuesday morning, Listener, Tuesday, I cannot emphasise this enough – I received a call whilst I was at work.

‘Hi, I’m a BT engineer, I’m outside your property and I need access to fix your home phone fault.’

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I took a sedative, pictured turquoise waves rippling over my toes, and asked my colleague to remove all sharp objects from within an arm’s reach.

‘What are you doing outside my property? I was not expecting you until Thursday. I expected you last Thursday, then I was expecting you this Thursday, and now it’s the Tuesday in between and you are at my property and I am not there because you are not supposed to be there.

‘Oh, right. Well, yeah, this fault’s been sitting on our fault list for a while, so we thought we’d get on and do it.’

‘That’s extraordinarily nice of you.’ You know, to do your job.

‘You can wait until Thursday when we can come back, or…’

‘NO. No. Stay exactly where you are.’

Fortunately, fathers always manage to save the day. My father was at hand. He let them in. The fault was sorted in ten minutes. I ate two doughnuts and begged my boss to be allowed to go for a gin. He said no. So I lay under my desk for a few hours and tenderly cuddled a stapler.

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I have the Internet again, Listener. It’s not so bad, is it? It only took nearly three weeks to fix. That’s not so bad, is it?

Well, actually, yes. It ruddy well is. This is customer service at its most abysmal. Imagine if every business operated with this level of disorganisation, miscommunication and whimsy, and treated their customers like funny little toys they can muck around with.

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Sadly, more often than not we have no choice but to just suck it up and get on with it.

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I am yet to contact O2 to ask what they will give me to compensate for this ludicrous situation. I don’t quite feel emotionally ready for that.

I am still getting texts from O2 reminding me that a BT engineer is coming to fix my home phone fault on Thursday.

Becky says things about … rage

Most treasured Listener, I have been reduced to a violent, ire-spewing volcano of fury. I have been filled with such mania that I fear for those around me. I have been consumed by a raving anger that I cannot be sure hasn’t ruptured my spleen.

What has caused this surge of rage inside me, you may ask.

A sandwich.

A sandwich, Listener.

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Allow me to explain.

I bought a shop-made sandwich. I bought it because my greedy eyes liked the look of the bulge of sumptuous egg filling that ballooned from the bread and smattered against the plastic wrapping. I went all Samuel L. Jackson on myself, and muttered ‘That looks like a taaaasty sandwich’.

I skipped home, joyful at the prospect of mouthful after mouthful of lavish eggy delight.

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The first couple of bites were as I had hoped: bloated with generous, chunky egg. The third and fourth mouthfuls were strangely disappointing. There was a distinct lack of filling. The fifth and sixth mouthfuls were annoying. The seventh and eighth were a downright insult. The ninth was an outrage. Twas nothing but bread.

You see, Listener, sandwich manufacturers are deceitful toads. They will construct a triangular sandwich so that it appears to be consistently spread with a generous, nay, munificent amount of filling. It is only when the innocent, trusting customer has purchased and nibbled the initial hypotenuse of the triangular sandwich, that they discover there is no more filling. 

I shall demonstrate using this helpful diagram:

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This seemingly trivial incident made me shockingly and bafflingly angry. I ranted about it for a full 20 minutes. I was livid. Why? It was only a sandwich. It obviously touched a weak spot in me, that spot that makes my normally calm demeanour bubble over into a venomous frenzy.

I can only deduce that I experienced the phenomenon that occurs occasionally in life that I shall call ‘Moments of Inexplicable and Disproportionate Rage at Minor Incidents’. Those inconsequential things that send a normally laid-back human being into a torrent of wrath. Everyone has stimuli that send them into unadulterated, uncontrolled, unjustifiable rage, and, if you will allow me, dearest Listener, I shall exhibit the most potent of mine.

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People Unnecessarily Reading Out Words

I can already feel my blood pressure rising.

People who feel the need to vocalise every single word they see around them makes me inexplicably livid. I had a boyfriend many years ago whose lovely mother cultivated this rage in me. On car journeys she would sit in the front passenger seat gazing serenely out of the window. What’s wrong with that? Nothing. But what would you do if someone in your car, from which you cannot escape, reads out loud every single road sign and every single billboard and every single shop name you pass?

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Exactly. You would set fire to your own foot.

Just imagine it. An entire journey filled with a relentless oral commentary of geographical wordage. With every turn into a new road she would say dreamily ‘Albert Crescent… Rose Drive… Edridge Road… Samson Street…’ And just when I thought we were safe on long roads with no turnings, there would be ‘McDonalds… Marks and Spencers… Vision Express… Starbucks…’

And with every harmless vocalisation from the front seat, I would sit in the back seething quietly to myself and wishing this lovely, blameless woman would have a sudden heart attack.

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Complicated Clothing

Oh, cherished female listeners, how many times have you seen a dress or a top on a shop window model and thought ‘Oh my goodness me, that is a gorgeous dress. I would love nothing more than to add that charming garment to my wardrobe,’ and you have taken it to the fitting rooms to discover that this dress has been made by people with a streak of such sickness inside them, such malice, that you wonder at the very continuation of humanity. For this dress is literally impossible to get into.

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It is made of gratuitous straps and erroneous gaps and with such heinous anatomical disregard, that you cannot help but exclaim ‘THE VERY EXISTENCE OF THIS DRESS IS FUTILE AND OFFENSIVE, FOR NO HUMAN BEING WILL EVER SUCCEED IN WEARING IT, AND WHY THE FLYING F*** WAS IT EVER INVENTED IN THE FIRST PLACE???’

This makes me want to line up a row of baby meerkats and machine-gun them.

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People Who Dawdle at Ticket Barriers

We all know that terrifying moment of panic upon approaching a station ticket barrier, when we are fumbling for our tickets, and that terrible fear sears through our mind: What if I don’t find my ticket before I reach the barrier???

We all know that feeling. But we step to one side where our physical presence will not be an obstacle to others, and we rummage in our bags and pockets, cursing wildly under our breath, until we find our ticket and rejoin the stream of people through the barriers. All is well.

Except not everyone does that, do they? No. Some people choose to search for their missing ticket in the entrance to the ticket barrier thereby preventing any other poor sod from passing through. 

This makes me want to discharge my own kidneys.

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I tell you what, Person Searching for Your Ticket at the Ticket Barrier, why don’t you just sit down and have a rest while your there? Maybe get a book out and have a read for half an hour? Got a vase that needs mending? No problem, I’ll fetch you some superglue and you can do it right there.

You monster.

Irrelevant Detail in Stories

Being told a story by a friend is a lovely thing. Whether it’s humorous, sad, or nail-bitingly exciting, it should be a joy. However, so many verbal tales are ruined by narrative detours of such abominable irrelevancy that they make me want to run head-first into exposed brickwork.

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Observe the following scenario:

Chum: Did I tell you the story about when I found a dead body in my airing cupboard?

Me: No? Gosh, that sounds exciting. Pray tell.

Chum: Well I’d just got home from work one Wednesday – or had I been to yoga? It could’ve been ballet conditioning, come to think of it… perhaps it was a Thursday, in which case it would’ve been cookery class. Anyway, I got home and – no, it was definitely Tuesday because I had my swimming kit with me and my hair was wet – unless it had been raining… We’d had a lot of rain, I know that much, because I remember saying to Gary how the marigolds were going to suffer…

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Chum: Anyway, I got in and made myself a tuna sandwich – or was it salmon? No, definitely tuna, because we hadn’t had any salmon in the house for ages because Sainsbury’s had been out of them for at least two weeks – could’ve been a month, come to think of it, I know they were very short for a good long while… So I ate my sandwich, had a glass of squash and an apple, maybe even a banana, although I don’t tend to have bananas in the evening because they give me gas, and I took some washing out of the washing machine… or was it the tumble dryer? I think I put another load in, you know, of jeans, shirts, socks…

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Chum: … and I took some ironing upstairs – we’d just had Ian and Bev over to stay, so I’d had some extra linen to iron, and the steam iron had packed in so we’d had to go to B&Q to get a new one – sixty quid, can you believe it? Gary was furious. Yeah, so I’d gone upstairs with this pile of ironing, which had taken me all Saturday morning to do … or did I do it on Sunday? It could’ve been Sunday because I think we’d gone to Gary’s mother’s on Saturday and she’d made this awful marmalade tea loaf – or was it a lemon drizzle?

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Listener, I do not have it in me to endure such flagrant contempt for narrative pertinence.

And recounting all those things has sent me into such a bluster I shall be forced to smash myself in the face with the picture frame I bought from Debenhams. Or was it Bentalls? It could have been John Lewis. Actually, I’m pretty sure it was Ebay…

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Becky says things about … the dentist

I sit here before you, most ardently listening Listener, with a metal rod in my face.

No, I have not developed a penchant for elaborate facial piercings, or become involved in a vicious dispute with a steelworker – I have been to the dentist.

The dentist, Listener. The Tooth Attacker, the Oral Bandit, the Face Raider. Or, if you’re so disposed, the Smile Saviour, the Dental Happiness Lord, the Ivory Saint. Whatever you want to call them, a trip to the dentist is never enjoyable and always fraught with discomfort, humiliation and involuntary loss of dignity.

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The trip gets off to a bad start. The dentist’s chair itself is impossible to enter in a decorous manner.

‘Please take a seat,’ the dentist said to me yesterday.

‘Yeah, right,’ I thought, as one look at that chair told me that carrying out this simple task wouldn’t be calamity-free. Reclined like a lilo on a choppy sea, and flanked by table-like arms containing an evil plethora of lethal instruments, protruding wires, and stacks of highly expensive, breakable equipment, the only method of taking that kindly proffered seat was to perform a strange and ungainly backward shuffle, involving my bottom pointing obnoxiously towards the dentist’s face, a little jump over the arched seat, and an impact of my bottom with the chair that sounded like a hippo fainting.

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Then you’ve got to open your mouth. As wide as is humanely possible, wider than the anatomical limitations of your jaw will allow – but you’ve still got to do it.

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No one wants to have  someone peer intently at a part of their body and make a judgement. No one. True, every day we may think ‘He could drop a few pounds,’ or ‘She desperately needs to dye her hair’, but we have neither the tools, the mental determination, nor the social permission to carry out these physical alterations on another human being at whim.

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A dentist, on the other hand, has all those things. A dentist can peer into your mouth, think to themselves ‘Hmm… I’d much prefer upper 13 to be filled with lovely porcelain’ or ‘That faintly discoloured second molar would look far better round my neck’, and then say words to you that you don’t understand but that you know are bad words, and what’s more, you MUST OBEY THEM.

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For who are you to question them? Who are you to disagree when a trained professional tells you that if you don’t have your root replaced with a metal rod, your tooth will rot, crumble, explode soon after, and leave you in crippling pain and with unsightly swelling for life? Unless you have the knowledge to match theirs – and, as a very wise woman once said, ‘No one has the dental knowledge to match that of a dentist apart from another dentist’ – you really are in no position to quibble.

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So once this master of your mouth has decided which particular horrendous procedure they wish to perform on you, there begins a depressingly degrading process.

Your mouth will be sufficiently numbed so that your lips feel like whale blubber. Pneumatic drills will be forced into your face – the sound of a steel tip breaking down your precious pearly whites will haunt you for days – and a sullen, silent assistant will suck up your uncontrollably gushing saliva with a small vacuum cleaner. And that is perhaps the worst thing of all: the silent judgement of the dental assistant.

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Halfway through you may be ordered to rinse. There is that slow, terrible, saliva-filled journey as the back of the chair is made upright (no journey is ever so painfully lengthy), and you swirl an unidentified liquid round your deadened mouth, dribbling 90% of it down your chin like a mumbling, toothless old drunk, and what you hope will be a clean-cut spit into the basin turns into a half-wretch, half-fling of stringy phlegmy liquid that dangles from your lips like the wretched futility of your blackened soul.

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Then the prodding, the drilling, the sawing starts again. I had the second part of root canal treatment yesterday, and at one point I had what felt like a metal spear rammed so far into my upper gum that I felt it nudging my eye socket. My eye socket, Listener. Not content with assaulting the lower half of my face, this dentist attacked the upper part as well.

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And when you’ve been speared, stabbed, suctioned and dentally abused to within an inch of your sorry life, you must go through the dribbling rinsing process again, and then comes the hilarious punchline in this protracted and traumatic sick joke:

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You leave a broken, bloodied, bankrupt woman, a rod in your face, one side of your mouth hanging lower than your knees, and to top it all off, an ill-timed and premature sip of water on the bus results in you dribbling all of it down yourself in front of four disapproving elderly ladies.

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So I am left with a rod in my face, a filling the size of Finland, and a severely diminished dignity.

All offers of sympathy / empathy / cash are most welcome.