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 … 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 … terrible confessions

I recently made a throwaway confession on my Facebook page which went thus:

Porridge is revolting. There, I said it.

The comments I received were so numerous and passionate in their defence of porridge (good book title, that: In Defence of Porridge. Hands off, that one’s mine) that it rather took me aback. It also pleased me greatly that I had done something I don’t normally do: made a controversial statement. It made me feel quite the new woman.

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So, spurned by my new-found rebelliousness and disregard for people’s opinions, I decided I would make some more confessional controversial statements. It’s rather liberating, you see. Rid myself of my deepest, darkest secrets and put them out there for people to do with what they will. Because I just don’t care. I am a law unto myself. FREEDOM!!

1. I quite often find children intolerable.

Thought I’d start with a nice evil one, but also one which I know will have a lot of you biting your lip and nodding in a ‘Thank God someone else does too’ kind of way.

Kids are cute, I’ll give them that. Not all kids, mind. There are some repulsive children out there, the sort where it is literally impossible to smile benignly and say to the mother ‘Awwww, she is adorable, you must be so excruciatingly proud to have spawned such a beautiful creature.’

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But I can handle ugly children. I’ll just look at them and wince a bit, and there’s no harm done. It’s children’s behaviour I can’t handle. Now, I know that by their very undeveloped and uneducated and un-everything nature, children can be expected to act in ways that are perhaps socially and humanely undesirable, such as throwing tantrums when they don’t get their own way, or crying when they’re tired or hungry, or winging and being unreasonable and refusing every offer of food, sleep, warmth, entertainment and affection, but I just can’t help wanting to kneel in front of them and say very quietly:

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And as for letting them win at stuff – well. Perhaps fortunately, I am yet to have my own children, because those children, when / if they eventually turn up, will have to learn the hard way that, guess what: LIFE IS NOT A BOWL OF RUDDY CHERRIES. So you’re not very good at hitting a shuttlecock with a badminton racket, and you’re desperate to beat your mum or at least get the bloody thing over the net, and your mum might shout words of encouragement and advice from the other end of the garden, but you know what she won’t do?

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Hell no. Because you haven’t won, have you? You can’t even get the bloody thing over the net. And years later, when you sit down in an interview room for the job of your dreams and the interviewer doesn’t say ‘You sat down in that chair very nicely, you’ve got the job,’ you won’t be disappointed. Then you’ll thank me.

2. If I were Queen, I would ban football, tennis and golf from ever being shown on television.

It’s a Wednesday evening. You’ve had a hard day at work. Your boss doesn’t respect you and someone used up all your milk. You want a nice quiet drink down the pub to relax. You get to the pub and are confronted with this:

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You spend the next hour listening to loud and fascinating opinions on the rules of football and the moral integrity of the referee, punctuated by brain-imploding cheers or teeth-aching expletives, knowing that at the end of 90 minutes you can look forward to a detailed analysis of the previous 90 minutes by those people who have just spent 90 minutes watching the 90 minutes and talking about the 90 minutes whilst watching the 90 minutes.

Or you get home from work one day in late June to find that your house has burnt down, destroying every possession you ever owned, with no hope of salvaging anything whatsoever, and you call a friend for some support.

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Or you’ve just run someone over and you’re quite keen to get it off your chest, so you go down the pub and sit next to your mate and have the following conversation:

You: Mate, I really need to –

Mate: Shh.

You: What? I just need –

Mate: Shh.

You: Why are you shhing me?

Mate: Tiger’s about to take a par 6.

You: What?

Mate: Shh.

You: Look, me talking in a pub in England is not going to disturb Tiger Woods playing golf in Florida –

Mate: Shh.

You: Mate, I really need some support here –

Mate: Shh.

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Enough said. Of all sports, it’s those three that ruin the most lives.

3. I couldn’t really care less about animals.

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Now let’s get one thing straight. With the exception of cats, I do not want to perform animal genocide and rid the world of every living animal on earth. I’m fine with coexisting in a world with animals. I really like dogs. I quite like sheep, and I’ve definitely got quite a lot of time for most ducks, especially mallards. But a photo of a horse leaning down to nuzzle its foal and the words Motherhood is Beautiful written across it will take me dangerously close to animal genocide. 

And I resent the fact that, just because I can’t get excited about your 3,503 blurred photographs of the back-end of an elephant from your African safari, it does not mean I deserve this:

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And yes, that is the blood of a newborn kitten I am drinking.

4. I have never seen Back to the FutureThe GodfatherRocky, The Karate Kid, Labrynthe, The Breakfast Club, Star Wars, or Top Gun, and I thought Ghostbusters was rubbish.

When I was a child, having to admit that I had never seen any of the above films was something I dreaded. It was social suicide. Mockery, shunnage, and active disdain would ensue. My pleas of ‘But I have seen Gone with the WindSingin’ in the Rain, The Man Who Would Be King, and I thought the BBC adaptation of I, Claudius was simply marvellous’ fell on deaf ears.

But as I got older, identifying a social situation in which I could drop this bombshell gave me more and more pleasure:

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You know what, I’ve got through 28 years without ever having seen those films, and I’ve done okay. And what’s moreI’m shocked and appalled when you tell me you’ve never seen Strictly Ballroom, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Calamity Jane, Mary Poppins, The Railway Children or Monty Python and the Holy Grail. And the more shocked you act when I tell you what films I haven’t seen, and the more you tell me I absolutely have to watch them or else I will be a social outcast for all eternitythe less likely I am to ever watch them.

That’s just how it works.

5. I would rather have a holiday in Las Vegas than help build a school in Africa.

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I’m a nice person, honest. Just like you’re a nice person. We’re all nice people, really. But if someone said to you ‘I’ll pay for you to go to Las Vegas, stay in the most expensive suite on the Strip, give you £5,000 to spend, and book you in at the best breakfast buffet in the city, or … you can go to a small African village and help build a school that the community so desperately needs’, think very long and hard about your answer.

Believe me, if I had Bill Gates’ dosh, I’d get a whole heap of schools built over there – I mean, they wouldn’t be able to move for schools and wells and hospitals and housing.

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I’d just also spend a hell of a lot of time squandering heaps of cash and indulging in sordid debauchery in Las Vegas, that’s all.

I feel much better after confessing all that. All that remains for me to do is sit back and await the hate mail…*

*Please don’t send me hate mail.