Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Modern Life

Fans of The Catherine Tate Show will know that the waitress in the theme restaurant always addresses customers as 'yourselves/yourself'.
I had my first experience of this usage this week. I had made an enquiry of my bank and the woman who rang me began by saying: "Would it be convenient to talk to yourself at the moment?"
A perfectly reasonable response would have been: "I talk to myself all the time. But if I do it now I won't be talking to myself because you'll be listening to me."

In fact, this woman did far more talking than listening - like Catherine Tate's waitress - and I was half expecting one of her fellow bankers to come on the line and to get a joint rendition of something like 'Money Makes The World Go Around'.
This new usage of 'yourself' by Customer Service Operatives sounds rather Irish to me.
And why say 'yourself' instead of the one syllable 'you'?


Persuading someone that the Earth is flat or that the sun rises in the west or that Elvis is alive and doing a window cleaning round in your village would be easy-peasy compared to persuading them that you use your mobile phone only two or three times a year.

I first had this problem when I bought a mobile in Dixons and the teenager who served me came very close to accusing me of taking the piss.
But that was as nothing compared to my problems this week in convincing people that I hadn't used my mobile for about two years.
The technology itself cannot cope with this perverse behaviour. If you don't use a mobile for six months it effectively ceases to exist and you have to buy a new SIM card with a new phone number.

That's a relatively staightforward procedure but discussing the matter with your network service and transferring credit from the old number produces stunned silences at the other end of the phone.
"Sorry, I think I misheard you. You last topped-up when?"
"About two years ago."
"But that would be 2003!"
"It would indeed."
"Er.....I'm going to have to speak to my manager...."

Work at the Call Centre ground to a halt as an urgent ad hoc Working Party was set up and people shouted across the office "Hey, Mohammed, you won't believe this but Tracey's got this bloke who reckons he hasn't topped-up or made a call for two years!"

It was all resolved eventually but only after they took all my personal details and probably ran them through the Police National Computer.
Of course, my eccentricity has meant I've now forfeited the anonymity of using a Pay-As-You-Go phone. But since I'm not Mr Big - well, not in any criminal sense - I can live with that.

To avoid any repetition of this nightmare I have put a note in my diary to use my mobile to ring the Speaking Clock in five months' time.
The march of progess means the Speaking Clock has gone from a convenient 3-digit number to a stonking 11 digits. But at least she never says "Is it convenient to tell yourself the time at this moment in time" or puts yourself on hold or goes off for ten minutes to check the correct time with her manager.


At 1:15 PM, Blogger Aginoth said...

Call centres, always a place to call when you want an argument, and they are usually so happy to oblige.

Good blog, linked to you on mine

At 2:22 PM, Blogger cello said...

Mr C hardly uses his. In fact, I think the size of mobile phone bill is probably an excellent indicator of how much I am going to like someone. Inverse relationship of course. Mind you it is annoying that he doesn't even have it switched on when I really need to reach him.

And the 'yourself' thing. Grrr. Just one of the many teeth-grinders to infect common parlance.

At 8:00 AM, Blogger Geoff said...

Thanks for the tip, Willie. Although my train's at least 20 minutes late at least once a month so I think I should be alright.
When I first bought the thing I asked them how long the battery lasts if you keep the phone switched off. They had no idea but said probably a couple of days. It lasts months.
I've still got no idea how to text someone. Then again there's nobody I want to text.

At 9:25 AM, Blogger Willie Lupin said...

aginoth, thanks. Nice pics of Weston on your blog. Well, I say 'nice'. They brought back childhood memories of playing on the mud and wondering why the 'seaside' had no sea.

cello, Mr C probably realises like me that if you keep it switched off the battery doesn't run down and you don't get those irritating sales texts form your network service.

geoff, mine was switched off for two years but now I've re-activated it the battery is still fine.
Nobody over 40 should ever attempt to text. I tried it once and it took me half an hour to do six words.
Good front page article in yeaterday's Guardian by Andrew Brown on mobiles.

At 9:47 AM, Blogger Pashmina said...

And why say 'yourself' instead of the one syllable 'you'?

One of life's great mysteries, Willie. I mean, somebody must have actually thought of that usage at some point and have actively been the first to use it, but it's utterly nonsensical.

I overheard the woman who sits next to me during office hours on the phone yesterday saying "My husband and myself are moving in three weeks' time.." and had to physically clamp down my lower lip with my teeth to stop myself from saying anything. Mind you, she was on the phone again this morning to Sky to get them to remove her Film Four subscription. I don't think she and I will ever be close.

At 3:37 PM, Blogger Willie Lupin said...

pashmina, I think the Irish sometimes say 'Is it yourself?' but that can be considered dialect. There is no excuse for English people saying it.
I think it's either an attempt to give a business-like formality to the conversation or it's an attempt to give the other person a heightened importance. But it sits uneasily with the current vogue for informality. One's expected to be on instant first name terms with call centre staff.


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