Ask me nicely–please
cup of tea with the satisfaction of knowing that I’m waiting. Eventually, he turns up with a small packet and thrusts it at me without a word or a smile.
In contrast to this, I find the same notice in a big London hospital. The hospital is a model of its kind, sparkling-clean, efficient and friendly. I have nothing but praise for the place—except for the pharmacy, where that ‘Abuse… will not be tolerated’ notice hangs above a nice, clean guichet. In the corridor, there is a long rank of chairs filled with disgruntled, worried people. They, like me, have all been told it will take more than an hour for their prescriptions to be ready.
I sit next to a woman with a toddler. She’s desperately worried that she won’t get her pills in time to collect her children from school. Number 87 is on the flashing display above the counter, but her number is 117—30 to go. Should she leave the pills for tomorrow and go through the same drag again?
When I mention the delays to one of the consultants, he says that the pharmacy is under review and that perhaps Boots or Tesco will be asked to run it instead.
Doesn’t this say it all? The parcel reclaim and the pharmacy are both run by nationalised industries; Boots and Tesco are fiendish capitalist enterprises to which customers are important. Can you imagine the abuse notice hanging above a Tesco checkout? Or that it would take an hour to get your pills at Boots?
I’m afraid that I have the same complaint against Buckingham Palace. Along with an impressive card asking me to a garden party there—‘the Lord Chamberlain is commanded by Her Majesty to invite…’—came another, smaller white card. The tone is quite different.
I can’t remember the wording exactly because I was so cross I threw it away. It insisted that security was paramount. Phrases sprang out at me such as ‘Will not be Tolerated,’ ‘Strictly prohibited’ and ‘Under no Circumstances’. Would you ask people to a party that way?
Everyone realises that, of all places, Buckingham Palace must watch its security, but my gripe is the use of such stentorian language. It exemplifies Shakespeare’s comment about ‘the insolence of office’. The same message could—and should— be softened with polite words. Something along the lines of ‘You will understand that security at the palace is vital. Please could you make sure that you bring the relevant documents with you? Thank you for your help’.
This says exactly what is necessary, but in a way to make a visit to the palace a pleasure. It’s all a matter of language—something the grand viziers at the palace, the grumpy postmen and the harrassed pharmacists should all learn.
I know I shall, at best, end up depressed; at worst, in a rage