How is my day? I want a coffee!
IBLAME America. A sweeping generalisation, I know, but I am not making it culpable for all the ills of the modern world. But who else can we point the finger at for the phenomenon of overlycourteous and eager-to-please staff in high-street coffee chains who insist on finding out about not just your day but your entire life as you wait patiently for a double espresso and a toasted sandwich? It’s a well-worn retail mantra that the customer comes first. Which is fine except when it tips into a pretence that you are their best friend. The other day I popped in to a high street branch of a particular chain and it wasn’t long before I found myself being enticed into just such an exchange. “How’s your day gone so far today, sir?” So far? I was already on the defensive despite the cleverly deferential use of the word “sir.” Was I expected to return later on and complete a run down of the full day rather than just the morning? Would I be handed one of those feedback forms with dozens of questions about what I’d had for breakfast and how my journey into work had been? I opted for what I thought was a non-committal “fine, thanks” but it was not enough to deter my interrogator, whose hyper-activity signalled someone who quite probably had too much caffeine coursing round their system. “We’ve got the air conditioning on upstairs. The temperature is lovely.” I’m bound to say I struggled to come up with an appropriate response that did not come across as rude but conveyed my general indifference to the ambient conditions. “Oh, really? That’s nice.” As often happens, a strong instinct to preserve my sanity kicked in and my mind shut down. Unlike the air-conditioning, which I’m sure I rashly promised I’d be back at some point to savour.