Mike colman

The Courier-Mail - QWeekend - - UPFRONT -

The Bri­tish must be the most po­lite people on Earth. Deal­ing with them at just about any level, from hav­ing the gas con­nected to tr ying to see a doc­tor, is like be­ing gen­tly hit over the head with a soft­cover edi­tion of a De­brett’s guide to eti­quette. They fob you off with such charm and good man­ners that it’s not un­til sev­eral min­utes af­ter you’ve left their of­fice or put down the phone that you re­alise.

My fam­ily and I re­cently moved into a rental property at Ful­ham, south-west of Lon­don’s CBD. For the past six weeks much of our time has been taken up with phone calls to our es­tate agent Cur­tis. Our con­ver­sa­tions with Cur­tis fol­low a very sim­i­lar path. We tell him all the things that are wrong with our flat. He oohs and uh-huhs with max­i­mum grav­i­tas and prom­ises to see to the is­sue “as a mat­ter of ur­gency”. We don’t hear from him un­til we call with our next com­plaint.

It’s the same with the elec­tric­ity sup­pli­ers, who’ve man­aged to lose all records of our very ex­is­tence so many times that I’m start­ing to won­der if I’m ac­tu­ally a fig­ment of my own imag­i­na­tion. Yet they’re so earnest and charm­ing in our deal­ings that we’ve found our­selves apol­o­gis­ing to them for their in­com­pe­tence.

Best of all, though, was last week when I found my­self on a Bri­tish Air­ways flight stuck on the tar­mac. Noth­ing too un­usual about that. Many’s the time I’ve lis­tened to a Qan­tas flight of­fi­cer ex­plain away such a sit­u­a­tion with a brief, “Sorry about this. We’ll be up and away as soon as we can.” Not from an English­man. “Yes, we’re pro­fes­sion­als, but we’re trav­ellers too,” said the pi­lot. “We’ve been where you are, we know how you are feel­ing. We’re hurt­ing just as much as you.” He then con­tin­ued with all-tooreg­u­lar heart­felt up­dates de­scrib­ing in minute de­tail what the prob­lem was and how it was be­ing rec­ti­fied.

Thank­fully, “as a mat­ter of ur­gency”.

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