Having travelled up to That London for the last couple of days of last week, I am feeling positively cosmopolitan.I had a lovely dinner, although their idea of a commentworthily huge meal in That London equates to a goodly sized bit of beef and too few chips in Exeter, but what can one do? I met some ex-Future people who were pretty much universally nice and it was excellent to see Melvin again after so long.
Perhaps I had better return to ground with which you, my gentle reader, will be familiar. Me.
Not a huge update, I went to the optician. I have been having a few headaches and so I toddled along for a check. The optician is nice enough, but she has terrible breath and a very hairy top lip, which is disconcerting when she leans in to within a mere 27 beard seconds of my face to peer at my retina.
After the normal puffs of air to the face and the watching the balloon test, I have some smashing news: "You have the best long distance vision I have ever measured . . .".
Woo! Yay! Hooplah! Maybe even a punani, except, wait. There was an ellipsis in there, wasn't there? There is a 'but' coming. Oh dear. I know that to many of you this will seem like a petty thing, I am a middle aged man with receding hair, a proceeding stomach and a hopefully infertile scrotum, so how unexpected can it be that my eyesight might be failing? Well, let me tell you this, it is utterly arse!
". . . but you will need a prescription for VDU use".
The overtly camp technician leads me back to the front desk to discuss my glasses, and hands me over to a woman cut from the receptionist mould.
There is something about Doctor and Dentist receptionists which can only be bred there. I sincerely believe that all medical receptionists and school secretaries are from the same original stock. If ever there was an argument for creation and short-Earth theories then it must surely be the guileless, embittered women who inhabit the desks and counters of our nations monopolies.
They know that you have nowhere else to go, you see. They sense that you absolutely need to have the tooth drilled, or to let the headmaster know that little George will be out of class for the next few days with a vomiting bug, so they can be as obnoxious as they like and there is nothing you can do about it.
As long as they smile and remain officious whilst they drain every last drop of joy from your situation, they know that any retaliation on your part will merely mark you down as 'one of them'. You know it too, you have seen them, the ones who are either genuinely unpleasant to begin with or, in the face of constant whittling bile from the haggard spinster behind the Formica worktop, finally snap and storm off in a cloud of expletives. There is no benefit in that, the receptionist merely retains the high moral ground and has another example to prove that the customer is always wrong. You know this and she knows this and, worst of all, she knows that you know it.
There can be no benefit to the human species for these abominations to have arisen naturally. There is nothing in the phenotype which could be classed as a positive variance. Indeed, the receptionist only truly serves to hinder mankind's progress. The only possible explanation remaining is that the receptionists are created by a deity, the alternative, that these acrimonious termagants actually engage in sexual relationships, is too absurd to contemplate.
So, we return to the shrew at hand. Now I only want to wear these glasses when I am in front of a VDU - I do not need them even for reading paper-based print, so appearance is of no real consequence. I mention this and she releases the smallest of sneers. Do not get me wrong, I have long ago learned to face The Receptionists with equanimity, I am not becoming even mildly riled by this crone, indeed I would be far more shocked were she polite or even human, I am merely relaying the situation. To cut a long story short, my lenses are to cost me £225, plus frames. "Shall we start at the cheapest and work up?" she asks with the belittling tone which suggests that a pauper like myself needs assistance.
This is another trait of The Receptionists, they always look down on mere mortal men. Be they manning an NHS drop in desk, behind a Post Office counter or idling away, processing the return of faulty goods at Marks & Spencer, they know you need them and somehow translate this into a superiority which must prove that they are a separate breed. Were these really the poorly paid jobs which The Receptionists pretend, propagating the myth through the advertising of false vacancies in the local press, then their universal confidence that the wealth of the customer does not match up to their own high standards could not be maintained. I digress.
"No, let's not".
"Sorry Mr Manley?"
"Let us not 'start at the cheapest and work up'" I should stress here that I am calm and not angry, just conversational, "Let's just leave it for now, eh?"
"I am sorry Mr Manley, but the optician does say that you need glasses for VDU work."
"Well, I have managed long enough and I rather think that 85 pints of Spitfire might well go further towards relieving the stress than a brace of glass discs. Good day ma'am."
I feel elated as I leave the shop. It is not that I have saved £300, but that I have shown one of The Receptionists that I do not need her. I can operate alone. I am a free man. I still need glasses. Bugger.
I slink, yes 'slink', I am not sure that my chin was actually clear of the floor tiles, into another optician, clutching my prescription and avoiding those with thicker spectacles in the hope that my newly discovered ocular deformity will not become exasperated by their condition. The Receptionists await me.
There are three of them, they ignore me. We have all been ignored by The Receptionists, they type at their terminal or hold a telephone to their ear for precisely 5 seconds longer than one can bear before raising their eyes to you. This is different. The Receptionists are not doing anything. Nothing at all. They are merely standing still ignoring My Lordship. The word has been passed.
The fear hits me and I can feel the sweat trickling down the nape of my neck for a full 2 minutes. I attempt conversation, "Hello". Nothing. A direct assault "Hello? Could any of you help me at all, please?". Nothing. Eventually I resort to a fully flanking attritional attack, using a passing little girl, "When you grow up, you make sure that you are not as rude as these ladies". Nothing.
A pretty girl comes over and says pointedly 'They will be with you in just a second' and suddenly all three of The Receptionists clamour to assist. Have I discovered the hedgemon? I leave the three to cackle a-whiles and approach the spectacular hive queen, who manages to sell me a pair of bins, with lenses, for a modest £25 and am away into the night.