Navigation  >>  The Carbuncle Web Site  >>  Carbuncle Corner  >>  Nick Harvey's Comment  >>  September 2002

Carbuncle Corner     Nick Harvey's Comment

September 2002 - Things They Say

Well, I really must start this time round by thanking all of you who wrote in with your own experiences of confusion and bewilderment at the many strange systems of sports scoring that you've encountered over time.

And if none of you DID actually write in on that particular subject, then it only goes to prove the worth of the advice I gave myself in last month's edition, to write early and get ahead.

You see, if I'm totally truthful, I haven't got a clue how many of you wrote in, because I'm taking my own advice here, and writing nice and early; so early, in fact, that last month's edition has only just gone on display, so goodness knows what the reaction is going to be like.

I AM, however, rather hoping that this edition will also prompt lots of mail, as my in-depth analysis this month will centre on the odd things people say and the times at which they say them.

I'm sure many of you will have excellent examples to share with the rest of us, so I might even consider giving a prize for the best letter. Or, on the other hand, I might not.

Some friends of mine are getting married at the weekend, so I could just con them out of a collection of unwanted wedding presents to get rid of to unsuspecting people who I judge to deserve them.

Why is it I wonder that when you put things like steerable satellite systems and dish washers on your wedding present list, that the idiots still send you an ironing board to go with the two you've already got?

Be warned, if I do send out a prize it could well be the set of five tumblers Aunty Dilys collected with her Esso tokens.

Which takes us nicely into the plot for this month's edition of Comment, as Aunty Dilys is probably the best exponent of the sort of statement I want to talk about this time.

We'll all be standing outside the Register Office on Saturday, waiting to go in, and she'll wander across to the happy couple and say "You're getting married then?". Don't people get to you when they do that?

My mate's far too polite for his own good, because if it was me, my reply would be "No, we're here for a funeral, get in the box!"

It's rather like struggling through the pouring rain, getting totally drenched to the skin and walking into the building society to be greeted by "Good morning Sir".

"No, madam it is NOT a good morning, it is a very BAD morning if you look outside for just a quick moment" you're tempted to reply.

My father-in-law was rubbing his aching shoulder the other day and was greeted with "Shoulder hurting dear?" from 'er indoors' mother. He's even braver than I am and retorted with "No, I've broken my ankle you silly cow".

Wasn't it in one of the Monty Python programmes that they had the training course for stating the bleedin' obvious? I reckon that course was real and attended by most of the population.

Cinemas are good places for it as well. How many times have you walked up to the ticket office to be greeted by the stupid girl behind the glass saying "Ticket sir?".

"Of course I want a bloomin' ticket you stupid fool, that's why I've come to the ticket office; if I'd wanted to buy a cockatoo I'd have gone down the road, round the corner and into the pet shop instead!"

The girl on the pay till at my favourite (did I mention Safeway by name?) supermarket is another professional exponent of the silly question art.

For those of you unfamiliar with the system in this particular supermarket chain, they have this thing they call "Shop and Go", where you have this little gadget to scan all your own purchases, and you then scan either the "I had problems" or the "I didn't have problems" bar code on the wall, before you put the gadget back.

The answer to this very difficult question comes up on her screen when she starts to "process" you; but it rarely stops her asking "Any problems Sir?" as you stand before her.

"No, I did NOT have any bleedin' problems dear" you tersely reply, "That's why I went to all the trouble of scanning the barcode for NO, and that's why your screen is telling you that I didn't."

I sometimes reckon that supermarket chain has lockers in which the staff can leave their brain cell, while they go out on the shop floor to deal with the poor, unsuspecting customers.

As well as saying stupid things, many people suffer from this strange illness which makes them say totally reasonable things; but at totally unreasonable times.

I have this theory you see. I reckon that the colleges which teach waiters and waitresses; and the places which teach dentistry have a week set by in their course years for a combined set of lessons.

I reckon they get all the students together for this particular week to teach the complex art of asking questions at totally unreasonable times.

I mean, why does your friendly neighbourhood dentist always wait to ask you how much pain you've been getting until he's filled your mouth with so much ironmongery that it's impossible for you to utter a single understandable word?

Is it that he doesn't really want to know the answer, so waits till you're in no fit state to answer before posing the question?

And then there's the specialist art practised in restaurants by the hovering waiter. You see him poised there, just away from the table, waiting for the precise moment to strike.

He watches all the people at the table for a few minutes, waiting for them to all get into the correct synchronisation with their knife and fork work.

Then, with absolutely scrupulous timing, just as everybody at the table has filled their mouths with a great big dollop of whatever it is they're eating, he strikes.

"Everything all right for you ladies and gentlemen?" he asks. It doesn't matter how foul the meal really is, the only option open to the poor diners is to purse their lips over the food and reply "Mmmm".

All the other options for reply involve splattering the person opposite with a mouthful of whatever it is; and, of course, the waiter is well aware of this.

In his report at the end of the session to the management he can totally truthfully state that there were no complaints about anything, regardless of how bad the stuff he served up really was.

I mentioned cinema ticket offices earlier. Those of the railway companies are very similar, except that they subscribe to the bad timing rules, rather than just stating the obvious.

You walk up to the ticket office just as the last train to accept super-premium, apex, early-saver, wonder-bonus, grannycard passengers has pulled out of the station.

You ask the man behind the glass to tell you what the cheapest available ticket to London is.

I wonder what specialised training he was given to make sure he looks at the clock, then thumbs his way through all the papers on his desk before replying in glorious detail, just as the 09:05 to Manchester roars through the station, drowning ever single word he utters.

Being a patient sort of chap, you wait for the roar to subside and ask him to repeat what he said.

Now, he knows the details because he's just given them to you; but he still has to follow his training and repeat the clock watching and paper thumbing so his next utterance disappears somewhere under the 09:06 to Exeter throbbing through in the opposite direction.

Finally, in desperation, you buy the most expensive ticket available, which probably explains the reason behind all the railway training courses in the first place.

Having managed to get a seat on the London train you are about to experience another little gem from one of the graduates of the Monty Python course I was referring to earlier on.

Just east of this strange place known only as "Didcot-change-for-Oxford", the train slows down and finally grinds to a halt out in the middle of nowhere, miles from any station.

After a couple of minutes, the guard's tannoy system breaks into life. "We have had to stop" says the disembodied voice on the other end. "Whoopee, ten out of ten for observation" I mutter in my beard!

About five minutes later the train starts to move again. As we're building up speed, the voice reappears to tell us "We are now continuing our journey but will be five minutes late arriving at Paddington".

Wow! Now this guy's had the full course. Not only can he read a clock, but he can subtract one time from another as well!

I expect you know of lots of other examples of both the types of verbal problem I have discussed this time round, so get that mouse-pointer down by that "Click Here" button at the bottom, and we'll see what other gems there are to add to the collection.

I'm afraid you wont be getting the tumblers as a prize as I've just heard that Aunty Dilys has now got round to actually reading my mate's wedding list.

Apparently she's noticed they've put a dishwasher down as something they really want, so she's giving them half a dozen tea-towels. Thank goodness she didn't spot the steerable satellite system; I'm not sure you can get Sky Digital off a Pyrex dish!

Well, I suppose I'd better hand this load of old rubbish over to the proof reader now and have a trial run at getting all dressed up for this wedding.

I shall be back, fairly obviously, with more of this trash at the beginning of October, so get that mail flooding in before then. Right, I'm off, where's me mo(u)rnin' suit?

Last Comment Comment August 2002 Back to the Top of Page Comment October 2002 Next Comment

Do YOU have a comment on Comment? Have your say by clicking The Correspondence Column


The Carbuncle Collection

Carbuncle Corner Nick Harvey's Comment The Old Groaner Places of Interest Communications Topics
The Correspondence Column Silicon Village Nostalgia Current Guest Links Legal and Copyright Notice The Site Map