8 March 2010

Hitchen on parenting

I know I shouldn't have but it was not premeditated - just one of those things that come naturally when face to face with a ludicrous situation, created by someone who has dedicated the last five minutes to getting right up one's nose.

My long time readers know me - I am the epitome of tact and diplomacy. In fact, I have often thought I should use such skills professionally - perhaps a Border Security Officer gently explaining to some valued visitor to our country, that a bloody cabbage is definitely considered food and therefore can not be bought into our country no matter what you might bloody well think. Calmly of course.

I have even considered suggesting to my local council that I should be their Goodwill Ambassador To Britain. I would excel at negotiating and mediating with the British media and members of the Establishment. I could buy a nice house in the East Midlands, except I have a dickey heart and I hear doctors are somewhat unreliable in those parts, unless you want to book an appointment during a break in a seminar or press conference. Even then, all they do is give you something to make you sleep better.

But I digress.

It all started well enough, purchasing and paying for a number of goods in one of my local supermarkets. I would mention their name but unless they buy a banner advert, I'm not giving them free publicity. After all - they don't advertise me!

Having paid for all my fruit, veggies and other assorted items to support a healthy lifestyle and diet, I then made my way to the nearby Customer Service area to buy my cigarettes. As I waited to be served, a small boy aged about eleven came and waited politely and patiently behind me. The next thing I know, an agitated woman whose perception of her classiness greatly outweighed the reality, stormed up to the boy and demanded to know, 'Haven't you been served yet?" as though it was somehow his fault. A meek "No" was the response.

Proving that she was all fur coat and no knickers, she "of the shiny black hair and fake suntan", called out in one of those clipped British regional accents you hear on some minor BBC community program about tithed cottages. "Excuse me. I would like to see the manager". The fact that I was waiting to be served and all the staff were busy serving customers, seemed to escape her notice.

For a moment I considered if to say anything, but decided to remain silent as I needed the rest.

Eventually a lovely female staff member strolled casually but efficiently to the counter and politely said, "This gentleman was first I believe". I gave the mum one of my, "this may look pleasant but don't be deceived" smiles and replied, "that's ok" as whatever it was the lad's mum wanted, was obviously of great importance.

Was there a "thank you" from her? Like hell there was.

"Has anyone handed in a mobile phone. It would have been about 3:35 this afternoon." Pointing to the boy she informed the assistant "This ones lost his phone".

The assistant and I looked at each other but we both remained silent.

"Yes, a mobile phone has been handed in" the assistant informed her - a statement that should have been welcomed but seemed to go straight past her fake gold earrings.

"I have been ringing that number since I discovered it lost. Why did no one answer it?"

"It was placed in a secure draw Madam - so that it wouldn't get lost again". Good one!

"I will ring it to prove it's his".

"No need Madam, what phone is it?"

"A Nokia. Its an old one. Only one number on it".

The assistant smiled, walked away and returned with the mobile phone.

Showing the phone to the boy she asked, "Is this it?" and received confirmation from boy's mother. The assistant smiled - and handed the phone to the boy! Good one again. I like this girl.

The mother was not satisfied and asked where it was found, adding, 'I bet it was by the drinks".

"Yes Madam it was" the assistant confirmed with a smile, before gently and jokingly telling the boy, "I bet you wont do that again will you?"

The assistant smiled at me, the boy smiled at me...the mother looked at me and informed us all in a loud voice -

'No he will not. He is in very, very big trouble when I get him home".

Oh for Pete's sake.

Then it happened. I know I shouldn't have but I did. Calmly I enquired, 'Why?"

She looked at me stunned.

"He has to learn to be more careful"

Oh for God's sake, That was enough. I had it with this woman.

"It's a cheap, old mobile phone with one number, that was lost and is now found" I explained.

'That is not the point " she informed me, not that I could give a toss about her opinion.

Again, I know I shouldn't have but I just - had to. Someone needed taking down a peg or two and it was not me, the boy or the assistant. Putting on my best of the worst Aussie accents, I said,

"Look sweetheart, if you're on the dole and it's the money you're worried about, I'll buy you a new one. That one there is nice and only $49 and put a fifty dollar note on the counter.

Trying but failing to sound like Vera Lynn, she told me, "I am not on the dole and money is not the point. He is careless"

I gathered my composure and this time in my best Jeeves voice observed, "I have no doubt you know an awful lot about men, but not it seems - about boys".

Ooh that got her. I could tell she was about to drop her aitches.

"I don't need a lesson in parenting skills from you" she advised me.

Leaning with one hand on the counter, I replied, "Perhaps not. But your father - assuming you know who he is - should have taught you a lesson in manners. You come storming in here like a bargain-basement Posh Spice, ignoring the fact that I was here first, making demands of staff who were serving other customers, then kept me waiting while you waffled on and on, and not once have I heard a bloody 'please' or 'thank you' from your over lipsticked lips sweetheart. The young man may have lost a phone but you have lost the respect of everyone within earshot."

She turned to the boy and instructed, "Come on - we are going" and stormed off like the Dick Emery "Miss" character.

The shop assistant and I, just looked at each other and shook our heads. She used the $50 note for my cigarettes, said "Have a good day Mr. Hitchen" and I turned and left.

Leaving my bag of sugar plums on the floor!

Wherever you may be - be safe

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