DNA being in its relative infancy, it falls to me, an occasional Health & Beauty journalist…ATISHOO!  (Sorry, got a cold) to point out that not everyone is entirely unique; there are actually short identical strands of the stuff (I call them ANDs) common to people in certain professions, which has naturally led me to the conclusion that choice of job is genetically determined.  (The make up of the perpetually work-shy can also be attributed to chemical composition, but in their case the absence of the normal ANDs in their DNA places them into a separate category, which I’ve termed NADa).

It’s quite easy when you come to work it out (though don’t tell the Nobel Prize Committee, I could do with the dosh quite frankly).  How else would you explain the fact that hairdressers are all called Cheryl or Gary (not necessarily gender-attributed) and that they have an overwhelming compunction to ask if you’re going on holiday this year?  In a similar way, tabloid journalists to a fault favour badly-fitting retro leather jackets, whilst succumbing to a peculiar compulsive addiction to listen to mobile phone messages; and post office staff the world over are off-hand to the point of rudeness, possess no sense of humour, and have very bad dress sense indeed.

A couple of examples to illustrate my scientific observations.  (I woudn’t dream of making pronouncements without backing them up!  What kind of scientific professional do you think I am?)

Whilst living in Nice I had occasion to send a letter by Recorded Delivery to England.  I went to the main Post Office in the centre of town, in a street called Hotel des Postes.  (See? Coincidences happen the world over!)  I elected to queue up at the small desk close to the entrance in the main hall where such transactions can be carried out, since there were only 417 people in line there, as opposed to 1,986 waiting for one of the manmade fibre-clad employees behind the glass screens.

After half an hour a postal worker appeared at my elbow to ask what I wanted to do.  I told her.  Oh, she said, in French (which was nice of her), you can do that at the machines in the foyer.  No, I explained, I want a signature at the other end and a certificate of posting. Yes, you can do that at the machines in the foyer, come with me and I’ll show you.  She tugged at my sleeve, and since I was worried that sparks from the arm of her polyester sweater rubbing against my clothing might, through spontaneous combustion, create a medium-sized fire, I had no choice other than to leave my place in the queue and follow her into the foyer.

She spent 10 minutes pressing buttons, weighing my letter, pressing more buttons, weighing my arm, banging the front of the machine, weighing her leg, taking the letter off the metal plate, putting it back on again, and printing out my horoscope.  (‘Not a good day for going to the post office‘.  Spooky).  Finally, she told me triumphantly – in the tone of voice which draws others’ attention to your complete stupidity for believing the machines in the foyer would be able to process your requirements – I would have to join the queue like everyone else. (She’s recovered nicely now, thanks.  Pleased to be out of traction in time for Christmas).

The following Tuesday, when I’d finally reached the front of the queue, I explained to the sour-faced woman behind the counter what I wanted.  She professed not to understand in a very rude manner.  I explained again.  She feigned ignorance.  The friendly women in the same queue, with whom I’d shared a considerable amount of my life by this stage, began to titter and started to stare at her, so she decided she’d better get on with it if she wanted to be home to see her 18 year-old off to college (he was 2 at the time).  To this end, she pissed about with attended to the paperwork, and very kindly took my money off me.  I asked her when the missive would be likely to arrive, to which she answered ‘How should I know?!’ in such an aggressive way, world wars have been started over less.  At this point the entire queue burst into hearty laughter.  I remember remarking to the woman next to me that it was just the same in England.  (Let’s be kind and assume it’s an inherent genetic weakness that makes people who ‘work’ (ha ha) for post offices allergic to polyester, leading to the awful side-effects of crass irritability and a fondness for effigy-making).

OK, so now I’m in England (it’s that place where you don’t have to offer any particular playing talent to represent your country at sport, so long as you’re a racist, stupid, womanizing, dwarf-throwing thug.  In other words, pick any three and you’re a member of the Royal Family).  Through the letterbox came a, er, letter from the managing agents of the flat I’m renting.  It was signed by the Residential Manager, the first paragraph being:-

I write to advise you that as your Landlords Managing Agents, we have to make periodic inspection visit [sic] (no, they’re not related to Alexandr the Meerkat to my specific knowledge) to the above property throughout the tenancy and with this in mind I would like to visit you some time on Monday 22nd February.

Hmm, I thought. That’s efficient, booking up the diary three months in advance.  Before checking that 22nd February next year in fact falls on a Wednesday. The letter continued:

My visit is merely a formality and is therefore not something for you to concern yourself about.  (Did they imagine I was expecting them to carry out experimental dentistry while they were here?)

The purpose of the visit is to ensure that you are caring well for the property and that you are maintaining a good standard of cleanliness and order during the Landlords absence.  

We hold management keys so I shall be visiting the property on Tuesday 13th December 2011. (Their bold type).

Should you not be present, I would be grateful if you could leave a list by the front door of any issues you wish to raise with the Landlord.

‘Gemma’ (unlikely name, I know) duly appeared (though have to say, she didn’t look Due-ish) on Tuesday 13th December 2011. She was about 12 years old, and was wearing 12-inch high stilettos (that’s one inch for every year of her life.  Is this an EU ruling?)  I asked her to stagger into the living room, where I showed her the first paragraph of the letter she had signed.  Had I not been able to read very fast, I told her, I would have been expecting her next February. She went red, told me she would give the ‘typer’ [sic] a good talking to. Marvellous, I replied, now let’s get onto the expectation that you can enter my abode at will without me being in it. Oh, she said, we’d never do that.  That’s not what the letter says, I pointed out.  She went redder.  (Wait ’til the bit where she goes reddist).  Well, she spluttered, most of our clients don’t mind.  Most is not all, I said.  OK (kind of scarlet now), you can always call to say don’t come when I’m not there.  (Which I had, indeed, done).  Why should I have to?  I countered.

I get it, she said, thank you for pointing that out to me. I’ll make sure further letters are amended.  (Deep burgundy).  Anyway, I’ll look around now.

She took out a notebook and began to scribble something.  I said if you’re writing about the tufts of wool on the floor, it’s because the carpet is new.  I hoovered yesterday.  ‘I’m really not looking at things like that’, she retorted, ‘the purpose of my visit isn’t to distort you [sic] it’s to make sure the place isn’t falling down around your ears’.  Hmm, I enunciated clearly. (That’s theatrical training for you).  Not what the letter says.  And anyway, the whole place was refurbished a few months ago, as you well know.

She started to stare at the ceiling.  In every room.  Eventually she said ‘In order not to extradict [sic] this argument, I’m going to walk away now’.  (Good luck with that in those shoes).  We parted company.  I’m still waiting for her to call to arrange a cosy chat over coffee.

On relating this experience directly to my landlords – with whom I have an excellent relationship – they wrote back telling me they’ve had all kinds of trouble from the managing agents who, at best, can be described as chronically inept. (For which appalling service they have been fulsomely over-charged for the past 6 months).

Science has a lot to answer for.  Millions of years of evolution and we end up with people who work in post offices and Gemma.

String Theory, anyone?

(Don’t tell me Gemma’s going out with a Quantum Mechanic, I might just be [sic]).


About notniceetoile

I'm a freelance comedy writer, now living in Brighton after a few years in London, having relocated back to the UK in 2011 after a couple of years of adventures on the Cote D'Azur. Check out my blog about life in Nice:- and my political satire blog:- Available for weddings (3 to date) and barmitzvahs (0 - I'm a girl, duh).

Posted on December 21, 2011, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Ah, you must really miss that Gallic temperament! But was it really like that? A French person speaking French? Whenever I say something in French they always reply in English, whether they can speak it or not. I once asked a waiter where the toilet was and he pointed to the end of the room and said: “Deep, deep”. Your flat management agent with the dodgy English wasn’t once a French waiter, was he?

  2. Oh yes, they always answer in English once they’ve cottoned onto your accent, no matter how good your French. But I always continue in French, just to spite them. (Take that, in your own country, Frenchie!) Gemma (affect high-pitched smiley voice) was not, to my knowledge, once a French waiter. She’s far too dull even to only take orders.

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