Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Lowest Common Denominator

Some time ago I went for a meal in a lovely Italian restaurant. The food was yumptious, the decor was divine and the service was admirable. The coffee was also a gorgeous treat, a good sign in any restaurant. Problem was that our waiter had a face full of pustulating acne. I don't mean he had one or two spots, or even three or four. He had a face like the food he was bringing to the table. Yellow heads and red sores on someone's face never did much for my appetite, especially in a place where the backbone of the menu are dishes based on tomato and cheese.

I voiced the opinion to my friends at the time and later to other people that it would be better if he was doing some job other than waiting at the table. He could be the cashier, the guy who brings the coffee, the guy on the front door who shows you to your table. Anything except the guy who hands you your food, while doing his best to impersonate it. 

Predictably the point I made was completely missed by 4 out of every 5 people I discussed this with and I was met with screeching accusations of fascism, intolerance and generally being a right pig for even thinking it. Most people chose to interpret what I said as “spotty people shouldn’t work in restaurants” or “zitty bastards should be hidden out of sight in the kitchen.”

When I then said “I’m not saying he shouldn’t work there” this would again be fired back at me with “Oh! That’s BIG of you!”

My point was simple. Horses for courses. I didn’t go to the restaurant to empathise with this guy’s skin condition or wonder what a wonderful human being he was. I went there to eat a meal. End of.

Similarly I object to seeing the former Bond girls from Connery and Moore’s eras, on the retrospective DVD documentaries, talking about being a Bond Girl. Seeing a woman who is now in her 80s talking about how nice it was to film a love scene with Sean Connery, did nothing for my potential arousal when watching said scene at a later date. This was personal choice and not something I felt shouldn’t happen. Great if you want to see an octogenarian ruining all your fantasies that this film conjured up in the first place, but it wasn’t my cup of tea. I didn’t say this was a practice that should be stopped. I just said that I personally didn’t like it, as it reminded me that James Bond and his world was, after all, as fragile as the real one I lived in. No Bond Girl is cast in a Bond movie for their great personality or IQ. They are cast because they look hot.

With nauseating predictability this was written off as me being a sexist pig. Hey, I didn’t say she was a bad person. I just said that I didn’t want to be reminded that the woman I’d masturbated over a few months back, is now probably using a stair lift and complaining about her piles.

I said that women shouldn’t serve in Special Forces units. As capture on an operation would mean an interrogator would torture her in front of her fellow MALE soldiers, to gain information.

I got accused of “being like the Taliban.”

Recently I had a major row with a very rude, obnoxious guy at a train station. He was checking passenger tickets at the gate, and his attitude was beyond belief. Ordering people around, snapping at customers and generally being a twat. One bloke didn’t’ have a valid ticket and he pointed to one side and snapped “that’s not valid. Go and stand over there.” I lost my temper when he yanked my ticket out my fingers and we ended up yelling at each other. I’d seen him do this on at least 2 other occasions with other people, but it was the first time I’d been personally involved. I ended up telling him to fuck off and telling the guy he’d detained (who was standing there in red faced embarrassment in front of everyone) that he could leave. This guy then followed me out the station yelling “IT’S BECAUSE OF PEOPLE LIKE YOU THAT THIS COUNTRY’S IN THE STATE IT’S IN….SIR!!!” I later made a formal complaint to the company he worked for but never heard back if it had been resolved.

Yesterday, while talking to someone who works for the same company, I found out the enlightening news that this guy has Asperger syndrome. I rang customer services again and mentioned this, asking if they knew about it and whether they thought it appropriate that someone with a mental condition “characterized by significant difficulties in social interaction” should be placed in a role where they not only have to interact socially but also deal with confrontation and aggression almost constantly.

Today this guy’s manager rang me for a “chat” and predictably she took the stance that I was an intolerant Nazi who didn’t like the guy solely due to his Asperger’s and was trying to use that as leverage to get him fired. I patiently explained that I was trying to make them aware that he has a habit of raring up at people who argue with him and sooner or later someone’s going to knock his head off.

“Are you threatening him?”


“He has a right to be treated like everyone else!!!”

“That doesn’t include placing him in situations that mean he’s going to get punched in the head by one of the many drunks, Chavs, homeless bums or just people who object to being insulted by him.”

“You’re using bullying tactics!”

“Such as?”

“This was resolved. You went to the station and deliberately asked questions about him?”

“It’s a free country, I can ask what the hell I like. Does it occur to you that maybe I shouldn’t have been given that information?”

“I’ve worked with him. He DOESN’T follow people and shout at them!”

“I’ve bloody seen him! Has it crossed your mind that you didn’t see it as he knew you were there?”

I eventually hung up on her and got on the phone to customer services once more. Apparently they’d asked her to call me but for resolution, not a row about how I was an Asperger-phobic, hateful bastard. The embarrassed operator said he’d get the Area Manager to call me

An hour or so later and she rang. After some embarrassed chit chat she said that her and the Manager had been sent a form from customer services that gave a wonderful description of my complaint. What they’d read was nearly all out of context and portrayed me as someone who thought the Asperger syndrome was merely a tool to get my revenge for the initial argument a month ago and portrayed me as an intolerant arsehole. They’d also read my line “the media would have a field day with this” which I had said, but had cynically prefaced AND suffixed with “I’m not going to go to the media, I’m not covertly suggesting that nor am I implying it BUT…” which was left off the form they read.

After some talking she began to realise that my reasons for contacting them was not to get this guy sacked but merely concern that things would get ugly. I pointed out that I myself have anxiety issues and take beta blockers for that. I stressed that while I was annoyed over what had happened, the information of this guy’s condition put a different perspective on it and I was worried that he was going to get a kicking.

She then said:

“But this was resolved. He was sat down with his manager and watched the CCTV of the incident with you. He agreed he could have handled it better.”

“Err…I didn’t know that. No one told me!”

“Oh, well I thought you knew”

“As you haven’t criticised me for the incident and you’ve seen footage of it, I take it you concede he was in the wrong even though I released his prisoner?”

(Pause) “To be honest I think the body language of both of you was off” (nervous chuckle).

Your junior manager was rude as hell, seemed to think I was some kind of monster. Did you really think I made this complaint just because he had Asperger’s? ”

Finally she says “talking to you now I realise that you weren't.”

The problem with this type of thing is that people always react to the lowest common denominator and do not look at the whole picture. I can fully imagine the station manager going back to the guy and giving him a hug, saying “I’ve told the nasty man off now.”

My female cousin summed this up when she talked about how the English police recruit people who are totally unsuitable for the physical, aggressive side of coppering…just to meet diversity recruitment quotas. Over a coffee she said simply “on a riot duty I want a huge big bloke from a rugby team. Not some 5 foot tall woman with an arse like a pear!”

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