The young assistant in the packed KFC was thrown momentarily. I had displayed the temerity to request 2 pieces of chicken.
“Don’t you want the Colonel’s genuine real meal deal?”
“No thank you.”
“What about a free drink? We have lemonade, coke, coffee or water? Still? Or sparkling?”
“No thank you!”
He was no longer looking at me.
“Do you want the traditional recipe or the Mexican Chilli option?”
I was only listening vaguely by now and mumbling, “Two pieces of chicken, please.”
The queue was building.
“Do you want any sauce with that? We have Mustard Burn Out, Tickly Tomato or Tasteless Vegan.”
It was too much. I burst loudly and badly into song with a hit by The Hoosiers, which has been on the wireless a lot lately.
“Stop giving me choices. Stop giving me choices.”
* * *
But menu options, as they are now called, dominate our lives and come in all forms.
I had a phone call from the bank the other day. The caller asked for me by name.
“Speaking,” I replied.
There then came the mantra which sends me into orbit.
“Now I should tell you that this call is being recorded for training purposes.”
“Whose training?” I asked.
“I beg your pardon,” he said. “Can I just verify that I am speaking to the right person?”
“This is my phone number and you called me,” I said. “What do you want?”
“I not allowed to talk to you unless I can confirm your identity. But if you do not wish to tell me who you are for security reasons, you do have other options…”
“Write to me, please,” I said and put the phone down ever so nicely.
It is not much better on line. You have to endure an obstacle course to book a flight or to find how much you owe on your phone bill.
The password palaver (we are told to have different ones and I can never remember any of them) then leads to the feedback farce as your tormentors ask you to fill out a form which tells them how they handled your question or better still, your complaint.
But it keeps people in jobs, I suppose.
* * *
This brings me neatly to the terribly informative website of the Office of Judicial Complaints.
Its annual report is hot off the PDF and, as usual, diversity awareness is a compelling theme.
The communiqué is packed full of key performance indicators and drivers and there are proactive manual logs by dedicated caseworkers who seek to embed a welcome sea-change in lateral thinking.
And there is this cracking photo that shows the whiteness of the commissioner.
Work to be done there, I suspect.
It is striking that many more pages are devoted to the performance of the office, and how it could do better, than are spent on naughty and errant judges.
Of the complaints, the overwhelming majority came from litigants in person and the vast majority of those were from bloody palefaces.
Twenty-eight beaks were removed from office last year of which 25 were magistrates.
The most heinous offence was committed by the JP who said to a differently-raced individual:
“We take exception to people coming to our shores and abusing our hospitality.”
If he’d said that in Australia, they would now be calling him Senator-elect.
The bench-holder was lucky not to have been sacked, but he was punished cruelly by being sent for training and removed from the mentoring list.
A couple of years ago, a Mr Recorder Crawford (pic) got into strife for harassing his estranged missus and her new beau, Mr Buttimore, at a barby.
In the midst of disciplinary proceedings against him Crawfo wisely resigned.
The Lord Chancellor and the Lord Chief Justice acknowledged his past judicial performance and his “outstanding contribution to diversity issues in the legal world and beyond”.
Is there anything beyond the legal world?
* * *
In other distressing British news, queuing is on the wane and a Leeds Council is in some bother for sending a questionnaire to householders to ask about their health, race, religious beliefs and the gender of the person with whom they prefer to tremble knees.
The council managers say they are hoping to find out their customer’s needs.
They aspire nobly to give a fair and equal service to all and questions about hernias and hosannas will help.
Meanwhile, the data is being sent to building maintenance firms, alarm fitters and drain cleaners.
Each a worthy stakeholder.
* * *
The Australian election has rated nary a mention over here and the gist of the confusing coverage is that Julia (Snoz) Gillard is winning one day and losing the next.
Many English people are amazed when I tell them voting is compulsory in Australia.
Some think it admirable that people take responsibility for those they elect, but I tell them that the system’s major drawback is that the idiots get a say and that it causes the politicians pander to greed and prejudice.
Evelyn Waugh (A Little Order, Penguin Books) never voted in a parliamentary election.
To Waugh (snap) all authority emanated from the Crown.
“Judges, Anglican bishops, soldiers, sailors, ambassadors, the Poet Laureate, the postman and especially Ministers exist by the royal will.
“In the past three hundred years,” he wrote, “the Crown has adopted what seems to me a very hazardous process of choosing advisers: popular election.
“I do not aspire to advise my Sovereign in her choice of servants.”