Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Shopping and F***ing Boring

Once, I was on a stopover at LAX for a couple of hours, and I called an acquaintance and asked her to come and have lunch. She took me to that place in the airport that looks like aliens have landed.

Because of her anorexia, she ordered a salad with everything on the side, even the side. And she talked about all the psycho-pharmacologists she was seeing. Don't get me wrong, she was nice, but, y'know, had issues.

But I noticed something. I thought we were having lunch, refuelling, almost. She regarded the whole setup as an opportunity to review the Service Level Agreement. Our server didn't bring us iced water. She was promised nuts on the salad (which at 50% fat she clearly wasn't going to eat anyway). It was like tag; she was chasing, and our server was losing.

Which is all a roundabout way of saying that in the past I've always though the US is great, because it's about service. But now I feel you can be over-serviced. I don't like the whole "hi, I'm Megan, I'll be looking after you this evening" shtick because she didn't look after us, and I'd rather she wasn't so - frankly - insincere about the whole thing.

And when people in a restaurant come up to you and say "do you have any questions?" I want to ask them the capital of Estonia, or the dollar/yen exchange rate. Or whether her shoes were made by workers paid less than the minimum wage. Because how often do you have genuine questions when you're in a generic chain restaurant?

I'm sure I'm saying nothing new, but I just don't like the faux-sincerity (fauxerity?) of the "have a nice day" world. Because none of these people care if I have a nice day, and I know this because when I worked in Manhattan, people kept saying "we must have lunch" and I naively sat by my desk waiting for them to come and have lunch with me. I have learned my lesson the hard way.

When we went out to dinner last night at 9pm, the mall was still open, and people were shopping and consuming and were still at it when we left at 11. I may have bought two cool t-shirts, but I don't think it makes me a better poiss-un.

The plastic smiles and plastic service of this plastic world make me forget that I'm a real person, and think that I'm a collection of cash and credit-cards and unfulfilled desires.

I think I yearn for the reality-reflecting shoddiness of average service in a rainly London store. Where they may not be very polite, but at least I know they mean it.

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