Things that I think and do
Invented many years ago by a cunning chap who saw a chocolate bar dispenser and thought it could be better used to give out money, the cash machine is ubiquitous in modern times – except, of course, when you actually need one in which case the nearest is a 40-minute walk away.
For a number of mysterious reasons, which presumably include an increasing apathy towards actually visiting a bank to do any banking, most ATMs now allow you to see your balance, read statements and book a flight to Fiji for next June with comparative ease.
It is this evolution from the most basic of cash machine functions that requires me to wait until the guy in front of me has re-mortgaged his home and checked his statements from 1997 before I can take my £10 out.
The maximum number of button beeps I want to be hearing from Mr Financial Times in front of me is six. Four for his PIN number, one to select a cash withdrawal, and one to select how much. I don’t want to stand behind him with the urge to use his head to push the buttons while he familiarises himself with each option on the machine.
2. Handing back piles of change in shops
Once I’ve endured the unending wait for the knob at the cashpoint to decide what he wants to do with his life savings, I use the money I’ve retrieved to buy goods (as I believe is the normal procedure). Due to the magic of capitalism this often means I have to receive change in return.
This is where my irritation manifests itself, because many cashiers hand back the change in the same bizarre way: they pile the money, in decreasing order of value, on top of the receipt and lay it all in your hand. What you end up with is an annoying layer cake of receipt, notes and then coins.
It’s spectacularly aggravating because I happen to have different compartments for money in my wallet. If I carried my money around with me in a single sack I could just tip the handful of assorted money in and walk away a happy customer. As it is, I need to take the coins separately and put them in the zipped coin pocket, then fit the notes in the special note compartment, and finally find a place for the receipt (an item I often find bloody irritating and useless of itself).
All I need (and in fact I made a point of doing this for a time) is to take the coins first and only after they are safely tucked into their little pocket will I want to tackle the papery bits of the change. It’s either this or I start carrying a small sack around with me.
3. Temperature control in the high street shops
All the evidence I’ve accrued from shopping trips – not that I do very many – points to a conspiracy theory involving high street retailers. I’m convinced that shops have a policy that requires temperature to be at least equivalent to that of the average tropical rainforest.
Each time some dire necessity forces me to go into an actual shop I feel as if I’ve arrived in South America, whether it is summer or darkest winter. By some miracle of modern temperature control, the shops manage to not only recreate the sweltering heat of the Sahara desert but also the 90% humidity usually found only in south east Asia.
Luckily I generally know what it is that I have to buy and I often know where to find it quickly, which greatly reduces the time I have to spend traipsing around a glorified sauna. On the unfortunate occasion when I have to buy clothes and therefore try them on, however, the heat becomes a much more aggravating issue. Trying jeans on for size becomes almost impossible and absolutely no-one looks good in the mirror in these shops.
4. People who do the top shirt button up and don’t wear a tie
There’s absolutely no reason at all to do this and it just looks bloody ridiculous. If you’re cold, wear a scarf.
5. Others becoming annoyed when overhearing phone conversations
Mobile phones are everywhere these days and with them comes an unspoken etiquette, as well as several more obvious rules such as “quiet carriages” in trains and the compulsory disapproving collective huff if a mobile rings in the middle of a concert or speech.
While many people (mostly the ones who are old and can’t work them) moan about the mobile phone becoming a plague and a constant antisocial interruption, what I find more irritating is others’ display of injured sensibility when you talk on the phone around people.
For most of the time you are perfectly entitled to use your mobile to speak to people – for example on a bus journey or in the “non-quiet” parts of a train – and yet whenever you do there are those who scowl and mutter about it. Not just old people either.
This is probably more to do with the fact that they can’t hear what the other half of the conversation is and therefore can’t fully indulge their eavesdropping proclivities, rather than any genuine indignance. They make me feel guiltier than the average convicted murderer for simply using a ubiquitous device for its intended purpose.
I’d probably be more aggrieved about their repressed curiosity if my conversations were anything worth hearing – I bet if they realised that most of my phone calls are inanely boring there wouldn’t be so much fuss.