Thursday, 19 May 2016
Why Feed Your Family is For A Fiver #BritishDadStuff
You know you're a Great British Dad...
...when you think a little too hard about what a pound is worth.
Something really nice happened the other day.
So nice that I could see clear as day something not nice happening before my very eyes and I'm glad I didn't call it out.
I left my headphones on the train. I'm glued to these - years on my ears.
But they're so precious to me - so much a part of my day... that I left them on the train.
Like it's my sofa.
And you know how that feels - through the seven stages of losing your stuff: feeling dumb, anger at yourself, denial, bit of panic, and then acceptance.
It didn't feel good window shopping online for another pair - because it'll be exactly the same make and same colour teal.
Just at the very moment I'm about to hit "Buy now" - I get the email - the one that makes you want to kiss the screen - they've found my headphones and they're ready for collection, from the Lost Property Office.
I'm on a high.
Because I'm getting my stuff back - but also the chain of nice behind this email: someone got the item to a member of staff, who handed it to someone else who sent it all the way from wherever it was to the Lost Property Office in London, where it was indexed and filed and matched with the details I'd sent in online, and finally the time taken to get in touch with me.
And I'm on this high not even thinking through that chain of kindness in this grotty room, under the arches, that smells like bins - because that's where all the waste from this major station is put out.
It's a sign from the Universe that it still wants me in this game.
And I'm waiting behind a woman getting her thing back, and I'm noticing this dance where the items are handed back by an arm reaching round and holding it out of a door to the side.
The grateful woman takes it and tries to make small talk and [CLUNK!]
The door just slams shut.
And the room is empty again.
I'm thinking this place is really secure.
It's got a counter, with those security glass windows that you got in the 1970's.
So I ring the bell to let someone know I'm here.
I'm still on a high - giddy that I might get my nice headphones back.
I try making small talk with the guy who appears behind the glass - I'm curious - if I write my name or contact details on the thing - would they get in touch with me without me filling in a form? Or shouldn't I bother?
It's a dumb question - but I'm interested in how this guy's day works.
He shuts it down with a few words, and then I start to feel like a berk in a nice coat with a nice bag who's left his nice headphones lying around for everyone else to pick up.
And there's still no eye contact.
I push through a £5 note.
He pushes back a 1970's clipboard where I sign on the form for the £2.
I push that back under the gap in the glass,
and he pushes back the change:
Just two pound coins.
And I'm looking at the coins [CLUNK!] and the arm is there stretched round the door holding my precious headphones. With the cord all skilfully coiled up.
I've been short-changed and there's the disembodied hand with my stuff waiting for me to take it and go. What are you going to do?
I took the headphones [CLUNK!]
The office was empty again.
I got my stuff back!
What happened there.
I'm in awe - it was such a beautiful dance, drilled, honed, practised and perfected over years.
All that effort.
For just a quid.
And without looking me in the eye, he helped me tip him for his diligent, thankless, kind work, round by the bins.
So why am I thinking about this pound and the dance?
What is that lizard thing in my brain that says "not good".
Did I just get disrespected?
Did I just lose a quid?
I just got my headphones back.
I'll spend 3 of them on a coffee.
By the way - why is overpriced coffee the way we measure things now?
Like "Feed Your Family For A Fiver".
How come "a Fiver" became the rock bottom standard for how well you're providing for your family?
Because some dead-eyed meeting got some ad agency some money by telling us that blowing more money in the supermarket is good for us.
I mean, I love my family - so why is that used against me?
That a Fiver - a Fiver - must be spent to keep them alive.
(By the way, it sticks in our brains because "Feeding your family" is Sacred, and "a Fiver" is Profane - it's Sacred and Profane).
I think I felt sad and guilty that the guy had to do that to get through the day.
He's just doing what maybe some companies do on a grander scale.
Getting an extra quid or two out of a situation.
And why not.
I've got my nice jacket, my nice bag, and my really nice headphones.
My complete guide to Understanding Your British Dad will come together here
Men don't take my wife's secret superpower seriously, because it's a secret. #BritishDadStuff
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