Our Dyson has arrived back from the Underworld.

Nicknamed ‘The General’, our little miracle of suction has been away, having a new motor fitted by a veritable mechanical Orpheus. In its place is another, older Dyson which sounds, every time one switches it on, as if someone is torturing a chicken inside.

Using the General’s second in command has been trying. And now we will never have to again: because our military commander is back,with peerless suction similar to that of a mollusc on a seaside rock.

You will soon spot the flaw in this evangelistic attitude to dust husbandry. When Phil turned the Dyson on, his tones became slightly hysterical.

“Kate,” my husband advised with some consternation, “I don’t think I can even move it across the floor! The suction is just too good!”

Now, vacuuming the house is a double-edged sword. It sure sucks up the dust: there is no mite or molecule safe from the turbo-powered cyclone system.

But moving across the carpet is like trying to unhinge my dog’s jaws from one of those unsavoury bones he picks up in the forest.

What The General has gained in power, he has lost in flexibility.

Sound familiar?

Maybe you remember a pig called Napoleon. George Orwell made him one of the three pigs which revolutionise Manor Farm- renaming it Animal Farm- so that the animals run it and benefit from the proceeds.

But as the pigs bicker and splinter, Napoleon achieves premiership.

And too much power has made Napoleon inflexible. He rewrites the rules.

It is the details which are most revealing of how immoveable the leader has become: “About this time, too,”writes Orwell, “it was laid down as a rule that when a pig and any other animal met on the path, the other animal must stand aside…”

To much power, and a rigid immovability: uneasy bedfellows indeed.
Which is why I was delighted with a little victory I achieved midweek.
In April, my pay slips went online. No more paper, just a password-protected portal to my pay history, digitalised.
I brought a sheet of procedures for accessing them home and promptly lost it because it was not digitalised, and my office is a wild paper cave.
So on Wednesday it came to pass that my husband had found the mortgage deal of the century, and was extremely keen to have two recent payslips as supporting documentation.
It was time to eat humble pie, and confess to my employers, the Council, that I had absolutely no idea how to access the slips.
So I took a deep breath, picked up the phone, and managed to get through to a fresh-faced young temp at the Council’s call centre.
Yes, he said: someone else is doing this for us now. You can call them on this number and find out how to access your slips.
I did. Of course, no-one answered. My young helper had a go at calling them on my behalf: and lo and behold, they had all gone home early today.
But I was on a deadline. I know this isn’t your fault, I told my friend the temp, and I’m so sorry you’re stuck in the middle, but I need this information. Somewhere (my voice raised slightly) my employers must have an A4 sheet to tell me how to access my payslips.
Thrice he asked the HR department, and twice they refused, before being told I was filibustering: I would not be getting off the phone any time soon. We had been back and forth now for an hour: time was running short.
The woman from HR, when she reluctantly picked up the phone, had a flatiron tone of superhuman proportions.
“I’m sorry”, she repeated,in tones which indicated clearly she wasn’t, “It’s nothing to do with us. Haven’t you got a colleague who might be able to tell you the way in?”
Inflexigirl was telling me to phone a friend.
Now my voice raised a register.
“Well, yes,” I squeaked, “I could put a message on Facebook telling my hundreds of friends that our employer is unable to tell me how to access my own payslips. But it wouldn’t be very nice, would it?”
There was a very long silence at the other end of the phone. The glue with which my local power-wielders adhered to the letter of the law was losing its stickyness.
Eventually, Mme Flatiron broke the frosty stalemate. “Give me your e-mail address”, she monotoned, “and we’ll see what we can do.”
Within three minutes, full instructions had arrived in my e-mail box with a satisfying ‘bing’.
Those in power stand in danger of losing their flexibility: and very often their very power means they can make others live in straitjackets.
Which is why, sometimes, tiny victories are disproportionately satisfying.
Image source here


30 thoughts on “Inflexigirl

  1. I’ve had similar run-ins wih the corporate inflexirobots sich as yours. Sometimes your technique – similar to mine, works. Other times I am either ignored, aor shunted off to another person to whom I have to explain the whole thing all over again, who then refers me elsewhere. . .ad infinitum. Actually the worst culprit in this type of “customer service” nightmare is my old enemy, AT&T. Ever since giving them our telephone, broadband and Cable TV busines, last October, I have had nothing but trouble, and I have yet to receive a flat rate consistent bill from them – all of which is supposed to be unified into one combined bill and standardized to the same amount each month. Some day I might publish the series of communications (or lack thereof) between me and them – but I probably won’t. Too absurd and depressing.

    As for your Dyson – just see it as good aerobic exercise and great for the upper arms. . .

    1. Paula, I rarely win in these jousts. Call centres are a master stroke for anyone who doesn’t want to be accountable to the public. Napoleon the pig would have been proud of them.
      Re: the Dyson: I shall end up looking like a prize fighter….

  2. Wonderful, Kate! I love the way you have of tying stories together and yes, yes indeed, small victories are so sweet.

    One little trick I learned is to always ask for names of whomever you are speaking to, write it down, and repeat it several times in the conversation. Do this with each person who comes on. It does a few things: personalizes the conversation, let whomever know you’ve got their name, and will use it, then use it with the next person you talk to. Then, threaten facebook! Brilliant.

    1. That’s a really good tip, Penny: I’ll write it by the telephone in big letters πŸ˜€ Facebook has its uses but I wouldn’t want to threatening every call centre Ton, Dick or Harry….names sound a more courteous option.

    1. Terrible is the right word….Orwell sees so clearly, but it’s hard looking at mankind’s image in the mirror sometimes. Thanks for coming over to see my place πŸ™‚ Your site is introducing me to a way of life and a place with which I am completely unfamiliar: breathtaking scenery in your latest post, and what a wonderful activity!

  3. Congratulations on the General’s return. It’s comforting to have a friend that really works, even if it’s overly enthusiastic.

    Thanks for the tip for using Facebook. I hope never to have to use it, but it’s a good thing to have in reserve.

    1. It’s a bit of a last resort and it was unplanned; but it was, indisputably, an Open Sesame.
      Very exciting over at yours right now, Kathy! That writer’s retreat must have been something else!

  4. Threatening disclosure on Facebook is the equivalent of one sibling turning to another to say:
    If you don’t do X . . . I’m telling MOM on you!

    I had my own victory with corporate america last night ~ it tasted sweet, indeed.

    BTW: Your graphic ties in nicely with Carl’s cartoon today. πŸ˜€

    1. It does send one back into the child rather quickly, this corporate customer anti-service. I was fortunate to have a Mum, in this case, who cut the mustard πŸ˜€ I’d love to hear about your victory….
      A pig called Napoleon: there was only one graphic to choose….

    2. I persuaded one of our credit card companies to waive the late fee and interest we incurred because payment was due on Sunday but could not be delivered via electronic bill pay until Monday.

      At first, the rep said, “NO.”

      I persisted . . . and prevailed.

  5. She had asked for it, and by George you delivered it! Well done.

    Amazing how malleable the laws of the Medes and Persians can become with a well-phrased veiled threat.

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