Over the last two months I’ve been regularly using a coin-operated laundrette not far from my North London flat. Every time, as I stare into the confined void of the spinning drum or brave all kinds of weather dragging a heavy bag of dirty clothes behind me, I heave a sigh of frustration pondering my misfortune.
You see, my problem is not that I chose to rent a property without a washing machine but quite simply that I live in the UK in the year 2008. For, you see, this is the age that has seen the demise of all standards of service. All we do is communicate with the ever-changing phone operator who offers apologies for the inconvenience we’ve experienced but fails to do anything to fix it.
Since my washing machine broke down over 2 months ago, I’ve been on the phone with the manufacturers 15 times trying to get them to carry out a repair that they’ve already charged me for, recounting time after time the same story to an always different but equally uninterested ear.
But this is the reality of life in the UK. Your life is in the hands of an anonymous army of headset-clad operators who go through our stories of daily frustrations like numbers in a spreadsheet. No story is worthy of attention and no-one is held accountable as Tom turns into Emma and a week’s wait becomes months.
We’ve all heard (and failed to be shocked by) reports of BAA’s inability to get luggage onto planes without losing it at Heathrow’s new Terminal 5 but we also know that is but a drop in an ocean of missed deliveries and engineers who fail to show up within their 8-hour window. But the T5 fiasco is more than just the tip of a massive iceberg, it’s the embarrassingly obvious face of a problem that permeates our society on every level.
So much so that my friends and I have started using the term T5 to refer to your average, run-of-the-mill disservice. The telephone engineer who was supposed to call in the morning but turns up in the middle of the afternoon after you’ve called in three times was a total T5. The postman who left a sorry-you-weren’t-in card without attempting to ring your bell pulled a T5. And the dude who has to use the laundrette across the street despite having paid to have his machine repaired? Well, he’s been famously T5’ed.