It’s so pleasurable to watch someone at the height of their professional powers, one who can command a room with their charisma. In public life, Barak Obama and Bruce Forsythe spring to mind.
In Lewes, of course, we have the Scottish guy in the parking shop. I feel bad that my shoddy research didn’t extend to finding out his name. Last time I was there I intended to conduct an incisive interview, but Scottish guy (let’s call him Glen, after Glenfiddich, another fine Scottish export), overwhelmed me with his easy manner. The only question I managed to ask was ‘Please can I have a totally unnecessary pack of Zone E visitor’s permits?’
Minutes later I found myself outside, a tenner down, smiling inanely. Well, it’s so good to see a virtuoso at work. And how tremendous to find that the universally reviled parking scheme, with its Cold War approach to customer relations, has such a genial and urbane public face. It gives you faith.
Ahead of me in the queue was a very angry man. He’d bought a ticket, but being printed on the sort of paper that makes tissue look hard, it had fluttered to the floor. The Blue Meanies love those. They code them as ‘blow-downs’, did you know that? Well, you should have seen Glen handle the situation.
If you want a good old-fashioned shout at your bank or phone provider, you’ll get some sap who’s been ‘taught’ how to handle you (eg they went on a two-hour training session run by Jeanette from Personnel, and spent half that time trying to operate the tea urn). You rant on, even though they keep looking at their watch; or if on the phone, you know they’re holding the receiver in the air, making ‘I’ve got a live one here’ faces at colleagues. They won’t take any responsibility even though they work for the company, and their voice is so emotionless you get even crosser, which Jeanette might have told them had she not been so busy playing them hilarious calls which had been recorded for training purposes.
How different with Glen. He listened properly to the thrilling ticket-on-floor saga, nodding, tutting and sympathising. Then he gently explained the options for an appeal. A good man in a bad world, maintaining standards while civilizations tumble. Mr Angry left, if not exactly happy, then satisfied he had truly been heard.
It had been a while since I’d enjoyed one of Glen’s master classes in people management. So imagine my anguish when I discovered he had moved on. Head-hunted by Northern Rock, presumably, or the Labour Party, or other organisation desperate for a decent front man. Poor you, if you’ve never been to the parking shop, or only been there in the grip of murderous ticket-related rage, rendering you less susceptible to fulsome appreciation. You have missed out.
Mind you, the woman who told me the sad news was smiley and helpful, so perhaps she’s a worthy successor. I’ll go in for more unwanted permits and find out.
Beth Miller, 30th September 2009. Published in VivaLewes.com