Just Plane Stupid

Before we get started, you need to take two things on faith. One, I can read. And two, I’m not a moron.


Now then, that puts you exactly two steps ahead of the people running Heathrow airport. Having managed to negotiate my way around Northern Europe by learning some of the language and applying liberal doses of common sense, I felt confident I could survive the final leg of my journey and find my way off the plane and out of Heathrow airport. My confidence soared as I descended the steps and was met with a raft of instructions in my native English. ‘Behold!’ they screamed, ‘you are home, follow us to safety’. Most even had handy diagrams in case my time away had muddied my understanding of the language. All in all, I was far more than adequately equipped to read the sign ‘e-Passport only’, and join the appropriate queue.

e-passport

That little symbol under the word ‘passport’ that’s not just for decoration you know, and the absence of that symbol does not simply mean your passport is less bling than mine.

It seemed however, this wasn’t something the staff at Heathrow were willing to take on good faith. Apparently they weren’t convinced I’d been given enough clues as to where I should be standing and that even if I had, I was clearly too dim witted to interpret them.

‘I need to see your passport.’ The Queue Warden held out an arm to bar my way. A largely ineffective ploy as her arm was far shorter than the gap between barriers.

‘Why?’ I took one headphone out and glared at her.

‘I need to see your passport.’

‘You said that.’ I shrugged, identifying the weakness in her blockade and turning side-on to take a step past her.

‘Sir, I need to see your passport.’

‘Why do you need to see my passport?’

‘I need to see your passport.’

‘That’s not a reason.’ Now, I knew exactly why she needed to see my passport – she wanted to check I did in fact have an e-passport and would be able to use the electronic passport gates at the front of the line. However by this point I was less than impressed by her grasp on how conversation worked and decided she really needed the practice.

She turned her back on me for a moment, ignoring me while she took the passports from some other people that were trying to squeeze past. This seemed particularly rude – her annoying other people before she’d properly finished inconveniencing me.

Those folks dealt with, it was my turn again. ‘I need to see your passport.’

‘Why do you need to see it when there’s a guy down there already checking it?’ I gestured to a similarly purple-blazered automaton checking people at the front of the queue had the right type of passport. For a moment I almost descended into a rant about how useless his job was but fortunately I was in a good mood, and politely said nothing.

‘I need to see your passport.’

‘No you don’t.’ Enough was enough. I ducked past her and wandered down the line. Perhaps if there hadn’t been a plane load of people behind me waiting to join the queue, she might have called out, chased after me even, but I doubt it. If the previous few minutes had taught me anything, it was that her induction into her role had been swift. Six words and a snazzy blazer were all she’d be armed with. She was little more than a walking, breathing, almost-talking billboard.

At the front of the line, the woman’s colleague checked my passport was eligible to use the electronic system. And if it wasn’t? Well, he’d have let me go to the front of this other special little queue for morons who can neither read nor interpret diagrams. Which is really why the whole process winds me up. People that ignore the sign or think an e-passport is something they can download once they get to the front of the queue, should be banished to a very long queue, preferably one that snakes past a manure farm and one were rottweilers chew on their ankles while they wait. Fuck those people*.

Like steaks and sporting events, the Americans do airports properly. In their airports, the blazered folk shout at you while pointing decisively, and you soon get in line. Though it might have something to do with their co-workers carrying firearms as opposed to the effectiveness of the system. Regardless it seems far more efficient. I’ve certainly never found cause to stop and argue with them…



*This might seem a little harsh on people with visual impairments but I assume they have some form of audio thingy-mi-bob that helpfully tells them to, ‘turn here to be inconvenienced,’ followed by ‘wait here for another pointless cross examination of your passport.’

A Murderous Brew

I think the staff of my local Costa are trying to kill me. There can’t possibly be another explanation for their utter and total ineptitude. No, I refuse to believe any group of human beings can be as collectively stupid. They must be working to some fiendish plan in a dastardly effort to have my heart explode in my chest.

I’m not allowed caffeine. It’s a sad but terrible truth. Something about random electric impulses or other. To be honest, I couldn’t really hear the surgeon over the sound of the tears crashing down my face like a tide bent on ruining the world. So you see, when I go to coffee shops I’m extra careful to ask for decaf.

Yet Costa’s elite team decided to ignore my simple request and give me tea of the fully caffeinated variety. After a couple of gulps, my highly developed sense of ‘those idiots didn’t do what I asked’ kicked in, and I felt compelled to just double check exactly what they’d given me.

Here’s how the scene broke down (I’ve included some handy pictures as character references for the more visual among you).

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Me.

Monkey-new

An artist’s likeness of the average Castle Marina Costa worker.

Me: This is decaffeinated, right?

Chimp: Um. No.

Me: It’s not?

Chimp: No.

Me: Why not?

Chimp: Um. It says here *waves a piece of paper in my face* ‘regular tea’.

At this point an another chimp chimed in.

chimp-2

Dumber Chimp.

Chimp 2: That’s my fault. I put it through as a standard tea.

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Me. Wondering which is greater – my rage or their unbridled stupidity.

Me: Because you wanted to kill me?

Chimp 2: What?

Me: I’m allergic to caffeine.

Chimp 2: Really?

Me: No, I just like making a fuss.

Chimp: There’s no need to be like that, it’s an easy mistake.

Me: One that could have killed me.

Chimp 2: What, you could have died from one cup of tea.

Me: Yes, idiot. Did you think I asked for decaffeinated because I enjoy paying the full price for something that has non of the awesome benefits?

Chimp: Oh shit.

Chimp 2: Do you need anything?

Me: Yes, you to turn back time and get my fucking order right.

Now this might seem a tad harsh, but don’t rush to their defence. This isn’t the first time they’ve failed to follow basic instructions. You see, most mornings, I go there for a hot chocolate. Skinny with only half the chocolate powder. Most mornings they fuck that up too.

Until someone decides to pay people to breathe, coffee shop workers have the easiest job in the world. They need to simply turn up, and carry out requests in a timely manner. At no point in their day do they have to struggle with anything close to a decision of their own. It’s just unbelievable how they manage to be quite so shit.

Even the managers are idiots. I can only assume they’ve been promoted for successfully defending the branch against any would be employees who seemed able to stand up and talk without over taxing their brains.

Morons. All of them.

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Chump McChimpanson. Director, Costa Coffee.

Coffee. Ain’t nothing else like it.

Happy 2014. May it kick last year’s ass.

Generally, at this time of year I’d write a post about how I wished I’d blogged more last year*. I’d go on to reassure you and myself, that I’ll totally be blogging more this year. But we both know that’s bullshit.

What I can promise is that I’ll blog when I remember, and I’m not sleepy or late with a deadline. And I’ll definitely blog if there’s not a Marvel movie on at the cinema and I’m not engaged in a Nerf war. Provided of course, I don’t find myself driving to McDonald’s for chicken nuggets and a coffee in the small hours of the morning before setting off on an adventure to a castle in the middle of Derbyshire.

On the subject of coffee, I’ve spent the last week far from a place where they serve anything approaching a good cup of Joe. Don’t get me wrong, there’s no shortage of places to purchase the Holy Stuff**. It’s just that they’re less coffee shops, and more beverage vendors. Places staffed by folk well versed in how to put hot liquid in a disposable cup.

On yesterday’s trip to one such pretender, a friend asked me how my coffee was. He was tired, hungover. We both were. And at some point I shall apologise for my rant.

‘There are three sorts of coffee in this world. Good coffee, bad coffee, and then there’s the stuff I’m pretty sure is yesterday’s rainwater mixed with a little bit of dirt for colouring. I love the former and wouldn’t drink the later unless the alternative was to drink my own urine. The stuff in the middle, such as this you’ve just handed me, I don’t have feelings about. It’s bad. I know it’s bad. It knows it’s bad. The guy who took your one-fifty for it, knew it was bad. I’m gonna drink it because there’s nothing else.’

‘Mine’s okay,’ he answered as though we were drinking something that hadn’t come from the same glass flask. ‘Maybe you need more milk.’

Forgoing the urge to slap him, I replied, ‘It’s not fucking hot chocolate.’

‘If it were hot chocolate, it’d be better than that shite from Starbucks.’

On this he was right. Starbucks hot chocolate is made with a weird chocolate syrup, which can only be the result of exposing chocolate to a degenerative disease.

‘Still,’ I said, swallowing another mouthful of proxy-coffee. ‘I’ll take one of the coffee chains over an independent any day. At least you know what you’re in for.’

Of the three major chains operating in the UK, I’d rank them thusly – Starbucks, Cafe Nero, and Costa Coffee. Though my ordering has little to do with the quality of the coffee. I’ll explain.

costa sign 2In my opinion, Costa has the superior espresso. It’s less acidic and smoother, with a fuller taste. However, visiting any of my local Costa stores, prompts me to use the word fucktard*** more than anywhere else in the world. The one closest to me is staffed almost exclusively with people who seem unable to listen. Order Taker asks me what I’d like, then asks me again because they weren’t really paying attention. Next, Order Taker passes the information to Till Staffer who would totally tap my order into the till except they weren’t listening. Instead, I repeat my order for a third time. Finally, Till Staffer relays the order to Drinks Maker who it turns out isn’t really listening either because they’re still busy fucking up the last guy’s drink. Desperate, and on the verge of deploying ‘Fucktard’, I repeat my order directly to Drinks Maker. They nod, like they always do. But I can see it in their vacant expression. They didn’t listen. Unsurprisingly, I get the wrong drink. I make them remake it, sometimes twice. They screw their face up. I deploy, ‘Fucktard’.

Oh how I loathe the ineptitude at my local Costa****. Now, in the spirit of fairness, there’s one guy who always remembers my drink and is smiley and friendly, and another guy who when he sees me inspecting the sandwiches, immediately tells me which one has the best protein to calories ratio. But the rest of them? I’m astounded they manage to stand up and breathe at the same time.

Nero signFor me, Cafe Nero sits in the middle of the road. The coffee is pretty good, they use powder and not syrup in their hot chocolate and their muffins are ace. Their staff also seem competent if a little removed thanks to the crap crowding the counter tops. The problem is the speed of service and the noise. Yes, I’d like the illusion that my coffee is master crafted just for me by a Drinks Artisan. No, I would not like to be able to complete a degree in that time. Though to be honest, my main gripe with the place is the noise. I like to write in coffee shops, and it’s incredibly difficult in Nero’s. All the hard furnishings and wooden floors do nothing to soften the clank of dishes and clattering of chairs.  Saucers and spoons are all fine and well but Rambo makes less noise with an M60.

starbucks-logo-640x400Starbucks then, is a heaven from morons and loud furniture. Hardly a glowing endorsement I’ll grant you. Their staff though are generally awesome. When they ask me what I’d like, they listen to the answer and even write it on the cup just to make sure. This seems like such a fool proof method for remembering someone’s order that the only reason I can think of why Costa haven’t adopted it, is because their management think it’s too much to expect applicants to be able to read and write*****. Starbucks’s selection of sugary drinks and the ability to minutely customise your drink, and still have it made correctly, is beyond rad. As a company they make quite a big deal about building a rapport with their customers, and although it’s a tactic to help retain customers, there’s no denying it’s nice to show up for your morning coffee and have them remember your name and drink. In fact, no matter which Starbucks you go into in my local area, they know me from my order.

‘For the skin-head scottish guy?’ they apparently ask.

Oh and in case you fancy testing the theory and bringing me a coffee:

A Venti, skinny, wet, two-pump caramel latte with an extra shot, would be swell. If you’re brining it from a distance, having it made extra hot wouldn’t hurt either. Thanks.

-Andy

*According to the 2013 end of year summary WordPress generated for me, I blogged twice last year. I’m sure their graph-bobbins-peeps are way off. But I’m a big person. I’m not gonna make a scene. I shan’t be going back and tallying up all the posts I’m almost a little bit sure I wrote.

**Coffee, obviously.

***Which by the way is my favouritest of sweary insults. ‘Listen Fucktard’ being my preferred use of said phrase.

****So why go? Well, it’s the closest coffee shop by quite some margin, and the only one open in the early am.

*****Unless Starbucks has copyrighted writing-on-cups-with-marker-pen, which, let’s be honest, would be awesome.