Available for freelance writing commissions on a variety of subjects including family history, nostalgic Belfast and its famous people, shops, shoppers & shopping, the golden age of Hollywood (esp westerns) and humorous pieces on life's weird and wonderful. Op-eds, columns, non-fiction book reviews too.
CV of published material available on request.
firstname.lastname@example.org & @JoeCushnan
It is so easy for life's everyday frustrations to be swamped by the big stuff that hogs the news, like yer man in the White House and his itchy Twitter finger. And our own blonde-bombshell, with a head like a burst sofa, in Downing Street. We curmudgeons of the small stuff are in danger of being isolated and neglected.
There are many, many irritations in my life but, rather than bore the pants off you, I'll concentrate on two.
There is a growing trend amongst female supermarket checkout staff to refer to customers as "sweetheart". Now, on the surface, where's the harm? Male operators for years have been equally annoying when they refer to male customers as "mate" or "pal" when they are no such thing, and female customers as "love". I grew up in the era of "sir" and "madam", expressions that are way too formal in this sloppier more casual age, and don't get me started on supermarket staff appearance, gum chewing, mint crunching and water-swigging as they work. That would take my wrath to extreme levels.
But "sweetheart"? Not long ago a female checkout operator referred to me as "sweetheart" this many times in a fairly quick transaction:
Her: Hello sweetheart.
Her: Do you need any help packing, chick?
Me: No, thank you.
Her: That's £13.20, sweetheart.
(I hand over the money.)
Her: Have you a Nectar card, sweetheart?
(I hand it over.)
Her: Tap your pin in, sweetheart.
(I tap in.)
Her: Are you collecting school vouchers, ducks?
Her: There's your receipt.
Me: Thank you.
Her: Have a nice day, sweetheart.
Me (inside my head but inaudible to anyone else): Shaddup with the sweethearts!!!
I sound as if I am exaggerating but I promise you I'm not. To her credit, she did vary it slightly. It is very annoying to me. Some people will accept it as friendliness, and, on a level, it is. But it narks me. In fact, as soon as I experience the "sweetheart" treatment, I avoid that operator on future visits and prefer to queue to be served by someone not afflicted with the "sweetheart" virus.
I'm not suggesting that we go back to sir and madam......but then again........
The other thing is restaurant staff, after setting down the plates, saying: "Enjoy." It has become such a throwaway word that it is meaningless and irritating. It is shorthand in this minimal character gadget age. "I hope you enjoy your meal" would be preferable because it takes a bit of effort to say six words rather than one. Stop it. STOP IT!
So, don't let the big stuff swamp the small stuff. I could go on and on about lazy car parking, car park machines that don't give change, service charges and tipping, rudeness, vaping.... but I'll leave it there....... for now.