Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Falling Down or Cracking Up?

The 1993 Michael Douglas film Falling Down was one of those films that leaves a deep impression, or at least it did on me. Modern life just ground him down until he snapped and went on the rampage.

I don't know why the man in Cumbria did what he did yesterday but I sense a lot of people getting more than a little frustrated with modern life. That is not to excuse his actions in any way, they can't be excused, and maybe he has had some particularly tragic event in his life that drove him to it, I don't know. What I do know is that people are becoming increasingly angry at the modern way of life and, eventually, something must give. Let's look at a typical day or two.

Before you go to work you have to make a phone call about your utility bill being an estimated £5,000 for the last quarter. You get some ridiculous message about calls being monitored and recorded for training and quality purposes. Then you get a list of umpteen options with numbers to press for the one you need. Five options sound like they could be for you but you're not sure, so you press star and go back to the start. You press option five for the annoying message that tells you how they value your call but not enough to be arsed recruiting enough staff, so you will be in the queue until an operator becomes available. You then listen to Greensleeves for half an hour with a voice breaking in every minute to tell you you're in a queue.

Eventually you get those ridiculous security questions: What day of the week were you born? What colour underpants are you wearing? Do you prefer jam or marmalade on your toast? And finally what size hat do you take?. They then tell you that you have come through to the wrong department and you get plonked in another queue. So you decide to bugger off to work and sort the bill out another time.

On the way into the office you see the 40mph sign ahead on your deserted country road so build up your speed. In your rear mirror you see a blue light and pull into the next layby. Britain's equivalent of Chips, albeit with a Lancashire accent, struts up in his shades and patronisingly asks if you're in a hurry. Mumbling "for fuck's sake" under your breath is dangerous and gets you a twenty minute lecture on scraping bodies off motorways because of speeding motorists. So you grovel to shut him up, take your ticket and bugger off. What a day and you've not reached the office!

You park in a three hour bay because you're late thinking you must remember to move your car at 12-30. You end up with a real gasbag on the phone at 12-15 and it's actually 12-30 as you dash out of the office. You reach the car at 12-35 and the bastard has already ticketted you. You look around but the sod has well and truly scarpered. How do they do that?

You have to go to Manchester the next day and the thought of driving fills you with horror, so you phone to enquire about trains. If you go to Manchester from Lancaster on a Monday it's £30 return. But, if you wear red socks it's £28 on the 08-49. You can have a return fare after 09-00 for £12 but you have to return, via Glasgow, on the 23-59, arriving in Lancaster at 05-59 the following day. If you were born in the morning, before 1970, you get a special discount and so the complexities of the British train prices goes on, and on, and on. You decide to drive.

On the radio you hear that Manchester Airport has been closed after a security alert. It turns out a holidaymaker had tried to take a big bottle of shampoo on the plane. How dangerous! That reminds you of your friend who was driving into the airport with a van full of chemicals for cleaning out various tanks. Security checked him out and confiscated the yoghurt from his lunch box.

As you walk through Manchester from the car park you notice the CCTV cameras everywhere. They are there to protect you but only a few months ago the police put a security cordon around the city centre and searched eveybody entering for a night out. Proof that CCTV doesn't actually work? Then you remember that this is the city where a poor sod was nicked under anti-terror laws for supposedly taking a photo of a manhole cover. After having his computers checked and his film removed from his camera by the police he was released without charge.

You can't help wondering who we need protecting from.

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