We might cry

I’ve been known to cry myself, to ‘get what I need.’ By that I don’t mean I set out to cry my way to satisfaction in every situation. But I was struck by Victoria Coren Mitchell’s tale in the Guardian of crying over 5o tiny tambourines.

(I don’t believe this has anything to do with books. But there’s something touching about weeping over tambourines. Especially if they are tiny.)

Victoria’s sudden idea of buying 50 tambourines as a statement gift not to be forgotten, is one I sympathise with. I once bought 30 sets of sturdy colouring pencils from ‘Early Learly’ (that’s how we referred to the Early Learning Centre) just so Son could hang on to his without them being borrowed. They were good pencils, which is why I’d got them for him to use at secondary school in the first place, and which is why his fellow class mates always needed to ‘borrow’ them.

Without thinking [much] I decided to give every child in his form their own set.

That was no easy task. We were able to buy a few sets in one shop and another few from some other branch of the ELC, and by the time we’d got all 30 we’d cleaned out South Manchester. But it certainly worked as a statement gift. The form teacher was astounded and the children remembered, long after I’d forgotten.

But at least I didn’t cry over them.

I did when the locum GP refused to admit Daughter to hospital once (and then it turned out it was because he didn’t know the procedure, and he’d rather pretend she wasn’t ill).

And now we have to cry to get anywhere with customer services, everywhere. It shouldn’t have to be like that. Not caring about their customers, as Victoria says, ‘exposes the relentless grind of the emotionless, profit-hungry machine. It’s frightening and alienating. It’s what happened with United Airlines and the injured doctor. If you empathise and apologise, it makes people feel less lost in that machine. It’s a really good thing to do. You should be proud, not reluctant, to say sorry; that’s your act of humanity. It doesn’t reduce your standing, any more than it reduces the standing of a skilled librarian to lead a roomful of toddlers in song.’

This is why I shop much less these days.

And I’m sorry for my bookless post.

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6 responses to “We might cry

  1. Yes indeed, haven’t forgotten the Dr’s receptionist who took my howls seriously enough to get son aged 2 second opinion (which was ‘don’t go home, drive him straight to the hospital, they’ll be waiting, I’ll call them now’.) Pneumonia.

    Also someone did it to me recently, cried. Over a book too. And I gave in, against my better judgement. It works.

    Therefore I suggest a national day of weeping. On June 9th.

  2. Penny Dolan

    I was moved by that post too, and the lovely idea behind it. However, even had she got those tiny tambourines, I fear the gift might have been turned down (or quietly shelved). Libraries have health and safety rules about where such items come from and they often have to be approved suppliers.. Annoying, I know, but the thought of many tiny tambourines with (loose?) rattly bits being sucked by small children’s mouths is a valid concern when you’re the responsible organisers. (Our library quietly turned down offers of donated percussion instruments, to be vetted for good condition before use,, just because of that.)..

    • True. The trouble is that by asking, the impact is lost. And if it would have turned out impossible to keep, at least the onslaught of all 50 at once would have been memorable.

  3. My library turned down new books. On the grounds that none of them were listed and they would all have to be catalogued. They were the Guardian long list…

    • Yeah, hard work, is well, hard work. But this actually confirms the reaction by John Lewis; people are so used to giving negative responses to things, that it becomes the norm.

      I was just reading in The Scotsman this morning about the extra postage charged for mail order items if you don’t have a mainland address. Apparently that means £2 more for Inverness. I suspect people take mainland to mean England…

  4. Penny Dolan

    Turning down unknown titles might be relevant, but turning down that long list does seem perverse – but who knows what the cost of cataloguing and maybe covering a library books is? I think they come in ready-prepared for the library’s systems.

    Sometimes the world seems a very confusing place – in the small things like gifts of books and tambourines as much as in all the problems one expects with the big stuff.

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