Saturday, July 02, 2022

WEEKENDER: Merde, by Wiggia

                                      Very Annoying Things or Modern Life as we Know It

Much of today's life contains items that enhance and help our daily trudge through the merde.

We would find it difficult to envisage a world without the internet, yet the internet brings its own bugbears, communication, internet shopping, alternative news outlets, online services; all were greeted with smiling faces as we embraced the ease by which we could do things from the comfort of one's own home and later, on the move with the advent of smart phones.

But convenience and simplicity soon gave way to added complexities, especially in the banking sector where one now needs a degree in software if anything goes wrong as the banks more than others have pushed inadequate security onto the customer. Having to interact with a smart phone just to get into a bank account online is not simplicity and if you lose a password you can spend a morning righting that mistake: the whole password, username, favourite dog saga with all accounts has reached nonsense level and who could possibly remember them all.

Don’t write them down we are told, yet the alternative, the computer based password storage vault, is we are told very hackable so maybe better to have endless slips of paper somewhere with all numbers digits etc. on them, I actually had a Microsoft ‘update’ that managed to wipe all my stored passwords and much else, so I was grateful for the slips of paper I did have at the time.

Much of the above is magnified by the inability to correct by speaking to an actual person, someone unintelligible in Mumbai or Scotland as happened recently is about the last straw after a morning going in circles on the internet.

Even a phone call is fraught with options you don’t want, don’t need but you get anyway. A classic happened a couple of weeks back with a Building Society: after all the options were listened to in three separate batches my problem was not among them, so I plumped for the ‘any other business‘ only to be told after pressing 6 that this option had been removed, please use the web site I had just left in desperation... and then I was cut off; rinse and repeat.

Some companies go out of their way to be considerate: they will provide a ring back service, though if you do not have a smart phone (how dare you!) you will have to stand by the phone for up to 24 hours as they will not define a time.

My surgery phones occasionally, but never about anything other than 'have you had your eighth booster as you are on the extremely vulnerable list.' The NHS itself sends letter telling me my ‘spring’ booster is due in June; still, they tried. The cost of all these unwanted calls and letters nationwide must be equal to the defence budget.

The convenience of online shopping brings with it the lottery of who will delivery your “urgent” parcel. We have a postman, the regular one who nice chap though he is! leaves endless cards saying he tried to deliver but no one was in, please arrange re delivery; yet my study is eight feet from the front and the loud door bell and despite being present I have never heard the bell or a knock on the door; bizarre.
They also have advanced technology where they can detect if you've just sat on the toilet, giving you just enough time to watch the van pull away forever...

The delivery companies all have their own rules and in fairness one or two are excellent in most respects. Sadly some of the cheaper ones are not. I have great sympathy with delivery drivers who to make a living drop over 150 parcels a day so I can’t blame them for mistakes caused by too many drops but I can blame the inadequacies of the companies and their attitude - early Yodel, anyone? or the same with Hermes: as soon as the delivery company was revealed to be either of them it was nail-biting time as to whether anything would arrive at all.

The convenience of online shopping has usurped going to a shop and trying on clothes and footwear to see if they actually fit. It is often used as a lazy shopper's route to the wrong items. With clothes and footwear sizes being a lottery these days how anyone can buy these items online and expect them to fit without trying them on amazes me. The fact that there are easy return options negates the ‘easy shopping’  as you may as well have gone to a shop on the high street tried whatever it  was you wanted on and saved the extra trip to the post office to return the item, which is normally jam packed with eBay sellers wanting to post a hundred or so individual items.

Bureaucracy used to be a problem the French had. Not any more, we have in many areas left them well behind. Whatever you do don’t die, or any of your near and dear, the cost and form filling is only there to further reduce the population. Having had to go through the so-called formalities several times in recent years it gets no easier. If you think you are in danger of popping your clogs in the near future transfer all you can now to your spouse and save a lot of time and money and having to deal with stupid seat warmers who try and justify their position in life.

I can add to that, forget the expensive funeral that is for everyone else other than the poor sod who has died; he will probably be paying for it all and that will come from the estate. What is the point? Once you have popped off no one cares anyway, only about the will and its contents. Don’t forget, the large scotch being lifted in your name at the wake is being paid for by you

On a more mundane level, nothing can be repaired on a vehicle without replacing the whole unit; sometimes, as with a cam belt change as I recently found out, they expect you to replace the water pump at the same time. Why? Because it is easier when replacing the cam belt. This scam is now almost universal. They now want to replace items that are perfectly sound and have years of life left.
While talking about cars, mine, which I am reasonably happy with, has auto stop start; the stop start achieves nothing in improving frugality unless you drive in town a lot and requires a bigger battery and starter motor which naturally are far more expensive to replace. I do have the ability to turn off this feature, but why do I have to do this every time I start the car? They have menus for everything else I never use, but this no, is it done just to annoy us.

Not that many years ago there was a campaign to change or replace plastic packaging. No problem with plastic packaging other than the items you can’t open: I recently had a tool delivered wrapped in a blister pack; there was no way in without resorting to using garden secateurs, and even then the plastic bubble was so resistant I had to cut the whole thing into pieces as it was impossible to tear. The same goes for plastic bottle caps with the tear strip you can’t even get hold of, never mind remove without pliers and strong arms. There must be arthritic little old ladies all over the country with cupboards full of unopened plastic bottles and if it is medication they could well be dead; perhaps, as with so much for the elderly, that is the intent.

The same goes for the foil top under the top on milk cartons. The tab is made deliberately small and stuck down so hard that one has to puncture the top to get at the milk, which rewards you by splashing over you and the work surface.

I recently replaced a can of WD 40, one of those essential items in the garage or home. For reasons unknown they have altered the plastic top on the can. You need this as it also holds the small item for fixing the oil tube to should you need it, but the new top cannot be removed without it flying into space complete with widget; now they sit separately on the shelf, waiting to be lost somewhere.

Sachets that come with items like stir fry, containing oils and seasoning, demand the use of scissors to open them. Others have ‘handy’ tear-here arrows, only when you tear the sachet remains closed as the tear line is in the wrong place; scissors are then used and the smaller sachet then squirts oil everywhere. There is a similar problem with a certain bank for whom I do not use a direct debit: the monthly statement contains a tear-off paying-in slip, but the tear line is in the wrong place and has been for years and when you attempt remove slip from the page you tear the slip in half; marvellous.

And talking of packets and similar, why do they print instructions or contents in such small print it is impossible to read without a magnifying glass. Even some instruction manuals are like this; printed in a dozen languages may save money as opposed to separate language versions but to do this cheaply they squeeze minute print onto fewer pages, usually into a manual the size of a fag packet.
And have you had a feedback request from Amazon about their packaging and how they have changed to more ‘sustainable’ boxes? This usually comes after you have received a three-foot box stuffed with brown paper to stop the ink cartridge you ordered rattling around. “How are we doing?” is usually the opening question - I have never answered!

It is interesting that the switch in 2030 to all electric vehicles coincides with adverts telling you they are faster than equivalent petrol models and do 0-60 in two seconds, when the only thing that matters is are they affordable - no! And what is the battery range, which is better but you still won't find anywhere to charge en route, and those that do exist won't fit your car and/or charge exorbitant rates. Get used to it EV owners, the honeymoon is over: road tax next or road pricing, so the cost of motoring will be no cheaper but less convenient and you will have paid a lot more for the car in the first place.

All vehicles are sold by stating performance or frugality depending on your use of vehicle, but performance figures for new cars are now pointless as all are now fitted with speed limiters, so a car that on paper does 140mph in reality does 70mph unless you use the override, and that is recorded; the sports car has been reduced to a fashion item.

Anyone who thinks that does not apply to them and their pre-limiter ICE sports car should remember that the road conditions these days limit you in many cases to a lot less than 70mph so the eco brigade are winning, making it ever more frustrating trying to actually go anywhere. I saw a Ferrari on the road where I used to live having to go from side to side to get over the speed bumps, so high are they; normal cars just straddle them which defeats their purpose, but low riding vehicles have to resort to snake like manoeuvres to get up the road and of course if there is heavy traffic they have to wait for it to become clear and hold everyone behind them up in the meantime. To coin a phras, a Ferrari round here is about as useful as a chocolate tea pot.

With roaring inflation energy prices going through the roof and the prospect of WWIII round the corner all the above becomes marginal in importance. Still, enjoy what you can when you can, the music festivals are in full swing and a new boy band has appeared at Glastonbury, that should cheer all up - oh, wait a minute…

The obvious question with this photo is who thought it a good idea to go all Alan Partridge and be tieless? Do they really believe this will endear them to the general public? And in the case of Boris, is he wearing a tail coat or worse? We have every right to be seriously worried by those who pretend to run things.

Not the Magnificent Seven, nowhere near!

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