Irrational Encounters With The Modern World


A Nice Meal And An Unwanted Free Gift.

I went to a local restaurant last week, and managed to get a skelf (depending on your location, also known as a splinter, spelk, or sliver) in the bend of my thumb. It came from the chair I was sitting on, but as my working life has involved moving lots of timber I was unphased. I have had and removed dozens of skelfs. This being the case, I sent the establishment a very tongue-in-cheek email about it – as always, for my own amusement. I half thought they might offer me a voucher of some kind, but instead they have neglected to reply.

Here is the letter I wrote:

I was in for a family meal on Tuesday night (9th September), and we were seated at tables opposite a banquette. At one point, in order to facilitate the duties of our waitress, I reached down to grasp my chair in order to move it forward – allowing her access between the chair backs and the wall.

Unfortunately, during this process of intended helpfulness, I felt a sharp pain in my right thumb. Without doubt, I got a deep skelf from your furniture. It went straight into the interphalangeal joint, a term I had to look up because hand anatomy is not my speciality, and I did not mention it at the time as I thought I had managed to successfully remove it.

On Wednesday, with the swelling that accompanied the wound turning septic, I was able to extract the remainder of the skelf – a splinter of several millimetres length.

As this small piece of wood is technically your property, I write to ask if you would like me to return it. I kind of hope not, since it seemed a poor souvenir of a nice evening and I binned it, before realising that it did not really belong to me. I can, however, send you a photo of the skelf (both embedded and removed) if this will enable you to have a replica made and reattached to the seat.

Let me know if this is of interest to you, and please accept my apologies for not being able to return the original.

Tomorrow is Thursday, and I am hopeful that the swelling (due to its location) will go down, allowing me to fully bend my thumb without discomfort once more. I trust the chair has exhibited no serious ill-effects.

skelf in thumb

Update: The restaurant never did respond, other than to add my email address to their mailing list. When I posted this on their Facebook, it was quickly deleted. I have not been back.

Baguette Out Of Jail Free. (A Reply)

I bought a supermarket sandwich which purported to contain beef, but which revealed itself to be mislabelled and instead held only tuna fish. This is the second time I have had an issue centred around the simple concept of bread with a filling, so I wrote them this light-hearted complaint. Below is their reply.
The previous, unrelated correspondence can be read here.

Good morning.

Thank you for contacting us.  I am very sorry that, again, you have been disappointed with your purchase of a sandwich from our [location redacted] store.  I would like to offer my apologies for any anguish caused when you discovered it contained tuna instead of beef. 


This is clearly not acceptable and therefore we secured the services of Hercule Poirot, Miss Marple, Magnum PI, Inspector Morse and of course those two lovely ladies, Rosemary & Thyme to get to the bottom of this mystery.  Although they could not identify the culprit, all staff involved in the preparation and packing of our sandwiches have been retrained in the correct processes to follow and we are confident that this type of situation should not occur again in the future. 


Please be assured that no genetic modification has taken place; we do not even use catfish or dogfish, never mind breeding underwater cattle!  It has simply been a case of human error, to which we as a species are prone occasionally, and I hope you can forgive this oversight. 


We would not want our customers to be disappointed with anything that they buy from us and we would not even think to pass our tuna off as being sea-horse meat.  In view of the fact that you are now out of pocket, I will be sending you a £5.00 shopping voucher which will be posted out to you shortly.


Please let me apologise to you once again and I sincerely hope that we may retain your valued custom; and trust that all your future purchases will be entirely satisfactory, with the contents being exactly as described on the label. 


Kind regards,
[name redacted]

Customer Services Department
Wm Morrison Supermarkets PLC

Sometimes It’s Just Not Cricket.

This happened to an old flatmate of mine, making it possibly the only story on here that didn’t involve me personally. He is no longer around, by his own hand, and the story entered into legend – but not without corroboration from several sources. Here, then, for posterity, is the story as I was told it, with all the details that were amended or corrected by eyewitnesses.

My flatmate, as he then was, worked for a well-known fast food chain, one that sells burgers, which barely resemble food, at very cheap prices. He was not backwards about coming forwards, and prided himself on his stubborn refusal to serve anybody who gave him abuse – he was large, and often worked at the window taking orders from the excessively inebriated in the small hours of the weekend. He told me once about the time someone called him a fat bastard, so he shut the window and stood there, arms folded, refusing point blank to open it again or serve the guy in question. The guy got angry as all hell, but my flatmate stood his ground, saying he wouldn’t serve him and wouldn’t serve anyone else either until he fucked off. This put the rest of the queue on his side, telling the guy to beat it.

“I’ll see you after work!” the guy shouted at him, and my flatmate just cheerfully said “No bother, I finish at four. See you then!”
Not that he could fight, but he had the courage or – perhaps, given how it all ended – was so involved with his own feelings as to genuinely not give a fuck.

He was at the counter one day, serving. A guy came up to him and placed an order, but chucked in some offensive comment with it. My flatmate refused to serve him.

“You better serve me,” the guy said, “Or I’ll get a cricket bat and smash fuck out the place.”

“Go and get your cricket bat then, ya prick.” I admire how calm and collected my flatmate could be, dealing with this unending sea of arseholes. What he was not to know, however, was that this guy had – at the table, in his holdall – a cricket bat. He retrieved it, came straight back, and took a swing at my flatmate.

My flatmate stepped back, unphased as the bat connected full force with a straw dispenser, shattering it and raining paper-covered straws across the floor. He calmly gestured to three locations on the ceiling and pointed out, matter-of-factly, “Security camera, security camera, security camera. Get tae fuck before the polis get here.”

The guy might have been stupid, but he wasn’t stupid enough to hang around and wait for the cops to show. He legged it.


As for my flatmate, things eventually went sour between us and we parted on bad terms. I regret that, and it is easy to look back now and realise that certain divisive incidents were probably indicative of his depression rather than from any desire to do wrong by us. I went to his funeral, with a lot of others, and paid my respects – he was a good guy at heart, and pretty damn funny. This is my favourite of his work stories.

I Fail At Being A “Foodie”.

I’m not much given to dining out, my budget is limited and I’m still of an age where a social evening with friends is more likely to involve a pub, comedy night, cinema trip, or DVD night. My social group are not naturally given to going out for dinner, darling.

Birthdays and celebratory occasions are the exception, and then almost always exclusively limited to family. As time goes on, there are even less of us involved. Tonight, we went out to a local restaurant called Persia.

I remember when the place was an Indian takeaway, round the corner from a flat I later lived in, and outside which I saw my first (and so far only, touch wood) knife fight. I’d left the Oran Mor, heading for crap food on the way to the bus, when there was a ruckus. High stools were wielded, freshly-bought kebabs were thrown in defence, and after it died down someone reappeared from a side street brandishing a kitchen knife. He was standing on the boot of a parked car, holding it aloft like some deranged Glaswegian Lion-O, when I last looked – I decided I wasn’t that hungry, returned to the pub, and proceeded to drink for the next seven hours before catching the 6am bus instead. I love this city, but people get a bit mental when they’re buying food after a night’s drinking. Something about fried food brings out the worst in us, in every capacity.

Being unfamiliar with Persian cuisine, I looked the menu up online during the day. There were two reviews prominently featured on their page, and both recommended the same chicken stew dish. Faced with the menu, and deciding to try it for myself despite my hankering for the more predictable chicken shish kebab, it was disappointing. Not that it wasn’t nice, it was alright. Nothing more though, just alright. Maybe I’m a heathen, but I can’t get excited about chicken in a sauce served with rice – it was a staple of the family dinners we ate (or suffered) growing up, and the meal I had tonight didn’t taste any better or worse than Marks and Spencers are capable of. No disrespect intended, like everything else food is very subjective.

Nice place, good service, the starters were nice, and the mains looked pretty good. I think I just chose badly, and it’s the first and last time I order something based on a review. Chicken in a sauce with rice. Really, if that’s what excites you maybe you should get out more.