Irrational Encounters With The Modern World


Royal Mail Collection Rejection

I have owned a huge number of T-shirts in my life, particularly band shirts. I used money from my seventeenth birthday to purchase Iron Maiden and Marilyn Manson ones, and from my second gig onwards I made a habit of buying one or two shirts at most of the shows I went to, and often a bootleg fiver one outside the venue after the concert. Years passed, and my collection grew – eventually, I sold half of them, a hundred (now “vintage”) shirts, using an online auction site, only to then lose a lot of weight which necessitated the buying of more clothes. Eager to support the bands I like these days, I found myself committing funds to them and have easily accumulated another hundred shirts.

I can comfortably say that I wear maybe a dozen of them in total, with most confined to wardrobes and drawers. Some have never been worn, some have been bought and immediately forgotten about, most of them are a size too large for me now, and – of the ones that fit – I have invested disproportionally in the number of shirts versus the number of times I go out socially. Another purge is imminent, as soon as I make the time.

That said, my interest was piqued when one of my favourite venues announced their own range of official merchandise. The Glasgow Barrowland is world famous, having hosted some of the biggest names in music – my first ever gig was there, for Iron Maiden, and in February I return to see both Babymetal and Supergrass take the stage. In the intervening twenty-one years I have attended concerts by rock, metal, and dance legends – Alice Cooper, Judas Priest, Megadeth, HIM, System of a Down, Depeche Mode, Primal Scream, Underworld, FFS (Franz Ferdinand and Sparks), among others. Franz Ferdinand have adapted the design of the neon sign outside and used it as their stage backdrop, and now that sign had found its way onto a black T-shirt. Still believing that shirts should be priced as cheaply as they were in 2001, I nevertheless decided I needed this one despite its twenty-pound price tag, and ordered it.


The postman tried to deliver it this week, but I was out and instead received a wee red card with collection details. I am in an extremely busy period of work, and took the only chance available to me to retrieve it today from the local sorting office. Certainly, it looked like a sorting ofice from the outside. Inside, we entered a kind of absurd dimension where logic has no bearing; where conversations go in loops of increasing nonsense.

On arrival, there were two people in front of me at the small office window, the member of staff presumably through the back looking for a parcel. Eventually he reappeared, and from the brief exchange it seemed that a woman’s parcel had been delivered – as the tracking showed, and with it not being in the storeroom – the only issue being that she had not received it. She had been directed to ask here, and with no sign of it or of a resolution, she spiralled back out into the world empty-handed.

On my go, I presented my driving licence as identification and announced that I had a parcel to collect. This was my portal into a new realm, as I was informed that I would have to also present the red card that had been deposited through the letterbox. This rendered us in stalemate – I could not provide a number attached to a card that was in the recycling bin back home, and the staff member refused to surrender my item based solely on the provision of government-issued legally-accepted identification that contains my name, address, and photo. Yes, my photo. Not only does it contain my name, which I have had for a very, very long time, it also states my current address (as required by law) and a photo of my face for easy comparison. The refusal was flat and outright. I sought compromise.

He would need to check they even had the parcel, I was told. I thought back to this card, and recalled that the postman had scrawled on it the word “black” – a clue! I conveyed this information – it is a black parcel, delivery was attempted a few days ago, and it will be T-shirt sized. He vanished into the back room for no more than thirty seconds, before revealing that it was indeed there. Could I take it away? No. I could, however, arrange redelivery. So, they had my parcel, I had my proof of identity and address, but there were no circumstances under which I would be permitted to leave with this package that bore my name and place of abode.

I pleaded with him, in the vernacular, to do me a turn – he refused to act in my favour, citing the old get-out clause, “It’s my job.” He suggested I call an 0345 telephone number to complain, which I countered by saying life is too short to spend time waiting on hold in a queue. “But you’re in a queue here,” he protested, gesturing towards the six people who had materialised behind me. I began to walk away, back into the sunshine and a world where normal people understand common sense. He offered to book redelivery, but there seemed little point – I will not be home to sign for the parcel and, since I am going to miss it anyway, I may as well book it myself.

Walking the two miles home, I realised that I am annoyed the shirt was sent Signed-For, had this been notified then I would have specified an alternative delivery address, and being both stubborn as well as grumpy, I am now content for it to be returned to sender and my money refunded. My desire to own this shirt does not outweigh my desire to not have my time wasted.


When The Punishment Fits The Crime.

I was reminded today of a punishment exercise (or “punny”) that I was given when I was at school.

There was a wee guy in my year who used to needle me relentlessly, but I’m not particularly violent – except in my use of language – and so I put up with it for a long time. One day, for reasons I now forget, as we were all waiting outside a classroom for the teacher to show up and let us in, I finally cracked and lashed out at him. I connected my fist with his cheek, and he tried to retaliate but a combination of his short height and the arrival of said teacher meant the “fight” was over almost before it had begun. We were made to wait outside, to be dealt with once the class was settled.

We’d known each other for a few years, and he was pretty bipolar looking back – he’d be your cheeky wee pal one minute, then he’d try and pick a fight the next. We were never close friends, but for the most part we got on okay – which is why it took years of his digging for me to finally punch him. The upshot of this being, that by the time the teacher reappeared we were laughing and joking and had already mutually apologised. But we still had to be seen to be punished, not least because his eye was already blackening from my sole punch.

Mr Haggarty, I think I’ve got the spelling right because he was quite particular about it, was a firm but funny (witty) figure of authority – he taught us Tech Drawing and Craft and Daft, later taught me Computing, and spent enough time talking about the boat he was building from scratch that I still remember it. As this was about 1994, I presume he’s finished it by now. He issued us both with our 250 or 500 lines, whatever it was, and the line he made us repeat was: I will not resort to the ancient method of fisticuffs to settle my disputes.

It’s stuck with me all these years and, for the most part, I’ve used logic, wit, and words instead.