There is very little that is more awkward than your boss, who is roughly ages with you, trying to communicate to a roomful of employees but becoming stuck between talking on their level, and being aware of the environment and of the expectations of his corporate masters.
While twenty of us sat around the edges of this call-centre classroom one afternoon, our speaker tried to best illustrate a particular point with a modern phrase known to us all. He failed to fully commit to its use, however, and trailed off after saying “Bros before…” – the missing final word being “Hos.” It was never clear quite how this American frat-boy mantra, which advocates prioritising guy friends over girlfriends, was relevant to the customer service emails we were being taught to compose and send.
I can, at least, understand why – at each mention – the boss began the statement and then bailed with the words “I won’t finish that sentence.” I think, and hope, that he was shying away from using the derogatory term “ho”, short for “whore” or – as it was phonetically written on the graffitied walls of my secondary school – “hooer.” Though perhaps he is just staunchly against the further Americanisation of Scottish culture.
During the course of the informal tutorial, several of my co-workers used the phrase too, all of them stopping short of completing it. I decided that it was time to derive some humour from it, since the word play is – at least, I thought – obvious. One of the girls quoted the saying, and by this time it was a running joke that you would only give voice to the first two words. Deadpan, I asked my question to the room at large:
“What is it about that particular garden implement that means you can’t say it??”
There was a pause, as the pun registered with almost everyone in the room, leading to laughter. The only person not laughing was the person who had last expressed the term.
“I don’t get it,” she said.
“Garden implements,” the boss explained, smiling. Her blank stare was met with further explanation. “Hoes.”
“Oh!” She exclaimed. “I thought you meant like a trowel or something.”
“Yeah,” I said, matter-of-factly inserting that in place of the omitted word. “Bros before trowels.”
We had been taken on as temporary staff. They kept her on, they let me go.
The Two Ronnies, and some confusion over “hoes” – starts at 2m 18s.
I received an email at work the other day. I’ve changed the identifiable details, but this is the gist. Somebody from England was complaining that a delivery had arrived later than the day specified, two different days having been specified, and he wanted reimbursed for time wasted. Part of his email said that he had called us, but found it impossible to understand the person he spoke to “due to a strong Scottish accent and loud background noise.”
This comment was actually buried further in the email, but as it had not been addressed in the previous reply, I decided to respond to it too. Actually, I was one step away from shouting “Freedom!” while I typed. I joked about calling him racist and offering five Scottish pound notes by way of apology. Instead, I answered professionally. Knowing that my email would be vetted by our proofreaders before sending, I included the following:
“Our call centre is located in Glasgow, and so the majority of us have strong Scottish accents.”
I thought this would be removed or amended, but I heard later from somebodywho got the response to it, and that had been kept in.
The truth is, the background noise is noticeable. Had the complaint just mentioned that, I would have offered twenty quid without blinking. However, by revealing an inherent prejudice, I offered a tenner. I would genuinely have offered just five, except I knew that it would definitely exacerbate things. My reasoning was that the delivery had still come within seven days, as stated.
My accent is fine, it’s your ears that are faulty.
There was somebody else on the phone once. A wee old lady, I could tell. “I think it was you I spoke to before,” she said. “I recognise your accent.”
I resisted the urge to say, deadpan, “You’re probably right. I am the only Scottish person working in our Glasgow call centre. So it probably was me.”
I now realise that, although that line is quite funny when I tell people the story, when it’s coldly written down I just sound like a dick. It’s something I am discovering with my comedy – some things are funnier read, and some are funnier told. It is important to get the medium correct. Please re-read this paragraph aloud, and with your eyes shut.
These tales remind me of the time when I bought the Entombed album “Uprising.” Part of the reason for my purchase, apart from already liking one of their albums, was the inclusion of a track called Scottish Hell.
“What’s that about,” I wondered. “Perhaps they had some bad esperience playing a gig here, or dated some woman who wronged them, or are cursing some whisky-fuelled evening.”
I don’t know about them, but I had a bad experience when they gigged here. Cathedral supported and played a lengthy, boring set. By the time Entombed came onstage, I only saw twenty minutes before I had to get the last bus home. Fucking shite, and they haven’t been back since. That was a little over eleven years ago.
Anyway, as soon as I got home, I skipped straight to that track, digging out the CD’s booklet to read over the lyrics. Are you ready? Here they are, in full:
“Satan kissed my dog/ Cracked his moral shell/ Possessed to wear the kilt/ In his Scottish hell.
I touched your lips your eyes fell out/ On to the floor behind the door/ I picked them up and washed them off /And taped them back upon your face.”
Whatever it might be about, I’m flummoxed. In locating the lyrics online, I now see that it’s actually a cover version too. I’m going to end this blog on a note of utter confusion.
I had a letter in the mail today, from my bank. They’ve written to me to alert me to the fact that they are going to send me statements less often, in a bid to save paper. Even though they wrote that on paper and posted it.
It arrived next to a statement showing just how much interest I have paid on my overdraft this year. If they were really determined to be greener, they could have put both of those letters in the same envelope. Hell, I have online banking and they know my email address, so really they had no need to print anything off.
It is still stupid, though, to me at least, that we are kidding on that it is somehow better for the environment to print less – is anyone taking into account the amount of power and energy required to make, run, and maintain computer systems, servers, and the entire internet? Is printing less really the answer? I doubt it.
Still, we are so irrevocably fucked as a race, as this juggernaut hurtles towards the edge of the cliff, that it’s hard to hold any hope of us recovering. We are living an unsustainable existence – my bank wants to generate less paperwork, but their cash machines are running off the mains all day every day and their billboard adverts remain lit overnight.
And the stupidest thing of all is that, when I was last online, I changed the settings in my account and switched to paperless statements anyway. So they have written to me to let me know that they won’t send me something I’ve asked them to stop sending anyway.