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When did servants become bullies?

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I hope it’s not too late to revive them and re-introduce them into the English language. Maybe as part of the history syllabus

File picture: NS Newsflash, Flickr.com

ENGLISH is often a logical language. Sometimes not, but usually there’s a reason for the things we say.

If we pay people to serve us we are entitled to call them servants. That’s why government employees are known as public servants, working for the public service. Our taxes pay their wages and their job is to serve the public.

This simple fact is sometimes forgotten by public servants who act more like public masters than servants. I have recently found Telkom’s attitude particularly irritating.

They seem to have become arrogant bullies. I was told they were phasing out the copper wire telephone service and installing wireless phones because of cable thefts.

I was not really given an option, apart from accepting the new system or not having a telephone.

They generously offered me a free wireless telephone to replace the one I bought long ago.

Fair enough. Then the bullying began. I was told a courier service would deliver my new telephone on a certain day and I was required to present my identity document and proof of residence. Whoa there! Isn’t that a little arrogant, Mr Telkom? You arrive on my doorstep and when I answer the door you demand proof of my identity!

Surely I should be the one who should demand proof of your identity. Then you want proof that this is my home?

Hey, I answered the door. My door. Do you have proof that the van you came in is yours? Well then. Then there’s the matter of the delivery time.

Telkom’s notification says my phone will be delivered “between 8am and 5pm” and I must ensure an “ID and utility bill is present”.

It so happens that I will be away from home for a large part of the day. I arranged this long before Telkom decided to pop in. If I’m out when the phone arrives, tough.

Next time, ask me when it would be convenient to deliver the phone. That’s called good manners.

Remember good manners? Probably not, it’s a comical old-fashioned tradition that went out with top hats and horse-drawn carriages.

The English language, which I mentioned at the beginning of this column, used to include quaint words such as “please” and “thank you” and “excuse me”, which didn’t mean much in themselves, but they acted as a kind of lubricant which helped the wheels of society to run a little more smoothly.

I hope it’s not too late to revive them and re-introduce them into the English language. Maybe as part of the history syllabus.

Last Laugh

An office worker went to his boss and said: “We are doing some spring cleaning at home tomorrow and my wife needs me to clean out the garage and scrub the insides of all the kitchen cupboards. I was wondering whether I could have the day off.”

“I’m sorry,” said the boss, “We’re very short-staffed at the moment and there’s no way I could spare you.”

“Thanks boss,” said the worker. “I knew I could rely on you.”