I was in the car on my way to the hospital for a routine appointment the other day, listening to a piece on BBC R4 about how waiters and people in service jobs are experiencing less courtesy and more aggression as we go through this stage of the pandemic. People shout more and tip less, while servers in pubs and bars now have to ‘discipline’ their customers as well as serve them.
‘Road rage has become restaurant rage,’ said one contributor, while another noted that the pandemic has turned us all into each others’ policemen, often pointing the finger at other people for acting irresponsibly or not taking the pandemic seriously enough.
I didn’t hear the rest of the piece because I arrived at the hospital for my blood test. I took my little paper ticket from the machine and as I sat watching the numbers slowly tick up towards mine, I remembered the sullen phlebotomist. The last three times I’ve been there I’ve had the same clearly unhappy guy take my blood. He never says a word except to ask my name and date of birth (fair enough, it’s not his job) and he always leaves me with a nasty bruise on my arm, so the whole experience is literally and metaphorically painful.
I don’t know his story. Last time I was there I almost enquired if he was OK. But I didn’t.
So I was having an internal word with myself about being convivial and not judging, when my number came up. I walked in, sleeve rolled up, blood test requirements at the ready, positive attitude in place – and he wasn’t there.