Sunday, 22 May 2011

House-training for stress-puppies

Society has always embraced ‘cure-all’ remedies. Leeches, herbs and general elections have all had their turn in the spotlight and have only rarely failed to disappoint. (Although overall, the leeches polled better than the politicians.)

If ‘one-size-fits-all’ doesn’t work for cures, why don’t we try it for diagnoses instead? ‘Stress’ is a diagnostic blanket that can be thrown over even the most relentless heartsink patient. It’s a relatively recent clinical diagnosis not because it didn’t previously exist, but because historically, factors that have caused stress tended themselves to be more terminal. Take this scenario;
Cavewoman to friend “Your husband Ug look terrible today. He still stressed about being bad hunter?”
Friend “No – his stress cured by sabre-toothed tiger that ate him.”

The cramped convict ships en route to Van Diemen’s Land didn’t have weepy sailors lining up to see the ship’s doctor about insomnia, because cholera, malnutrition and ten-metre waves can overcome night-terrors about weevils in the Weetabix. History is silent on how many members of Attila the Hun’s invading hordes were ever granted Stress Leave when their kitten died.

Kids living in sanitised environments get asthma because their immune systems have nothing more challenging to deal with. Similarly our nervous system will unleash adrenaline on the merest provocation because there are few physical perils left in life, if you discount riding in Sydney taxis.
Even air travel is so safe now that instead of screaming “arrgghhh’ as they plunge to their death in a fireball, people work themselves into a lather of stress over the tiniest invasions of personal space. Hitler may have taken over France with ease but would have been given no quarter today in a skirmish over a few square centimetres of luggage compartment. Wars break out over the breach of a no-fly zone in the airspace above a passenger’s knees when a chair-back is reclined into it. Maybe in space no-one can hear you scream, but at 30,000 feet the whining is deafening.

Because in recent years Australia hasn’t been at war with anyone except more capable cricket teams, TV magazine programs have been reduced to inciting fear over household objects; from bacteria on our chopping boards to bikies under our beds. There’s water in our meat and dead meat in our water. There’s no longer anything we can eat without fear and by going to bed hungry, we’re just a light supper for the bedbugs. Those that haven’t developed OCD yet are simply not paying enough attention.

The media is a major stress carrier. It would never have occurred to us to adopt the foetal position when faced with a domestic dishcloth before, but images of oozing petrie dishes and men with scientifically credible facial hair provide apparently overwhelming evidence and we learn to worry.

Doctors prescribing their patients a large tube of Harden Up and telling them to apply it liberally won’t win any awards for bedside manner. Perhaps though, agitated souls will be consoled by the knowledge that at least being stressed is a pretty good indicator that they aren’t yet dead.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

The Virgin Experience

Dear Virgin
You may well be patting yourself on the back this week for achieving your tenth birthday, but I fear that an excess of fairy bread and red cordial has gone to your heads and that the nice man in the white coat will soon be giving Mr Branson a big bottle of Ritalin for his Australian team.
I suspect that those who manage your website have been too busy playing Pin the Tail on the Chairman to notice, but your site has had all the speed and functionality this week of a Collins Class submarine in dry dock.
The first indication that all was not well was when I tried to top up my daughter’s mobile phone credit. Your website had obviously been told to go and tidy its room and was in a resultant sulk, doing the bare minimum to avoid getting a smack upside the head whilst remaining stubbornly uncooperative.  However, it managed to take the money from my credit card, which it will no doubt spend on lollies, whilst not providing any phone credit.
This resulted in my having to play Musical Chairs around your phone system, leaving me begging the music to stop to give me time to stem the blood flow from my ears.  Your selection of music is a cruel and unusual torture that makes being waterboarded seem like an afternoon in the skatepark by comparison.
I became a human Pass-The –Parcel going from one automated system to another until I finally found a grown-up to help me and try and explain why Virgin was helping itself to my money and giving me less in return than a dawn raid from the Australian Taxation Department.
The following day I was due to pay my own mobile phone bill and I once again approached the piñata of delights that is the Virgin website simply to make a credit card payment. Alas the papier maché that holds the Virgin behemoth together proved impervious to my waving a plastic card around and eventually the computer said ‘no’. I tried again this morning – same result.
I then realised that we had entered a new phase of Hide and Seek, where I seek some way of giving you money and you hide before you have to give me any customer service. I attempted payment by phone today. I’m sorry, but I haven’t listened to anyone quite as irritating as the guy on your phone system since my last marriage.
To cut a long bedtime story short, needless to say it still didn’t work and I was told that I would be able to talk to someone about it, but that the phone call would be recorded.  What happened then was very rare and very special for the Virgin call centre system. Silence.  A void of noise normally only experienced on asking if someone can help you bath the cat.
I relished the absence of infuriatingly earnest and up-beat  young bloke in my ear and definitely the dearth of techno music.  Actually there was a complete nonexistence of anyone to speak to. I assume someone must have pushed orange jelly into the audio system.
Now, as we know, it’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye. Or in this case, their credibility. I’d like to pay you, but you have made it impossible and I’ve lost the will to play more party games.
I’ll look forward to your response when the sugar high’s worn off.