I’m in a massive hurry. Time is running out and our holiday is looming. I have an article to finish and I haven’t started packing and I need to buy a present for my niece’s birthday before we go away. Thank the Lord for the John Lewis Click and Collect service. If you order online before 2 pm they guarantee delivery at your local Waitrose the very next day, and I ordered everything two days ago.
I’m going to call in on my way back from taking Middle One for his essential pre-holiday, biannual haircut, grab the pre-ordered items, including dress for niece and some food - but there’s a problem. “The girl’s dress, age ten, hasn’t arrived!” exclaims the sales assistant, speaking in a tone that denotes incredulity and, worryingly, a complete absence of responsibility.
I am in no mood for this. I have Middle One’s friend with me, staying for a few days, possibly one too many, and the two thirteen year-olds, standing behind in the fruit and veg section, are beginning to bicker like siblings, which is ironic because I just managed to remove youngest sibling with whom Middle One is more usually bickering. He’s gone to stay with his cousins.
I hand over my driver’s license as proof of identity just as the boys start up their circular debate about the Higgs Boson particle - again - and my headache, which has been threatening to descend all day, like damp mist rolling into a valley, finally settles in. I also feel slightly breathless. It might be stress, I think, or tension. Or both.
As the sales assistant informs me she will try and find out when I can return to collect the dress, (I can’t, I will be on holiday) I roll up my sleeves for battle (metaphorically) and ask the boys to wait outside. This is no place for children, and I have an increasingly strong desire to bang their heads together. Then for the entire time I am remonstrating with various staff I can see the two of them standing in the car park beyond, a manic backdrop to my difficulties, gesticulating wildly, swinging the food bags violently around their legs.
There are so many things I might say to this assistant. I could point out that an apology is in order. I could ask for some sort of solution to be offered. I could refer her to the fact that items are supposed to be available 24 hours after ordering. I could point out that it’s now 48 hours after ordering. I could get cross. But now it comes to it, I can’t be bothered. I must be ill.
Instead, when she tells me it’s nothing to do with her, she’s only “doing her job”, I ask if I can speak to the manager and then, when he arrives and is equally useless, I ask if I can speak to John Lewis customer services on the phone and eventually I tell them precisely what I want: the dress delivered directly to my niece’s address at no extra cost. Amazingly this is what happens but not before I spend forty minutes at the desk sorting it all out.
By the time we get home the headache has transmogrified into a screaming fog horn, Eldest has disappeared leaving all the windows and the double doors at the back of the house wide open to the world, the two thirteen year-olds are desperate for lunch, the ice cream has melted in the shopping bag and an upside down punnet of strawberries has leaked all over everything. But at least I’ve ordered the dress.
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