The Last Word page of the Weekend Financial Times is usually calculated to annoy (me).
In the top right hand corner Tyler Brulé, editor of something called Monocle magazine – no me neither – shares his views with the world in his column The Fast Lane about the best brands of luggage (yawn) or rants against the latest iniquities of airline travel like the disposition of seats/couchettes/beds in first class, while getting in a side swipe at the great unwashed “in the back” (i.e. of the plane – me again).
Confronting him from his left, so to speak, is Harry Eyres’ countervailing column The Slow Lane, about the creative use of down-time, usually with a green tinge.
Turning to this weekend’s FT (the best UK national paper bar none, as I’ve said before) with the usual apprehension I find that not one but both have surpassed themselves with two brilliant pieces.
To take the one occupying the higher moral ground first, Eyres writes movingly and perceptively about the waves of protest sweeping the Arab world that seem as fundamental as the liberation of Eastern Europe twenty years ago.
These people he says have found their voice
They have spoken with the freedom of those who have nothing to lose but their lives…the freedom that comes to those who realise that there are some things even more important than their own individual lives: that is, principles that will protect the lives of others, both born and unborn.
He contrasts this with our Western indifference in the face of our affluence
These protests have not shown us in a good light. They have shown us up as citizens who have in large measure given up our birthright…of freedom in return for the comforts and convenience of consumerism, dispensed by powers over which we have little control.
His words reminded me of what I referred to in a recent post as an inspirational speech about local government (yes, there can be such a thing and I’ll return to it) by Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
Meanwhile just over to the right Brulé has turned his attention to an aspect of air travel everyone suffers, not just those high on the hog in first class – airport security.
His target is Heathrow and a recent scene he witnessed as one of the conveyor belts in security breaks (OK so it happens in what he describes as the comically named “fast track” but we all know it could have been anywhere in one of our great British airports).
His reported utterances of the staff concerned, all at high volume, include
“Can all you lot move over to the other belt please ‘cos this one’s broken”
“We gotta move all your stuff to the other belt so please bear with us while we complete this procedure”
“It’s the fifth time that machine’s packed it in!”
“Shelley, are you ready to go on break? You’ve been at it too long love. You need a rest”
There’s more but you get the flavour.
Given Brule’s usual tone I expected him to have a go at the front line staff but he goes on to say
The point is that these people have been hired for a security/service position and it’s up to their employers to create an environment where they feel proud of what they do.
Spot on Tyler. Your thoughts mirror my own airport hell experience at Madrid airport before Christmas. I shall watch out for your promised next instalment on customer service next week.