A mate of mine has a job which involves him sitting on the end of a phone whilst people tell him about how they paid a lot of money to a man in a pub, and now they’re shocked that whatever they bought doesn’t work or has broken down.
So frankly I try not to believe ‘the man in the pub’.
But anyway what about the man in the coffee shop? I don’t know if it’s only me, but I tend to chat to the people who work behind the counter at places like Costa. I remember talking to one guy and asked how he was enjoying it. He did me the honour of assuming that I meant it as a serious question and explained that, funnily enough, he was enjoying in. He was originally working in the pub trade. He knew it; he’d literally been born into it. He hoped to work his way up to management.
But pubs are dying, society is changing, now people buy cheap drink in supermarkets, drink it at home and tell their friends on Facebook what a tragedy it is that all the pubs are closing.
The only work he could get was in pubs where they paid you less than a minimum wage but promised you’d get a share of the profits. In his case he’d been in the trade too long to fall for that. He could walk round the pub and tell that it wasn’t going to make profits for five or ten years.
So when an old friend walked into the bar and asked him how he was, he said he was getting sick of it. So she offered to try and get him a job in Costa where she worked. He’d said ‘Fair enough.’
So there he was working in Costa, and by his own account he was quite enjoying it. Money was OK, hours were OK, the other staff were fine and the customers sober. Yes, if you’re a Guardian journalist then the money looks pathetic, but if you’ve spent your life in the pub trade, it’s actually pretty good. And he gets to spend his evenings with his friends.
But anyway, that’s by the bye. We’ve got a general election coming up and we’ve got two groups of people deluging us with memes on Facebook saying how either, “The economy is rubbish, the greedy bastards have given everything to their mates” and “The economy is recovering, we’re pulling out and everybody is going to be better off, but don’t vote for the other lot or they’ll screw it again.”
Fair enough, they’ve got jobs to do; they both want flash offices, ministerial cars and the extra salary and expenses.
But what’s the truth? It’s an old question, Pilate wasn’t the first to ask it (John 18:38) and since his day the definition has been changed regularly to make sure we never find out. So let’s ignore that people who’re paid to tell us what they want us to believe.
Every so often I go for a longish walk on a Wednesday afternoon and if I’m going the right way I’ll stop in at Costa. It’s about 5pm when I drop in and normally it’s quiet. There’ll be me, the staff and three or four other tables with customers on them.
Except that in the last two weeks, same day, same time, it’s been busy. First time I wondered if there’d been something on in town, second time I mentioned it to the guy who was making me my coffee.
He also did me the honour of taking my question seriously, because he stopped to think as he reached for the chocolate sprinkles.
“We’re a lot busier all the time now.” He sprinkled the chocolate on, leaving the shape of a Christmas tree. “You know, I wonder if the recession is over?”
Who knows? But frankly he’s not standing for election, he’s just looking at the world that he lives in, and because he’s not the man in the pub, he might even be worth listening to.
Oh and thanks for offering, mine’s a large cappuccino, with chocolate.