Did you enjoy your meal, Sir?
Why do the English accept such dilatory and unsatisfactory service in pubs and restaurants when they have every right to complain? Think about that wonderful scene in Fawlty Towers when the American guest complains to Basil about his illusive Waldorf Salad. Wouldn’t we all like to be as pro-active in our remonstrances with negligent members of staff?
I’m not one to register complaints, especially when the poor waitress has worked so hard to keep everyone happy. But we did wait thirty mintes for the drinks to arrive, and the main course wasn’t the most inspiring of culinery ensembles. So when she asked the sixty four thousand dollar question, I swallowed my British reserve and jumped straight in.
You could, of course, take the alternative view and focus on what was right with the service, instead of decrying its deficiencies. We weren’t, after all, dragged from the table and bludgeoned to death by incensed kitchen staff for voicing an opinion. My nervous mumblings weren’t investigated at length by members of the Secret Police, who decided, after lengthy consultation with their superiors, that my audacity be rewarded with ten years hard labour in some godforsaken gulag.
We in the democratic West have a lot to be grateful for. Freedom of speech may be a contradiction in terms when you consider the bigger picture, but most of us don’t fear death squads because we voted for the wrong party.
The times they are a-changing, crooned the visionary poet Bob Dylan. All over the world we are seeing the formidable power of the angry collective voice. Nations subjugated for decades by totalitarian rule are rising up to overthrow their leaders, galvanised by media rebel rousers on Twitter and Facebook.
The global rise of social media poses awkward problems for the keepers of the lock. Tyrants rely heavily on suppression and secrecy to maintain their iron grip. The Nazis used a winning combination of extreme violence and propaganda to subdue the masses. But in these daring times, no-one can hide. The internet has spawned its own version of News 24, with videos from independent journalists uploaded every day, from all corners of the globe. The truth, as they say, will out. Well, at least we’re getting a more balanced view of it.
And as for complaining about the limp burger that came with my seeded bun … Well, I did enjoy the dessert.