I had an encounter with the modern world yesterday and, on balance, came out roughly honours even.
Son Barry, whom my avid readers may remember is a yachtsman, is currently based in Poland for a refit, pending continuation of his 16-month-and-counting voyage. The next stop-off had been intended as St Petersburg but – in the light of the current situation in the Ukraine – this is now under review.
Last week he rang me to request that I send him one of the suits that he keeps in his ‘home’ bedroom, which he now needed for a trip to a marine show/exhibition in France over the Easter weekend to which he has been called by his employer.
In our discussion, I suggested that perhaps, as an alternative, he should buy a suit locally in Poland last weekend and leave his UK suit where it is, so that he’d have one suit with him at all times and another at home – a plan that might prove not to be that much more expensive than me sending the latter to him by courier/post (my estimate £60?).
This he agreed to attempt.
On Monday morning, an email from Barry was waiting for me. He had been unable to buy a suit, so could we please go with his original plan? To do this, rather than visit the Post Office upstairs at WH Smiths, I should go to a specialist shop not far from the police station, which he kindly indicated by enclosing a Google Earth map upon which ‘X marks the spot’.
I had no previous knowledge of this establishment’s existence, but yesterday did as I was bid.
The place was staffed by friendly and efficient young people and seemed very high-tech, with a computerised administrative system that took but a few minutes to organise everything, viz. seeking out the cheapest worldwide courier service, weighing the package, choosing the right-sized box in which to send it and applying all the necessary tags, addresses, customs information and sundry other necessary details that I was far too old-fashioned to understand.
What’s more, rather than its arrival being Thursday – as I had given as the deadline – it would reach Barry this morning (Wednesday). I felt a glow of satisfaction, bordering upon triumph. I’d done as bidden by Barry and put the ball in the back of the net with no problems. In conversation, out of interest, I asked the young lady assistant dealing with me how long they’d been there. She replied “About seven years”. I guess you live and learn …
Then came the moment to pay. Total cost £162.13. I repeat: one hundred and sixty two pounds, thirteen pence! I was near-flabbergasted, but handed over my debit card anyway.
And that, it seems, is modern life.
In the overall scheme of things, my kids are probably quite privileged via their family background. However thankfully, from an early age, they have learned to be independent and self-reliant. They ‘earned’ their pocket money and have always looked after their own financial affairs, not had everything laid out on a plate and spoon-fed.
When Barry was back in the UK over Christmas, I was amazed and impressed by how careful he was to seek out the best deals for car-hiring, flight-booking etc., not least because he operates in a world in which money, whilst short of ‘no object’, is plentiful. In which context, I found it absurd that he was comparing the price of taking his car to the continent via Channel car ferry with going under it by Eurotunnel [difference a matter of tens of pounds] when the latter was infinitely more convenient and swift.
Nevertheless, £162 to send a suit to Poland seems crackers. It seems crackers, period – never mind in the cause of receiving a suit to go to a business event.
Especially when in Poland, no disrespect to our Polish friends intended, I should have thought you could buy a very smart suit for a not dissimilar sum.
As I said, maybe it’s just modern life. It’s amazing what accessibility and freedoms modern technology and systems can bring, but one keeps getting reminded that there’s a cost attached to all these wonderful services that, aeons ago, in my day, we just didn’t possess.