Resolution: give up those petty, time-wasting rows

Does it really matter that someone slipped an extra tin of beans through the 'six items or less' checkout?
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The Independent Online

New Year resolution time again - good grief, is it really a whole year since I promised to give up butter, smoking, impulse buying and being kind to small children and animals? This year I have just one resolve. I will not complain. I will, as my best friend has been urging me to do for years, button my lip, say nothing, refuse to be drawn into petty squabbles and time-wasting altercations that rarely get you anywhere anyway.

New Year resolution time again - good grief, is it really a whole year since I promised to give up butter, smoking, impulse buying and being kind to small children and animals? This year I have just one resolve. I will not complain. I will, as my best friend has been urging me to do for years, button my lip, say nothing, refuse to be drawn into petty squabbles and time-wasting altercations that rarely get you anywhere anyway.

And with all that glorious extra time I save by not, say, returning £10-worth of barely nibbled so-called calf's liver to the butcher because it was tasteless, tough, rubbery, clearly frozen and had no more to do with the inner workings of a tender young steer than I have with the teachings of Mother Teresa, I shall, well, do lots of interesting, creative things.

I could learn Russian or practice my new Schubert piano impromptu or make home-made brioche or, better still, try to get rid of all those raffle tickets well-meaning people keep dumping on me in aid of worthy causes.

We do on the whole waste an awful lot of our lives complaining about unnecessary things. Does it really matter, for instance, that the driver of the number 319 bus failed to stop at the request stop by Boots the Chemist or if someone at the "six items or under" supermarket checkout slips in an extra tin of beans?

I mention these only because I was witness to both a couple of days ago and was astonished at the extraordinary furore both incidents caused among onlookers, particularly the oversight by the bus driver, who was lucky to escape with his life. Several passengers declared that they would report him to the authorities (what authorities?) for gross dereliction of duty.

And one little white-haired old lady who, until it happened, looked as fragile as a Dresden china shepherdess, ran down the aisle and attempted to hit the driver with her umbrella. Fortunately the glass screens between his seat and the ticket machine thwarted the attack.

"Turn round at once and go back to the stop, you stupid, stupid man,'' she kept shouting, which, quite apart from being rude, was totally unrealistic. Reversing a bus in the King's Road in the rush hour requires the skill, fearlessness and stamina that few people apart from Second World War fighter pilots possess.

As for the checkout fraudster, he stood his ground manfully and said that two tins of beans (he already had one) counted as a single item, which opened an interesting and heated metaphysical debate in the queue relating to number, maths, premeditation and the nature of guilt. The checkout girl acted as adjudicator.

There's just one problem with this new resolution of mine. Is it retrospective, by which I mean, do those ongoing complaints that were not resolved by the end of last year still count?

I better explain. Last August I organised a small christening party in the garden of the church down the road, after which sundry members of said family plus baby and an old friend would catch the overnight sleeper to Fort William for a bit of West Highland air. The first glitch was that the caterers sent the wrong order. Instead of Mrs Arnold's sandwiches and mixed cream fancies picnic for 40, we got Mrs Courtney Whittingstall's dinner party for six, including oven-ready seafood soufflé and boeuf en croute.

Yes, of course I complained. This was back in 2004 and anyway, when you're as erratic a Christian as me, you can't rely on the loaves and fishes scenario to come up trumps.

The next glitch was that the old friend who, unlike us, was travelling first class was too ill to come, and the following week I set about applying for a refund of the £215 I paid for his ticket minus £5 administration charges. I'm still waiting for it, but bearing in mind what I have just said about not complaining, time wasting and not being petty, should I in all conscience give up what has become both an unequal struggle and a Herculean labour of trying to persuade Scotrail to reimburse me?

If you add up the calls I've made to Scotrail in the last four months, I've probably spent an entire week on the telephone talking to refund managers, customs relations advisers, service chiefs and a lot of women called Fiona. Maybe it's time to cut my losses and admit defeat.

Just think at how much Russian, Schubert and home-made brioche I could have got through in that time.

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