Here's something to really worry the bank manager

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The Independent Online
I AM worried. Worried, worried, worried. Every day I get something in the post telling me to worry about something else. Worry mail is big business. I have dealings with a pension firm, an insurance company and a bank, and every day one of these institutions tries to worry me into buying something else. The bank wants to sell me a pension, the pension company wants to sell me insurance for my pension and the insurance company wants to insure my bank account. And it's not just the institutions I already deal with. All the other banks, insurance companies and pension funds want to worry me, too. Worry letters always start in a chummy sort of way. They find out your credit rating and pounce happily through the letter box: "Congratulations! With your pension you've looked after your retirement! But who's looking after your pension? Are you sure it isn't Nick Leeson?" Help!

"Let's face it! Life's treating you well at the moment! But what if your husband's killed in a car crash?" I don't have a husband, but anyway, help!

"C'mon! We all like to do a bit of DIY! But accidents do happen! What if you cut your finger off with a saw?" Yikes!

"Well done! You're a successful person in a difficult world! But have you thought about when you're old, blind and have no friends?"

Then there are the local estate agents who bombard me with letters telling me now is the time to sell my house, and if I don't I'll never be able to afford a bigger one, ever. In fact I'll probably be forced to sell my house, anyway, and have to go and live in a squat.

So by the time I get out the door to go to work, I'm worrying about being ancient, sad and penniless, with my house sold, or at least burnt down, and my entire family killed in accidents. I hail a cab and get in. Opposite me is a sign: "While you're in this cab who's looking after your car?" No one. Probably at this moment some youths are scratching it, smashing the windows, stealing the radio and generally preparing it for a thief who will drive it away for ever.

Let's start a counter-worry movement, a mass letter-writing campaign to our insurance companies: "Let's face it! Insurance is a great business to be in! But what if Lloyd's goes bust?" To our bank managers we can write: "Congratulations! A job in a bank is a job for life! Or is it? Computers are replacing people every day. Will you be the next to go?" It would cheer us all up a bit, wouldn't it?

I'VE JUST got rid of my second telephone line which I'd had installed at home, for work. The trouble is, it was only one digit different from London Zoo. This was annoying, not only because of the number of calls for the zoo, but because many of the callers got stroppy with me for not being the zoo: "Hello, is that London Zoo?" "No, I'm afraid you've got the wrong number." "Right." The phone is slammed down. Twenty seconds later: "Hello, is that London Zoo?" "No, you've still got the wrong number." "Well, what number are you?" "Um, I'm not London Zoo." "Yeah, but what number are you?" "I don't want to tell you my number." "Jesus!" The phone is slammed down again. Twenty seconds later: "Hello, is that London Zoo?" "No, it is still not London Zoo." "Look, I rang directories and they gave me this number." "Well, they gave you the wrong number." "DIRECTORY SAID IT WAS THIS NUMBER!!" "Well, directory has made a mistake!" I slam the phone down this time. Twenty seconds later: "Don't you slam the phone down on me, you streak of piss! I'll ram a chisel up your sodding nostril!" He slams the phone down.

He doesn't have London Zoo's number, but he does have mine, so he can ring up and scream at me whenever he likes. I found out London Zoo's number and gave callers that, but they were still rude. "Is that London Zoo?" "No, London Zoo's number is blah blah blah." "Oh," slam down phone. They don't say, "Oh, sorry to bother you and thank you for giving me the right number." It just made me depressed about the general moral state of the country. The only thing that made people happy was if I said I was London Zoo: "Yes, this is London Zoo!" "Are the polar bears open today?" "No, I'm afraid they're dead, I shot them this morning." "Right, thanks very much."

I've got a new number now, which is nothing like London Zoo but is quite like a local mini-cab firm and pretty similar to a restaurant that no one seems to realise is defunct, and it also definitely used to be the number of someone called June, who is a very popular woman.

THE CAR manufacturers used to be plagued by bolshie unions. Now, despite two recessions and massive workforce cutbacks, they have good management- staff relations, are much more efficient and have better products. All successful British companies, such as Mrs Thatcher's heroes, Marks & Spencer, have good management-staff relations.

The health service unions are now more bolshie than ever. The customer is not happy with the health service. The teachers are furious. The customer is not happy with education. The staff at the BBC are thoroughly depressed and anxious. The BBC's ratings are declining.

In private companies that are successful, the management have learnt to put their staff first, customers second, shareholders last. The Government is trying to run everything like the private sector. But with all nationalised and recently privatised concerns, the shareholders come first, the customers second and the staff last. The management of these concerns are like their 1970s counterparts. They are haughty, immune from criticism, and uncaring to their staff. They are lousy managers, which is why we all hate the concerns they run and feel sorry for the people who work for them.

In the 1970s the government propped up managers who couldn't run their industries properly. Nowadays they prop up our lousy managers who can't run our services properly.

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