Miriam Gross

Diary – 26 January 2017

Also in Miriam Gross’s diary: air pollution, healthy eating, wolf-whistlers and Anthony Trollope

Did you know that if you use the f-word while talking to a BT representative, they hang up on you? Here’s how our conversation went when I finally got through after several abortive attempts and ‘holding’ for at least 15 minutes. Me: ‘I’m ringing because the engineer who was supposed to come between 8 a.m. and 1 p.m. has not turned up. I’ve been waiting for over five hours. My name is xxx, my reference number is xxx.’ BT man: ‘Could you give me your date of birth and the first line of your address?’ Me: ‘My date of birth is xxx, my address is xxx. This is the third time I’ve been asked.’ BT man: ‘I’ll have to ask you a few more questions for security reasons…’ Me: ‘Oh please, can you just tell me, where is the fucking engineer?’ BT man: ‘It is against BT policy to use bad language.’ Me: ‘Well, it’s not against my policy.’ BT man: Click.

The deaths of 40,000 people a year in the UK (9,500 in London) are, according to medical research, linked to air pollution. I’m not entirely convinced that it’s possible to measure accurately the extent to which sufferers from lung or heart problems are finished off by emissions from cars, factories etc. But there’s another health hazard which medical researchers might usefully look into: how many lives are shortened by the frustrations of spending hours, sometimes days, trying to get through to the customer services of our main utilities; and then, when we finally reach the right person, struggling to understand his or her accent through the long-distance crackle.

Another piece of medical research, featured in the FT recently, suggests that everything we’ve been told for decades about diet and healthy eating is wrong.

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