Thursday, 10 February 2011

The Lost Art of Gratitude (with thanks to Alexander McCall Smith for coining this phrase)

Many of you who follow me on Twitter will be aware that I have had 'sewage problems' of late. My next door neighbour and I were unamused to discover on Tuesday night that, only a month since the main sewage pipe into which our respective 'foul drains' discharge had been cleared, a further blockage seemed to be causing problems.

My poor neighbour had reached the stage where she was no longer able to flush her toilets. I was slightly better off and could still flush mine as my foul pipes have a longer stretch from the house to the sewer and so I had less build up of sewage to my house.

My neighbour and I are used to having to sort out building related problems for ourselves as we both have husbands who spend much time working away from home. However, in this instance, we gave a collective heave as we pulled off the heavy man-hole covers of our inspection chambers and stood, in the pitch darkness, shining my torch in to check on the extent of the problems therein.

Help was, however, at hand. The next morning I rang up Anglian Water to report a problem. The 'phone was answered after not too long a wait by an efficient lady who took the details, could see a plan of the sewage system I was referring to on her monitor, and informed me that, as my neighbour was unable to flush her toilet, someone would be out to us within 12 hours.

By late afternoon the man from Anglian Water arrived - a knight in a white van (if not on a white charger). With only rods at his disposal, he was unable to do more than move the problem down a bit so that my neighbour could at least use her toilet and have a shower that evening. But he arranged for a colleague to come the next day (today) and use a jetting hose to clear the blockage and move it on to the wider sewer on the road.

Mission was accomplished late this morning and I was very grateful that two extremely pleasant and efficient men had turned up, well within the time frames promised, and sorted out a distasteful problem.

So, I decided that I should get in touch with Anglian Water to express my gratitude to the two engineers they had sent out and my overall satisfaction with the service I had received from the organisation. This was when I encountered a problem. Nowhere on Anglian Water's website is there anywhere to leave a message of thanks. Nor is there any contact e-mail address given that I could have used. All I was able to find was an on-line query form which, judging by its wording, envisaged it would be used for bill queries and complaints. Indeed before I was allowed to send this form I had to find an old bill so I could quote my customer number (in the first field of the form). I just hope that the comments I made about the two gentlemen get seen by those they report to.

Is this what it has come to? Are we such an ungrateful nation of moaners and complainers that organisations such as Anglian Water assume the only reason we would want to contact them is to report a problem, query a bill or make a complaint? Is actually saying 'thank you' to people such a rare thing these days that no one who designed that website thought anyone would wish to do so through it?

Let me also, while I am on the subject, express my gratitude to Joseph Bazalgette (1819-1891, pictured above) the man who founded modern sewerage systems without which, I now believe, true civilization would not have been possible.


Anonymous said...

Yikes, what a day.
We used to live so far from civilisation that we had a septic tank and boy does that make you aware of what you flush.
Glad you got it sorted.
Baselgette has a memorial on Victoria Embankment; I took a pic last year just in case I should ever need it...

Yvonne Johnston said...

Hi Viv,
Yes I had a short experience of septic tanks. Glad we are on mains drainage now. My neighbour & I get particularly annoyed as we tend to suffer from problems caused by others. There is a 'holiday rental' property which discharges into our sewer further down the line. It is marketed for up to 11 people even though it was a bungalow originally designed for a normal sized family of 4 to 5 people. Too much poo, toilet roll and fat down the sink I suspect. The owner couldn't give a monkey's about maintaining the property if it doesn't impact on his income from it.

Mama Tiara said...

Ah, rural life eh? Birds singing, lambs gamboling, wheatfields whispering in the breeze... but no-one tells you about the mains! Glad it's all sorted now, I'm not sure Anglian Water know what to do with a compliment; they are probably all standing around a printout of your form and poking it with a stick.
ps love the juxtaposition of Half full or half empty x

Yvonne Johnston said...

Hi Mama Tiara,
Beats poking sh*t with a stick I suppose.

Esther Montgomery said...

I worried for a while that more and more sewage was being rammed up against itself. What if it had set?

But yes - it's awkward trying to do anything other than the expected. If compliments aren't expected, the route isn't provided.

The post has sent me off on another tack. Restaurants provide various ways we can leave tips. They expect them. I think they should leave dishes of money around the place too so customers can pick some up and take it home if they aren't happy with the service.


Anonymous said...

Thank goodness it's all sorted. But you're right, it's such a shame that most services are now so un-personalised that one cannot say thank you. I bet you it would have made their day to be thanked for their work. Maybe you'll be lucky and one of them will read this blog!

Cheerie! said...

If anyone deserves gratitude it's these guys! I mean, who leaves school wanting to poke poo around a pipe with a pointy stick? Probably not too many people. It must the very least glamourous profession the world has conjured up. But without them we'd all quite literally be in the sh*t. I think anyone who works in a job like this is a hero (especially when compared to those of us who sit at home writing for a living!) - if they happen to be good at their job too, well that's the icing on the log...