Wednesday, 29 January 2014

A Society of Manners?

I wrote another polite email last night and re-submitted the best 1400 words I’ve ever written to a newspaper who I thought might print that sort of thing. On reflection, I guess it was a pretty craven thing to do but I thought I might have got the email address wrong when I’d previously submitted it high on caffeine and hope on Sunday. I’ve still not heard anything this morning. I now realise that I probably did have the right address but London folk don’t respond to these things immediately, even if they respond to these things at all and I seriously doubt if they do.

The way I’m treated by people often seems something of a paradox. It became apparent when ‘Twisted Root’ mentioned in the comments to my previous article about the bogus email from the tax people that ‘the 'Best Regards' sign off is a bit of a giveaway’. I snorted a laugh when I read the comment but, given a little reflection, I realise that tax people are usually this polite. Having dealt with them on the phone, they were helpful, witty, and surprisingly human. It reminded me again that whilst stereotypes are fun things to play with, you really shouldn’t expect reality to conform to their straight edges. Some of the funniest people I’ve known worked in accounts departments and some of the dullest people I’ve ever met were students of literature.

The paradox of good manners is that the people who tend to be rude are the people you find yourself working for and usually working for nothing. In the past two weeks, I've sent out 'commissioned'* work to three people and I never received a reply from any of the three. The things that usually grate with me are the instances when I go out of my way to do something for a person and that person treats it with negligible interest. I can never figure out why given the lengths I'll go to be polite to a person. Elberry recently pointed me in the direction of this unused clip from the film ‘Magnolia’ in which Tom Cruise’s love guru advises men to be rude to women who will then be in a submissive position and accept any bad treatment as though they deserve it. I wonder if I’m in a similar position, writing and drawing things for people who know they can take me for granted.

It’s a larger truth of life, I guess. Critics sneer but rarely create and the same is true with any kind of commissioning editor. In the same way that critics will never run out of targets, perhaps editors simply have a large enough world view which leads them to realise that there are always people willing to work for little or nothing.

It’s a sobering thought. Whenever you submit articles to newspapers, you’re lucky if you get anything more than the automated response of their email system warning you that they get so many submissions you’d be lucky to get a personal reply. Well, I guess that’s fair enough but this time I haven’t even had an automated response. The best 1400 words I’ve ever written treated as though it were no more significant than some bogus tax email. Though, on reflection, the bogus tax email has at least produced a real work response: I’ve now written two blog posts about it and I’ve had four comments and one juicy pingback.

So I wait and hope but in the meantime, I’m heading for the door. I’m due in the dentist’s chair in half an hour. And here’s another of those examples of manners being a paradox: my dentist is a really decent polite guy.

* Unpaid.


  1. Your mention of the pingback generated a pingback. We could be entering an eternal time loop here.

    That would be an interesting experience. A thousand years from now, when we are both long dead and forgotten, these blogs could still be talking to each other.

    Internet ghost hunters would be ecstatic.

  2. Ha! That reminds me a cartoon I drew a while ago. We could be entering into the same kind of arrangement. Always liked that cartoon, though nobody else did. Think I sent the original to Stephen Fry but never heard anything back which either says something important about Twitter or depressing about the old fashioned letter post.