Monday, March 12

A Load of Hot Air

Climate change may bring future catastrophes, wars may ravage the globe and Noel Edmonds may still be on TV – but these global issues are not problems that unduly concern the Gnome. It is the little irritations that matter, the ones seemingly designed to make life just a little bit more unpleasant than it needs to be.

Hand dryers are one such source of such annoyment to the Gnome. It seems a fair proportion of his life is spent in public places with his hands awash with cold water and a veneer of impossible to remove stickyness left over from the hunk of unreconstructed whale blubber the toilet's owner laughingly refers to as soap. In such a situation he looks to the hand dryer to release him from the misery and quickly and efficiently dry his hands.

So often he is disappointed. A draught of tepid air emanates from the machine, wafting a few dust motes lazily around in its wake and singularly making no impression on his wet hands. As if to make things worse these machines have no on/off button, but rely on one's hands being placed at a trigonomically accurate position, only achievable by tapping into a GPS location service.

Why not join the Gnome in a ‘name and shame’ campaign? Let us deride the bad whilst celebrating the good. Let me introduce you to the hand dryer in the Winter Gardens, Weston-Super-Mare… If you are ever in the vicinity, pop in to the gents and make its acquaintance. The World Dryer Corporation, Berkeley Illinois. Model A548, serial number 161287 – a fine example of precision drying. Hot air, a decent amount of time for each push of the button, all in all an excellent service. Thanks you World Dryer Corporation – you have excelled yourself.

In contrast, a black mark must be placed against Sir Richard Branson and his Virgin trains. Now, the Gnome recognises that hand dryer facilities on trains (even in First Class which is of course the only way the Gnome is prepared to travel) are always likely to suffer from space constraints. But is there any excuse for moving to the combined washing system, first pioneered by fast food outlets of the ilk of McDonalds? These machines are truly the spawn of the devil, proving the old adage that a jack-of-all trades can be master of none. Not one single part of their raison d’etre is performed well.

Water that trickles out of the tap so limply it appears to be defying gravity, a soap dispenser seemingly designed to ensure the miniscule globule of soap provided drops into the basin without ever once coming into contact with your outstretched hands and a hand dryer inspiring a degree of loathing from the Gnome generally reserved only for Tara Palmer Tompkinson.

The Gnome has felt more warm breath from an imaginary wood nymph in a particularly interesting 'Lord of the Rings' inspired wet dream than that provided by Virgin rail equipment. Shame on you Sir Richard - all this mucking about trying to save the environment will do you no good when you find the Gnome presiding over your personal judgement day.

Does my bum look big in this?

The Gnome cannot be described as svelte… Nor, he hastens to add, fat. Neither would be strictly accurate. He is however willing to accept he is succumbing to a soon-to-be middle aged state of pleasantly plump.

Perhaps subconsciously aiming to add to this plumpness, he wandered into a New York branch of a well known burger joint looking to get a quick fix of monosodium glutamate and caffeine. Asking the server for his order, she looked him up and down and refused point blank to hand him the Diet Coke he had asked for.

“I ain’t serving you no Diet Coke honey”, she drawled in an accent that would not have been out of place in a remake of ‘A Bronx Tale’. The Gnome started. Even after a couple of years of living in Manhattan the English accent occasionally confused members of the proletariat, but comprehension did not seem to be at the root of this particular problem. Far from misunderstanding the order, the lady was simply refusing to fill it. Exceptional customer service being such an integral facet of New York life, the Gnome felt there must have been a reason for her recalcitrance and could think only of one explanation.

Spreading his overcoat to allow her to get a better look at the Gnome in all his glory, he looked her in the eye, smiled and suggested that of course she wouldn’t. Given the trim physique in front of her it was understandable she should refuse to serve a diet Coke, under the natural assumption he needed the full fat lardy variety to encourage the extra padding needed to withstand the ravages of a particularly cold New York winter's day.

She looked back pityingly, and with no trace of humour pointed across the counter and replied.

“No... That ain’t the reason. I just serve food. You pick up the drink over there…”