The room was quiet and my interrogator was merciless.
Question after question whipped over the table between us.
But I wasn’t being held by police for questioning, I was just trying to withdraw some of my own cash from my own account.
What are your plans today?
Do you have the day off work?
Just today or the whole week?
What do you do?
That sounds interesting, do you enjoy it?
What are you doing after this?
What are you spending the money on?
Which part of the house?
How far on are you with that?
I squirmed in my seat, cast down my eyes, muttered one word answers and gave off a million silent signals that screamed my discomfort. But I was captive.
But I wasn’t been held by police for questioning; I wasn’t being quizzed by officials at border control; I hadn’t fallen into enemy hands and I hadn’t tried to smuggle drugs.
I was just trying to withdraw some of my own cash from my own building society account.
It had started badly. As I entered a loud-voiced person rushed up and asked what I wanted.
It was tempting to say “a pound of your best sausages” but I meekly explained my business.
My explanation was accepted and I was passed on to my interrogator - and she began her work with gusto.
You’re right, I could have told her to mind her own business at any point, but the room was quiet, her fellow workers would have heard the results of her no doubt well meant questioning, and I am too polite - or maybe feeble.
Instead I staggered on to my bank to pay in my cheque - and was subjected to a mini-version of the same inquisition.
“Doing anything nice with this” said the girl behind the counter. Any more and I might have wept, but she satisfied her curiosity with only another mild question about whether I had my mortgage with them, and I was allowed to leave.
I headed straight for a coffee and a sit down to recover from the ordeal.
What is going on? I’ve complained before about fake friendliness from our high street stores, supermarkets and financial institutions, but it is getting worse.
Those on the front line, in jobs that require them to meet the customer face to face, are being taught to launch into a frenzy of questioning in a bid to sound friendly, interested and welcoming.
Their training must be intense. If ever my building society inquisitor gets bored with the job she will do just fine in the intelligence services. Any suspect would quail.
So a useful skill, but as a customer service tactic it is rubbish.
We customers do not need corporate friendliness, we know it’s fake, we know no-one is really interested in us except as a means of making profit, from the top boss to the person firing questions at us with a big smile that doesn’t reach their eyes.
And the level of questioning I experienced leaves corporate friendliness behind and crosses way over into being intrusive, inappropriate and rude.
I will say now to that cashier what I was too weak to say at the time: “It is none of your business.
“You don’t know me from Adam and have no right to ask me how I am spending my money, my day and my life.
“If I was to turn those questions round and ask the same of you, you would be appalled.”
So, front line people, please stop talking to us. I don’t want you to look at my purchases and ask if I am planning a spring clean, or holding a party.
I don’t want you to look at the dress I am about to buy and ask if I have a big occasion coming up, and I especially don’t want you to ask me how I am planning to spend my money. That’s just not British.
What I do want is good, courteous, swift service, and so does everyone else.
We all want the same thing, so how have we ended up with these inquisitions?
I will miss that heaving chest
I’m going to miss Wolf Hall, the BBC historical drama, because it was just fantastic, and my little heart fell when the final episode finished last week.
Unlike some people, I adored the atmospheric way the thing was filmed, using candles to recreate the dark, shadowy times.
And I thought Claire Foy gave a fine performance as the doomed queen Anne Boleyn, and so did her heaving chest.
Did you notice? Anne Boleyn was reportedly not a curvaceous woman but Claire made her chest a striking feature all the same.
As Anne fought to overcome her terror and maintain her dignity in the moments before her execution, her chest took centre stage, rising and falling mesmerically with her ragged, trembling breaths.
It reminded me of other actors who used body language to similar effect. Roger Moore’s eyebrows could have won an Oscar all on their own during his years of playing James Bond. Just one fractional raise of one Moore eyebrow and the scene was stolen.
For Linda Gray, formerly of Dallas, it was all about the mouth. She only had to give a tiny twist of the lips, and we all knew she was itching to kill JR Ewing right there and then.
I miss that, and I will miss it in Wolf Hall. An actor who emotes with their very skin is a wonderful creature.
Grass is greener when its fake
Just recently the entire cast of Loose Women admitted to having it. You might not think that much of an endorsement but I was amazed and impressed.
I’m talking fake grass.
Once it was an unconvincing thing seen rarely, but maybe occasionally in a fruit and veg shop.
No one in their right mind would have thought to put it in their garden.
But not now. Now fake grass is in demand. People out there are creating lawns with it, using it on balconies , carpeting children’s playrooms with it.
Fake grass has gone all respectable.
I don’t know what to think. I was brought up to believe fake flowers were the ultimate in naff, never mind grass.
I worry about the environment. How do the birds get to grubs and worms when a layer of plastic stands in their way? Where does the rainwater go?
On the other hand, no mowing, no bare patches, no muddy bits. It’s so very tempting.