People. When will they ever understand us?

As one looks up from the murk towards the general detritus of life, one finds onesself occasionally lost for adjectives on the subject of people.

What does get into their heads? How is it processed? And how does it relate to what comes out?

I wandered into a rather posh restaurant the other day, looking to have a decent meal with my paramour. Who is taller than me.

We ordered a couple of half-bottles of wine. (I was driving and she just prefers to remain taller than me.)

As our second wine we ordered a seemingly nice Stags Leap Cabernet. After a while, the sommeliere wandered over, clutching a bottle which looked remarkably like Stags Leap Cabernet.

She declared, however: ” We’re out of the one you ordered, but we do have a bin 23 instead.”

Having been laden with the Bin 23, we drank it. And liked it. Until the bill declared that the Bin 23 was actually $192. Yes, for a half bottle.

I found myself wondering whether the sommeliere thought I wouldn’t notice. Or that I would be too embarrassed to argue. Or that I was a couple of leaves short of a cauliflower. Perhaps all of these.

I got home more than a little perplexed. And only relieved that I wasn’t Graham O’Brien.

Mr. O’Brien, a resident of a land that has its issues with passive aggresssion, the United Kingdom, is a busy man. To save time, he chose to do his banking on the telephone.

He tried to access his account. Each time, he was asked several security questions and felt good about his answers. He felt slightly less good when he was told, after several minutes of holding, that the computer system was down.

The next time he tried, they told him he had to go to his branch. When he did, the bankers expressed their concern that someone else was trying to access his account and were therefore taking extra security precautions. Everything would be fine now, they said.

Yet he could never get through.


Then he got a letter from his bank. It said:”Having passed our security requirements you were transferred to an operator who garnered the impression the individual accessing your account was female.”

Yes, you guessed it. Mr. O’Brien is gay. He also has a slightly high-pitched voice. The operators therefore concluded he was what the Governor of California might have called a girly-man. So they wouldn’t let him into their system.

You might think this was merely an honest mistake. And I might think that the operators at the Halifax Bank should be sent to Nova Scotia and taught to commune with seals.

The lovely part of the story is that is that Graham O’Brien is a lecturer. In law. And he is now preparing to sue the bank for sex discrimination.

I hope Graham O’Brien inspires you. He certainly inspired me. I wrote to the owner of the posh restaurant in the strongest terms. I flourished words like bait, disgrace and switch. He called me immediately and said:

” Oh, I know your voice. You’re the tall girl with that short, ugly, fat git boyfriend.”

Well, no, actually, he apologized, refunded the difference in the wines and joked that he hoped the wine we had drunk was good. He even gave me his cellphone number. No, I did not come on to him. He was sure that I was a man. And I was sure that he was French.

His gesture was very simple. He said that if we ever chose to come back to his restaurant again, we should call him personally, so that he can be sure we will be treated well.

I think I will invite Graham O’Brien and his boyfriend to come with us.

His boyfriend is called Julian. Not Jillian.


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