Quiet business

Somerton is among many places in England in having streets too narrow to cope with Twenty-First Century traffic. The ancient royal capital of Wessex has picture postcard qualities, but poses challenges to drivers. Perhaps it would be simpler if we were all to return to vehicles of the size we drove in the 1970s, failing that it seems that the ever growing size of vehicles  is likely to mean that the town will sooner or later be obliged to adopt a one-way system, with all the problems that will bring for the people who live and work in the town.

One of the effects of the congestion is that traffic moves very slowly. A twenty miles per hour speed limit is unnecessary when parked and oncoming vehicles mean that progress faster than walking pace can sometimes be difficult.

The pedestrian speed of the traffic does mean that there is time to take note of things that could easily be missed if you were racing along at, say, eighteen miles per hour. The van ahead had one of those slogans, or mission statements, or whatever it is they call the fatuous words that appear on letterheads, websites and backs of vans: “working together, delivering quietly” declared the words in big letters.

“I like that,” I thought, “delivering quietly: that is what people want. Do the job quickly and efficiently and don’t make a fuss about what fulfilling what would have been an automatic expectation in times past.”

Impressed by the counter-cultural declaration on the van, I then realised that I had misread the words, it was not “delivering quietly,” it was “delivering quality.”

“Delivering quality” was a nonsensical term worthy of someone from the school of management-speak. Vans can deliver goods, parcels, supplies, equipment, objects of every sort: quality is not something carried around in a van. Do companies actually pay for the sort of vacuous phrases that appear on their vehicles? Or do people sit around in a room and come up with ideas before they vote on which one they think is best?

It was disappointing, the idea of a quiet business seemed attractive in times that are filled with empty noise and dishonest boasts. Old fashioned ways of honesty and integrity would be in complete contrast with the sort of customer service offered by most companies.

Even better than “working together, delivering quietly” would be “working quietly, delivering quietly.”

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