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Drop-down Moses

Your Uncle Bogler is on fire today.

Friday Bogl #2 returns to a familiar theme, that of gumming and gnashing grumpily at the heap of teenage baboons who (in their waking moments) are paid huge sums to design online forms.

We are all mildly irritated, I know, when asked to declare what country we think we might have woken up in, to be faced with what looks like a simple entry field, only to be taken once it is clicked to a dropdown menu containing a nerdy list of every country in the world, all 196 of them (No, Scotland is not a country! Official.) from which you have to select the one nearest to where you live.

It is hard to imagine anyone living in some of these Godforsaken flyblown desert shit-holes actually wanting to do or to buy online, whatever it is you are being asked to sign up to. That’s perhaps a bit of a neocolonialist impression (I do others), but let’s face it, some of those 196 countries on the list don’t really exist, right?

What grates is the idea that the designers think we are so stupid, we cannot just say where we live – do not judge others by your own standards, baboons. Stay off the fermented fruit; or so lazy, that we require the support of a geographer to key-in so many letters, one after the other. Better let us guess where we are.

I imagine therefore that there must be some arcane nerdy secret to it, some link forged between databases, so that when you click on United States, or United Kingdom, a knowing little red light flashes deep within the bowels of GCHQ or in Langley, Va. to alert the Security State to the fact that you have signed up for another garden chair.

Plus, if you do live in the United States, or the United Kingdom, you are going to be a long time a-scrollin’, to find your once-proud nation sandwiched somewhere between Uruguay and Uranus.

Readers of this, muh bogl, will know that, of recent years, my trade has been that of Caretaker – I look expertly after rich people’s abandoned country houses. At least, I did until early in 2012 when, after seven years of stumbling out of bed and into the grounds at two a.m. to chase out drunken teenagers trying to break in to see the ghosts, or hoping to buy drugs (it used to be that sort of a place), I gracefully accepted a redundancy package.

Since then, despite many applications and a very few interviews, I have not managed to find another job like it; or any job at all, come to that – other than supervising the young baboons twice a year for a couple of weeks as they puzzle over their undergraduate exams . It doesn’t pay the rent.

But, knowing as long ago as 2008 that the Sword of Damocles was hanging over my exalted position in service, I signed-up with no fewer than seventeen hoity-toity Central London agencies specialising in recruiting Philippino maids and Latvian gardeners and debutantes called Jocasta straight from nanny finishing-school to slave for overweight Saudi bitch-princesses and heavily sanctioned Russian oligarchs.

In the six years since then, one of them managed to get me one interview; but that was all. Any interviews I have had, have been entirely as a result of my own efforts, ferreting around in the back-end of The Lady – whoops, pardon me.

Another such is an agency called Greycoat, now twinned with Lumleys. I travelled at some expense to their posh address in Belgravia (you’ll find it between Belarus and Bulgaria) for a getting-to-know-you interview with them in April 2008. While they were still Greycoat, they remained relatively civil and communicative, although patently useless where my career was concerned; but since they have invited Lumleys in from the cold, their enormous list of staff consisting entirely of debutantes called Jocasta, so prettily multitudinous that they deserve a drop-down menu all to themselves, has ignored every attempt I have made to draw their attention to things.

Which is why I was tempted the other day by a questionnaire they have rashly published (I still get cheery newsletters from them), asking candidates to declare their level of satisfaction with the services provided. (Of course, if they have managed to find you work, what are you going to say? They must pay themselves somehow, there must be some underlying raison d’être to their continued existence.)

Here was my chance to tell them how completely useless, rude and uncommunicative they were being in my case. It was all the more incomprehensible, given that I was surely the only unemployed caretaker on their books who had been, albeit briefly, at school with the Prince of Wales.

Which was when I hit the snag.

The first few pages were routine, providing several generously proportioned windows where you could extemporise around your feelings towards Messrs Greycoat and/or Lumleys. As you can imagine, I took careful aim and fired, at some length. Towards the far end of the form, however, the questioning became more explicitly concerned with social media usage and brand loyalties, which raised the suspicion that this might not be an exercise designed to survey candidate satisfaction at all, but something much more commercial.

Now, one of the things that probably disqualifies me from consideration for employment as a member of the human race is that I simply don’t ‘do’ social media; unless you count this, muh bogl, which I keep very quiet about, as you may have noticed. I did once many years ago have to register with Facebook, but only because I wanted to contact an old school chum and could not do so without registering. The page still has my name on it, and an improbable date of birth, but nothing else.

Another thing that may divide me from the modern world, is that I don’t have any brand loyalties. Oh, I have my prejudices – I still think Alfa Romeo makes pretty cars and that Gibson guitars are the only ones worth buying because you can sell them easily, even if their designs are stuck in the 1950s. I have remained with the same bank for 40 years, despite being treated scandalously. But I am not a consumer, other than of unbranded foodstuffs and the most nondescript cheap Merlot.

In both cases, therefore, honesty compelled me to tick the No box, when asked to state in the simplest terms, whether or not I used social media, and if I ‘followed’ any brands on them. The follow-up to both questions consisted of yet more drop-down menus, listing various social media I might use, and which brands I might ‘follow’.

The snag being, that there was no option to tick ‘None of the above’.

Now, if you have been asked to state whether or not you do something, it seems pretty futile to then ask you what it is you do, if you have said you don’t, without obliging the interviewee to perjure himself. (Is it a bit OCD to even be worrying about this? I never know.) It’s known as the ‘When did you stop beating your wife?’ question, any answer to which damns you if you do, and damns you if you don’t.

But to then put in a little asterisk denoting that, without making an appropriate selection from the seemingly barely relevant drop-down menu, you will be summarily terminating the interview, disqualified from continuing and rendering all that you have previously input insubmissible, seems just mindboglingly, absolutely monumentally, self-defeatingly STUPID. No?

Which is why there is a part of my ancient reptilian brain, doddery old synapses muttering inconsolably down there in the dark, that it is probably deliberate.

I mean, who wants to be told what people really think of them?



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