Saturday, August 05, 2006

Watch Out

Danger of death
Originally uploaded by dipfan.
Done London, next stop Helsinki. This summer is high season on weddings – I have five of them. And just for the sake of clarity: no, none of them are my own. So have to crush some bones tomorrow when going for the bouquet.

One thing that struck me once again in London was the amount of warnings. I was advised to watch out for pickpockets, traits of nuts in candies, extra chili in the curry, the gap and falling down the escalator; asked to smoke only in designated areas, avoid rudeness towards airport staff or being drunk at the security control; take into consideration that the coffee is extremely hot, reminded to hold onto my bag and to make sure that I have my personal belongings with me what leaving the cart, told not to feed the pigeons and refrain from making loud noises, slamming doors or playing loud music when leaving the pub. The most extreme was a security guard of a lunch restaurant instructing (more like ordering to be honest) me and my friend to hang our bags to the ”security hooks” under the table. This was in a lunchroom created into a crypt of a church.

The British capital is turning into a gigantic ”You cannot say that I did not warn you” disclaimer. Stranger Danger and a great risk of injury are words of the day.

This makes me think of Francis Fukuyama’s book called Trust. As he points out, greater social cohesion (sense of belonging to a group might a common language translation) and sense of safety is wise from also from the point of economics. In a system where people think the best of their peers, you need less and less systems for catching the crooks. Just to give an easy example: if the basic assumption is that a customer will pay his bill and will not run away from the terrace after finishing his cafe latte, you do not have to be charging people after their every drink and instead of that you can do it once in the end based on the customer’s request. This leaves a lot more time for attentive service.

A test for all my visitors: You are in a cafe all alone and you have a big bag with you. I mean seriously big. The extra large latte is doing its trick and you're having an urgent Riverdance moment. Not fun, at all. Will you drag all your stuff to the small toilet booth or ask someone in the cafe to watch for your bag?

If you answered yes, what kind of person would you ask? A customer or a waiter? People in a group or someone alone? A man or a woman? Comments are welcome.

No comments: