I had to go to pick up a parcel that I’d missed; fortunately, the local collection office is only five minutes’ walk from here, so it’s no great inconvenience. However, the irate man in front of me delayed me a little—and also provided everyone with some amusement:

—Where is my parcel?
—I don’t know.
—I came here yesterday, and your colleague told me that it should be here today.
—It should be, but it isn’t.
—So where is it, then?
—I don’t know. Royal Mail delivers a million items every day; I don’t know where every one is.
—Well, whose fault is it that it isn’t here?
—I don’t know!
—Why don’t you know?!
—I just don’t!
—Who is the manager here?
—There isn’t one: we’re just a collection depot.
—So who is in charge?
—The SE1 Sorting Office.
—Do they know where my parcel is?
—I don’t know.

The conversation continued in this manner for a few minutes longer, as the angry customer asked the same few questions in a cyclical manner, growing progressively angrier at the lack of answers without ever really appreciating that there was no answer to be had.

We’ve all been there, and experienced the frustration of things going wrong—especially with Royal Mail. Seeing it from a third-party point of view, though, made me realise just how futile it is to try to complain at people who have nothing to do with the problem—even though it’s very easy to do.

To his credit, the man at the counter took it in good humour. It was entertainingly absurd, after all.