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I'm sorry, but to be honest it's not bleedin' obvious

Geoff is driven to distraction by the cost of changing a lightbulb and the linguistic gibberish that mechanics, and patients, come out with to explain themselves.

Geoff is driven to distraction by the cost of changing a lightbulb and the linguistic gibberish that mechanics, and patients, come out with to explain themselves.

I've just been on a home visit. It was frustrating.

The lady's carer had phoned and demanded a home visit. I pointed out that she had had one yesterday. In addition to this, and despite the fact that she was demanding an immediate visit, she was unwilling to stay until I got there.

This proved problematic because on arrival I was confronted by a locked door and a key safe, but no code in my notes. I pounded on the door. I went ‘round to the neighbours. He had neither the code, nor a key, nor any idea of how the patient was getting on. I phoned the surgery and waited patiently whilst they rifled through the records and, to my delight, found the code.

As I returned to the door, I noticed that the lady in question was emerging with glacial slowness from the murk of the hallway. She had evidently been galvanised into action by my knocking several minutes previously.

I saw a trembling hand moving uncertainly forward. I took it in my head to race her. I flipped open the cover and began punching numbers rapidly on the key safe. It opened to reveal not one but two keys.

I realised that she actually had three separate locks on her door. I ran through the various combinations of keys and locks and prised open the door moments away from her unsteady grasp settling on the latch.

Not exactly "Mission Impossible" but it amused me nonetheless. I beamed at her as she blinked against the light. She had been reported as confused, so I didn't want to overwhelm her by leaping forward and shouting "Tah- Daah!".

Imagine my surprise then when she said both crossly and apologetically, "Hello, doctor. I'm very sorry. I told her not to call you. I saw a doctor yesterday. Besides, I think that these new tablets here are the treatment."

And there, sitting pristinely and obviously unopened on her hallway table, were the entirely appropriate medications.

It was the second surprising thing a patient has told me this week. A couple of days ago, a young woman said to me, "To be honest, doctor…" and then followed this with a statement that was, actually, perfectly honest.

You see, this is a bete noire of mine. Now that I am whipped into a rage by the visit I may as well carry on.

Pointless, meaningless ejaculations used to be the province of the Americans (and those who know me know that I speak from some small experience).

Prime examples include: "Let me just say this…", or "Let's run this up the flagpole and see who salutes…", or "Our exit strategy for Iraq…"

However, the British no longer have the moral high ground. In fact, not only has the virus spread to these shores but it has taken a new deadly variant, the trend towards the diametric opposite.

"To be honest" tends to be followed by a hastily thought up and often implausible excuse.

"Obviously" tends to refer to something opaque at best.

"I'm sorry, but..." tends to be uttered by someone who although angry is actually far from sorry. Don't get me started on "exactly".

Take for a moment, if you will, my recent experience with a certain German car manufacturer.

"To be honest, your car had an unusual problem". i.e. we meant to get to it in the morning, forgot, then saw something dead interesting on the telly over lunch. Have you seen that programme about embarrassing body bits?

"Obviously your car won't be ready this afternoon." Well, considering that I booked the car in for a morning job over a week ago to fix a broken light on the boot, I would have thought the obvious conclusion would be readiness by lunchtime at the latest.

"Exactly. But anyway, about our bill…" You see, traditionally if you said "exactly" to someone, you implied that you had been listening attentively and agreed wholeheartedly to the point of exactness with what they were saying.

In fact, maybe they had given voice to something you had long felt but never before been able to express.

Now it means that you have indeed been listening attentively to the speaker, but only to wait for a pause in which to shoehorn an opening by using the word "exactly" before carrying on with a subject tangentially related at best.

For once, though, an "I'm sorry", however specious, would have been welcome as they passed over the bill.

How much does a certain German car manufacturer charge to change a light bulb? £92.12.

No, there were no pat phrases to cushion the blow, just a certain, almost Jaconda smile that suggested he knew he was in the right job and maybe I ought to rethink mine.

Geoff Tipper

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