What’s in a name? Good manners

The Jewish Chronicle Online, 29/07/2010

Last Thursday I flew to Scotland as my daughter Lily had a climbing competition — Great Britain against France.

Thank God the Germans and Austrians weren’t competing as, last year, they wiped the floor with us. They should definitely ban all countries with mountains on the grounds of unfair advantage. Perhaps only flat countries like Holland and Belgium should be allowed to enter.

When we’d got to Heathrow, I went straight over to the customer service lady.

“I wonder if you could help me,” I said. “I’ve got hallux rigidus.”

“Follow me, sir,” she said, and took us to the front of the queue. (If you must know, it’s arthritis of the big toe. You might laugh, but it can be very painful and for some reason it always seems to flare up at airports.)

The next evening, after Lily (who must be the first athletic Rosengard in over 100 generations) had finished her day’s training at the climbing centre, I called our hotel on the way back in a taxi.

“A table for two for dinner at 7.30pm, please.”

“I’ll put you through to the restaurant,” the girl at reception said. “But you might have to wait to get in tonight as there’s a queue.”

“I’m really sorry, but I can’t queue.” I said. “I’ve got hallux rigidus. Please can you book it for us… and who am I talking to?”

“Why do you want to know?” she replied.

“Sorry? What do you mean, ‘why do I want to know?’ I’m just being polite,” I said. “I’m Peter Rosengard, what’s your name?”

“But what is the relevance?” she said.

“What’s the what!?”

“What is the relevance?” she asked. “I cannot understand the relevance.”

“Don’t worry about the ‘relevance’,” I said. “The relevance is irrelevant — I’m just being courteous. Who am I talking to?”

“Do you want a reservation, sir?”

“Yes, I do, and while I’m making my reservation it would be nice to know the name of the person who’s making it for me.”

“I don’t have to tell you,” she said.

“What do you mean, you don’t have to tell me!? You’re in the hospitality business! Look, forget going the extra mile — just go an extra two inches, please. Look down at your lapel and tell me your name on your badge.”

She hung up on me.

“The hotel receptionist just hung up on me!” I said to Lily, who’d been listening to her iPod.

“Dad, what did you say to her ?”

“All I said was, ‘What’s your name?’ I was just being friendly.”

“And that’s all you said?”

“That’s all I said.”

She gave me the look 14-year-old girls all over the world give their fathers every day.


I rang the hotel again.

“How can I help you, sir?”

“Didn’t we just speak two minutes ago?”

“No, sir, I don’t think so.”

“Are you quite sure?”

I was tempted to add that all my dinner reservation calls are recorded for training purposes.

“What room number are you in, sir?”


“We don’t have a room 301, sir.”

“Don’t tell me you don’t have a room 301. I’m staying in it tonight, but if you don’t tell me your name, this could be the last time I’m ever going to stay in Edinburgh again!”

There was a pause.

“You are speaking to our Glasgow hotel, sir,” she said.

Wrong hotel: it was my turn to hang up.