As I recently related, my bank has begun asking me for feedback on my banking experience. I assumed this was a one-off affair.
I was wrong. Last week I paid in another cheque. When I returned, the email awaited me, its link glowing bright with witchfire.
Something stirs within my breast.
How satisfied were you with the overall service you received?
What could we have done for you to rate it a five?
We've been here before - last time I wrote you a romance novelletta on the topic. You only ever ask me for feedback when I've been paying in cheques - I don't know why.
Now, I don't know about you, but I personally find the amount of joy and satisfaction I can receive from paying in cheques is limited. Like washing up, buying milk or laying waste the cities of degenerate empires, it is merely another bit of routine day-to-day business to be dealt with. Sometimes it is quick and painless; sometimes it requires spending half my lunch hour walking across the city and the other half walking back, interspersed with a lunch-hour-obliterating twenty-five minute wait behind someone with only a rudimentary understanding of the concepts of money, consumer rights and personal hygiene.
We have, in this weak and decadent society, perhaps grown too accustomed to convenience. We have high expectations; and thus, it is only when those expectations are not met that we feel any emotional response. Attaining swift and efficient customer service merely renders that service invisible; it does not overjoy. Only when standards slip do our hearts stir, and that with the contemptuous rage that sends red-blooded men in screaming hordes against the walled citadels of the very gods.
What, in any case, does it mean to be a five? To what might we compare it? I have spent fuming hours in queues waiting for the simplest paperwork to be completed; I have had long, delightful conversations full of wit and charm (little of it mine, alas) in otherwise customer-free premises when my time was plentiful. To be sure, the absence of queues is pleasant, but this seems rather the absence of a negative than the presence of a positive factor. The human mind has these little foibles.
On the other hand, I have sat with friends on long winter evenings, evoking gales of laughter that delighted my heart; I have climbed determinedly to the heights as the evening drew near, and watched the sun set on the timeless waters far below me; I have stolen the kiss of a maiden with a gleam in her eye; I have crushed my enemies, seen them driven before me, and heard the lamentation of the women.
As you can see, it is conceptually difficult to establish how precisely one might allocate an arbitrary five-point scale across the staggering breadth of human experience, and more specifically, how one might then achieve the treasured five within the extraordinarily narrow experiential window of "paying in a cheque".
Curiously, it is usually when some mishap befalls us that active satisfaction (that is, a positive upward deviation from the average) has the opportunity to come into play. The possibility of the negative brings with it relief and gratitude that the challenge has been overcome. When the challenge seems small - such as the requirement to type two or three dozen numbers in accordance with the figures writ upon a scrap of parchment - the gratitude for services rendered is also small. Man is, after all, fickle and uncaring.
And so to the hypothetical. How might that five have been achieved? Why, then, as we have demonstrated, through the greater service demanded of greater obstacles.
Had I perhaps been beset by the lackeys of Ratshar of the Red Hand, scourge of the west, as I spoke with Lucy; had she sprung from behind the counter, seizing the blade of one of the fallen, and fought at my back until the floor ran an apple's depth in blood and there was no more killing to be done; had she hurled herself at dread Ulric Broken-Eye as he fell upon me, drawing his gaze and granting me one vital moment to turn aside his mighty axe; had she taken up one of those curious little pens with the chain attaching it to the base, and wielding it as an improvised garotte, cut off the vile incantations of Nagoth-Var, lich-lord of the Kingdom of the Serpent, as he sought to rot the very flesh from my bones - then, mayhap, the fabled five would be yours.
But that is another tale, for another time.