Hewson on ... a loss of common sense

Tuesday morning at a garden centre in middle England. I'm handed a visitor badge as I sign in and offered a coffee by a high-heeled lady called Gloria with short, orange hair and long, dark finger nails.

"Yes please," I reply, as she teeters off in the direction of a machine bearing a worrying resemblance to one of those compost tea gadgets growers use to replenish their hungry hydrangeas.

I know the ever-so-polite Gloria is called Gloria because she has a large name badge telling me so. I now have one too, to remind me of my name, lest I forget. I think it was Andrew the last time I checked, but hey it's a fast-moving world. I'm feeling rather chuffed because as a kid I'd always wanted to wear a visitor badge since I first saw them on Hawai-5-0 and Kojak. However, I have thus far resisted a similar urge to wander my ADAS beat shouting "Book 'em Danno" and "Who loves ya, baby".

Gloria also hands me a bright yellow "hi-vis" safety vest. I notice everybody else is wearing one too, so we can all look the same. And perhaps rely a little less on our common sense - as in sidestepping noisy delivery vehicles despite being endlessly reminded that "this vehicle is now reversing". Later, in the midday heat, I attract a population of flies. Worrying that I may have chosen the wrong deodorant, my host motions to our "hi-vis" vests as the more likely attraction. A man with a can then cycles hurriedly by wearing one of those large, pointy hats to protect his head. I reflect on the old days, when rather like a parental clip round the ear if overstepping the mark, when you fell off your bike and banged your head you learnt rather quickly not to do it again.

Where will it all end? Not only do we now look the same, we also utter the same corporate gibberish as we chunter on about "issues", "solutions" and "going forward". Has common sense and plain English given way to silly hats, shiny jackets, name badges, trendy phrases and political correctness? And more importantly, are we able to curb our enthusiasm for this daftness?

Andrew Hewson is a senior consultant at ADAS

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