My advice to you.

If you are a business leader or an aspiring business leader.

Is to every now and then.

Just stand there.



I managed McDonald’s restaurants in my very early 20’s.

A business not without flaws.

But one thing they got me to do.

As a restaurant manager.

That was really good.

Was to regularly stand in the dining area of the restaurant.


Watching the crew.

The customers.

The counter.

The stock levels.

The cleanliness.

The eye contact.

The smiles.

The body language.

The hustle.

Watching everything.

It’s amazing what I learned doing that.

Mostly about how we made our visitors feel.


I first did this kind of ‘watching’ in 1992.

And I did it again last week.

But not in a McDonald’s restaurant.

I practiced my ‘watching’ whilst renewing my passport in the Passport Office in Durham.

First Impressions.

I watched the long, greasy hair of a tall, skinny man swing to-and-fro.

As he laughed and chatted with his much shorter, much rounder but just as grubby work colleague.

On the front desk.

The shorter and rounder grubby man’s job, I think, was to stare at me and point me silently to the tall grubby man as I approached.

The tall grubby man’s job was to wave a metal-detector wand over my body for just under 2 seconds before silently waving me past him.

To stand at the end of a different cordoned off area.

About 6 feet away.

Where I watched a lady behind the counter say:


Before asking me why I was here.

I replied:

To renew my passport.

She asked to see my old one.

That I’d lost.

So she corrected me and said (something like):

If you have lost your passport.

Then you are not here to renew your passport

You are here to replace your passport.

This mini-conversation took place without her smiling or looking up once.

Until I asked what difference a renewal versus a replacement made to what was about to happen next.

At which point she did actually look up at me.

And after a couple of seconds.




It is quite a skill.

To make another person feel so inadequate.

So quickly.

And with so few words.


She pointed me to a large waiting area where I sat.

With 2 other people.

For 15 minutes.

I had been 5 minutes early.

So this 15 minute wait meant that they were now 10 minutes late for me.

Watching Some More.

I watched some more.

A large, tired looking security man.

With an impressively large tummy.

So large in fact that it refused to allow the front of his shirt to tuck into his trousers.

Instead creating two little white shirt-curtains as he leant forward.

Balancing his forearms on the back of a chair.

Chatting to a colleague about beer.

Waiting Some More. 

Eventually, an automated voice invited me to window 9.

10 minutes late.

The chap didn’t apologise of course.

He just looked at the paperwork that I handed to him.

Asked me to sign something.

And a little under 5 minutes later.

I left.

The Passport Office At Durham.

When I stood in the dining area of my McDonald’s Restaurant in 1992.


It was because my manager cared about what happened there.

And he wanted me to care about what happened in my restaurant, too.

To care about how our visitors felt.

And I did.

The Passport Office at Durham is staffed by people that don’t care about how I feel.

Managed by people that don’t care that they don’t care about how I feel.

And that’s why.

I suppose.

That the Passport Office at Durham is so utterly, utterly shite.


  1. Just imagine – if you haven’t seen Ken Loach’s film – what it’s like to be in the ‘system’ trying to get Universal Credit. I often watch traumatised people go in and out of the Assessment Centre in Scarborough. Helpless. So many suicides ….. Great writing Michael #KeepGoing Tony 🙂

    • Thank you Tony.

      I wasn’t fed up with them, really.

      I was just fed up with the whole situation.

      The stagnant, lazy, lifeless shit hole.

      And the stagnant lazy, lifeless people that stood within it.

      Ah well.


  2. Trying to buy a replacement built-in microwave oven from Currys. Wow.

    The day was saved by two members of staff who shone like lighthouses in a flaccid, becalmed ocean of simmering disinterest.

  3. Claire Jerrard Reply

    They are like legitimate drug dealers, for a very short time they own your ass, they know you will put up with their shit as you need what only they can offer and you need it now !
    Next time channel you inner Andrea Dunbar, tell the skinny greasy haired c**t to fuck off and take his round c***t of a colleague with him…..then panic and drive to Liverpool !

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