Every month I get an email. 'Kia ora Juhan,' it begins, 'welcome!' And up go my hackles like a row of periscopes.
The author, if that's the right word, which it isn't, is Mercury Energy. Mercury Energy sells me electricity, a service for which I expect to pay. But I do not expect to be addressed with bogus bonhomie.
What the people at Mercury Energy are trying to do is transparent. They're trying to butter me up. They want me to feel an emotional attachment to the company because that is good for business. So they pretend there is an emotional attachment the other way and they address me by my first name. Or at least they try to.
My first name is Julian. Juhan was presumably a misreading of some document by a computerised scanning device, a misreading that took place at least a dozen years ago and has been perpetuated ever since. With makes the point with unimprovable irony that the bonhomie is bogus. Mercury Energy doesn't know me.
It can't. A commercial company is not a person. For sure, the company employs people, some of whom no doubt are splendid, upright and adorable and others of whom, for all I know, may not be so upright and adorable, but the point is that Mercury Energy is not the people it employs. It is merely a legal entity. It knows nobody and nothing and it has no feelings.
Yet how it continues to pretend. Every week it sends me a little billet-doux about my electricity consumption. "Well done," it says, patting me on the head like some supportive uncle, "you used 5 per cent less electricity this week." I am supposed, I presume, to bathe in the approbation, to look up with the adoring eyes of a child to the source of all this care and warm protective love. Well pfui to that. I clench my fists and spit. For two reasons.
One is that, as I have said, this is mere simulated human warmth. They would send precisely the same words of appreciation to a bad person or to St Francis of Assisi. ("Kia ora, Saint, well done! You used no electricity this week.")
The second reason is that I'd simply like to be treated, not as a dupe to be emotionally manipulated, nor yet as a child to be patronised, but as an independent thinking adult to be respected. As in, "Dear Mr Bennett. Here is your electricity bill for the month. We are grateful for your continued custom."
Too much to ask? It seems so.
Of course Mercury Energy is not alone. How about this from Trade Me?
"Kia ora Joe, We're turning 20 years young, and we couldn't have done it without you."
Where do I start with this tosh? Well I generally start by clenching my fists and holding my breath 'till my face turns purple and then letting the whole lot out in a scream to stampede goats, before ransacking cupboards in search of glassware or indeed anything that is both throwable and gratifyingly frangible.
Ignore for the moment the oh-so-earnest kia ora and the winceworthy 20 years young (Jeez, do they have no wit at all, no freshness of mind or language?) and go straight to the "we couldn't have done it without you". Who the hell do they think they're trying to fool?
"If you'd allow us to get a little sentimental, let's take a look back on our journey together". Again the implicit falsehood that Trade Me is a person, that it and I have wandered the world as one and that it is now sitting there flicking through the album of memories and feeling a tear bulge in the corner of its eye.
"You've been with us for 14 years which makes you a very special trader." (My head is aching from being patted so much by my loving commercial uncles.)
"You've won around eight auctions: From your Maxfitness Ni-Trac7 rowing machine to your solid wooden extendable dining table with six dinning chairs. What a journey!"
What a journey indeed. I sat on the rowing machine twice, of course, whereafter it soon found its way to its natural habitat, the State of Utter Neglect. When last spotted it was rusting in a damp corner of the garage.
I should probably auction it on to some other fool but there is enough delusion in the world already. As for the dining table, well I'm happy with that because I like a bit of dining. Indeed I might invite a few consenting adults round tonight for some dining, drinking and laughing, free of fake commercial bonhomie. Are you up for it, Juhan?