This is the United Kingdom 2010. ‘Walking the dog’ is no longer the low-tech activity it used to be.
If you are lucky enough to avoid the marauding transvestites intent on introducing your Pekinese pooch to the finer details of alternative sexuality, then your next task is to find a suitable lamp post.
Assuming you are not in Dundee, where the lamp posts are a particularly lively hazard on account of the electronic bus timetables a cat loving council maintenance worker someone incorrectly wired up, then your next task is to find a patch of grass that appeals to your pet.
Fido could be caught short on this exploration, and deposit the spent remains of his Pedigree Chum on the pavement – what to do? Assuming the Pedigree Chum is not conveniently still in the can, (you should always endeavour to feed it to your pet out of the can) you may not wish to pick it up and put it in your pocket.
Fear not, the council have a man whose job is just that. He is paid by the other ratepayers. This is where it gets interesting. How do you contact him?
In the bad old days, prior to 2008, you would have searched in vain for a working telephone box, and then returned home and picked up your own telephone.
Stop! This is 2010. Your local council is fully committed to inclusive methods of communication that ensure the equality of all stakeholders and promises to engage younger members of the community suffering from low self-esteem and those with mobility problems, regardless of whether they are likely to have been walking a dog or not.
Turn on your computer! Yes, I know it is further away than your telephone and you could have made the call by now, indeed, you could have cleared the dog shit up half an hour ago, but bear with us.
Wait for windows to fire up. Right click on your bookmarks. And enter ‘Virtual Tameside’, whose potential ‘is vast’, rivalling only that of Amsterdam and Dublin. Sweep through the virtual library, the virtual citizen’s panel (which gives you a virtual sense of virtual inclusiveness in the council’s plans) and make your way to the virtual receptionist’s desk.
There is the potential for staff on the service desk to have a negative interaction with a service user, though […] actual physical violence is impossible unlike the traditional form of service engagement.
(Translation, if you have lost your virtual temper by this time, you can only virtually punch the receptionist on the nose)
Virtually ask the virtual receptionist to direct you to the area where you may find the virtual Tameside Street when your pooch pooped.
Click on the virtual pile of dog shit you will see on the sidewalk. (I am not making this up, honest!) this will redirect you to the tameside.gov.uk website, there you will be able to report the dog shit to the correct council department……
Yes, Tameside council had discovered ’Second Life’ the virtual on-line world! They spent £36,000 of ratepayer’s money buying themselves, amongst other corkers, £4,800 on a virtual island on which to land their ‘teleported’ ratepayers in search of the council’s dog shit picker upper, £400 on a Black Knight on a horse (don’t ask!) and £6,150 buying an ‘Aquafer Museum’ (absolutely essential for the modern council).
The council were assured that this was money well spent to save ‘citizen carbon footprints’ when seeking to access the same information that was available to the 7% of Second Life users resident in Brazil, the 30% in the USA, or the 7% in Japan who had need of contacting the Tameside council’s dog shit scooper upper.
Unfortunately, Tameside council didn’t think to install a counter on the web site, so they have no idea how many people were daft enough to go through this rigmarole in order to contact them. They have now abandoned the scheme, no doubt to the total dismay of the many staff who had excitedly attended the £3,250 worth of workshops to teach them how to address a virtual ratepayer arriving at their virtual desk, and unable to virtually throttle them……
I am indebted to the perseverance of Tameside microblogger Liam Billington (@liambillington) who submitted the Freedom of Information request that uncovered this virtual madness, and Dave Higginson for pointing it out to me.
You couldn’t make it up, in the time honoured phrase.