The Ranter has had the pleasure of being away from the stresses and strains of work this week and had reason to be in Dundee for a couple of days. Now, I've nothing personally against Dundonians who, I'm sure, are proud of their city. It's just the city of jute, jam and journalism isn't exactly a hot spot for tourists visiting Scotland.
The main attraction - some might say the only attraction - is the good ship Discovery, built in the city and was the ship used by Captain Robert Scott at the beginning of last century in his trip to the Antarctic. The ship is now berthed permanently on the banks of the River Tay. Alongside it is the Dundee Tourist Office - and a challenging role for the two ladies who were there the other day to convince visitors there was much else to see in Dundee.
Buying goods in some of the city's stores didn't convince me it was a city that welcomed tourists in any case. I bought a couple of books from WH Smith in the city centre.
'Dae ye want a bag?' asked the burly, surly sales assistant, clearly irritated that I had the temerity to interrupt her morning.
'If it's not too much trouble' I replied.
'It's naw' she sighed. There was no thank you or even an abbreviated 'thanks' or 'ta' emanating from her lips.
Later, I heard a man in one of the numerous Greggs the Bakers in the city centre ask for 'two pehs, a bridie and, oh, another peh - to take away'.
'Anything else?' asked another surly but not quite so burly sales assistant, who may well have been related to the person serving reluctantly along the road in WH Smith.
'Naw' replied the fella who seemed to be contemplating if another peh - pie to you, dear reader - was in order. Courtesy and good manners, it seemed, were some distance away.
It occurred to me that the niceties of customer service skills perhaps had still reach the city of Discovery. Then, whilst in a restaurant, I heard the shrill tone of a waitress who had certainly been on a customer service training course but was clearly trying way too hard - or had read just one page of her tutorial. Every time she opened her young mouth the words 'that's no problem at all' came out.
'Can I just sit here?' Yes, that's no problem at all.
'Can I just order a cup of tea?' Yes, that's no problem at all.
'Can I pay by Visa Card?' Yes, that's no problem at all.
'Can you say any other words of English?' Yes, that's no problem at all.
'Can I take my machete out and hack your tongue off? Yes, that's no problem at all.
All said with an annoyingly cheery disposition and a smile that threatened to turn the milk sour. She was at the opposite end of the customer service scale but I found her more irritating than the other two sour pusses - at least I knew where I stood with them. Until, as the restaurant became busier, she directed a customer towards a seat by the window. 'Just over there, sir, next to the bald gentleman...'
That was my cue to take my leave. From the restaurant and from Dundee itself. Now, I realise I'm being a bit unfair to Dundonians and, on a personal basis, I have nothing but unhappy memories of some previous visits to the city. I was attacked there after a football game in 1983 and in 1986 Hearts lost the league in the final eight minutes of the season at Dens Park - home of Dundee FC. So, perhaps I have a tainted view.
But it's safe to say - I'll need to have a bloody good reason to go back...