The Night Minister

'Anything else for sir?'

‘Anything else for sir?’

I have been greatly enjoying the ice cool of the BBC’s ‘The Night Manager’ (a programme that makes cucumbers look warm). Fear not, there will be no spoilers. Firstly I have not seen last night’s episode. Secondly the substance of this piece will not be about the plot of The Night Manager. Thirdly, I would not wish to deprive you of the pleasure of watching The Night Manager unfold before you unimpeded and unhindered.

I merely mention The Night Manager, as when we meet the eponymous hero he is indeed working as a nocturnal hotelier and we get a glimpse of that world of polite understanding: night management. As holiday makers, lovers (spurned and spurning), conference attendees and eminent espionagers go (however willingly) into that good night, it is the dignified custodians of night management who undertake to usher us back and forth across that river Styx, the coins on your eyes chargeable to your credit or debit card.

Night management is not a world I have often contemplated, let alone the rarefied atmosphere of luxury hotels. Our emergency services, priests, social workers et al offer a more sober (if sometimes loud, chaotic and frenetic) night management. I have had moving conversations with my sister, a paediatric nurse, who has often spent an entire night keeping a little life alive.

The bright lights of the hospital contrast with the muted tones of the luxury hotel. An atmosphere reliant on a potent mix of trust and suspicion. Any trouble, any whim, any matter, any time. As a wealthy hotel goer, a member of a rotating cast of power and influence, you are dramatically trusted while always being, one assumes in the glamour of the top flight, always the object of suspicion.

This struck me when jewellery shopping for an engagement ring. When you are planning to spend a chunk of money on a single item there is a high level of trust invested in you. Pick up whatever you want! Look at whatever you want! Take your time! I was often left pretty much alone with incredibly expensive jewellery.

Compare this to the fast food restaurants that won’t let you see your food before taking your money. Of course the jewellers is backed up by expensive security systems but the impact on the consumer experience is stark. In luxury environments you will be trusted, considered reliable and communicated with as an equal or a superior, ‘Is sir finished?’ In the fast food restaurant you must pay before your food will materialise, you will be patronised, dismissed or treated with hostility. You stand in uncomfortable queues, instead of being invited to sit in a comfortable seat across from a jeweller who has all the time in the world (because, after all, time is money). One can be very fussy in a jeweller asking for this or that variation, clarifying any details. Try that sh*t at the fast food counter and see what happens. One experience builds your self esteem and the other floods your brain with cortisol.

I started writing this piece with the intention of exploring what it would be like if we had a Night Ministers as well as our daytime politicians. The Night Minister doesn’t do press conferences or policy announcements. What he does do is offer a sympathetic ear behind closed doors, listen without judgement to the private concerns of concerned (and concerning) individuals and agrees to do everything in his power to smooth out the ruffles. Imagine that eh?

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