In Belgium the customer is always wrong. My wife once ordered a sofa from a Belgian shop in the Marolles district of Brussels. They were charming and old-fashioned but took months to deliver the sofa. When it arrived, one leg was broken. My wife told the delivery men that she wasn’t accepting a sofa that wobbled when you sat on it. “But it’s the fault of your floor, Madame,” said the older of the two men. “It is sloping.”
I thought he might have a point. And in any case we could easily prop up the sofa with a book. I suggested a recent novel by A.S. Byatt that I was finding tough going.
But my wife wasn’t having any of that. “I want this sofa taken away,” she said firmly. The two men looked at each other. She must be mad, they clearly thought. And so they took it away before she attacked them with a sofa leg.
My wife is now engaged in a battle with the child allowance authorities. She requested a particular form. It didn’t arrive. She phoned. She was put on hold for the best part of an hour.
Someone finally answered. The woman said she would send the form. Four weeks later, the wrong form arrived in the post.
My wife is now extremely angry. I am reminded of the time we went to the local town hall to renew our identity cards. “Your head is too small,” the lady behind the glass screen informed my wife. “But my head is small!” my wife snapped. “I have a small head.”
The woman behind the glass remained calm. “Your head is the wrong size,” she insisted.
“What does she expect me to do?” my wife asked me as we descended the steps outside the town hall. “Am I supposed to get a larger head?”
It might be easier, I thought, than trying to argue with a Belgian official.