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Donkin's World: Tea Cosy Telephone

...They put me through to the nuisance calls service, probably because they know a nuisance call when they get one. A man there told me that we had been the victims of a "silent call". These are calls from automated diallers in call centres that for some reason do not hook you up with the caller (probably the callers have more sense than to pick up the phone). Ofcom doesn't like them but the calling companies are hardly trembling at the knees...

Richard Donkin is annoyed by a phone call in the middle to the night.

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The telephone rang at some godawful hour this morning. Gill answered. Nobody there. I tried to return to the complicated dream I was having where all my luggage was being checked at an airport, item by item. But it was no use.

It's not the first time this has happened; not the luggage dream but this type of call (although, funnily enough, I do have recurring luggage dreams). The last time it happened I remember having a row in the middle of the night with someone at BT after fielding a series of such calls. She made me feel as if it was me who was at fault.

I can't recall much about the conversation, or series of conversations, except that I didn't get anywhere. So there was a sense of deja vu today when I called again and BT began to pass me from pillar to post.

They put me through to the nuisance calls service, probably because they know a nuisance call when they get one. A man there told me that we had been the victims of a "silent call". These are calls from automated diallers in call centres that for some reason do not hook you up with the caller (probably the callers have more sense than to pick up the phone). Ofcom doesn't like them but the calling companies are hardly trembling at the knees.

I was told that I could bar the number (0207 719 8407 should you wish to try it) for a month then I would have to pay for the service. "Why did I have to pay to stop someone ruining my sleep?" I asked. "Because everyone has the right to call you," said the BT man.

This can't be right. If a heavy breather or some other pervert gets on the line it's a police matter and they are dealt with. But if it's a company trying to sell you five nights in tropical paradise they can call as and when they see fit it appears. And yes we are ex-directory and have signed up some call blocking service. But some still get through.

There should be a right for people who are called by these companies to have the numbers, names and addresses of all who call them. Then we could give them a taste of their own medicine.

The BT man was going through the call barring procedure with me: "dial this pin number.....press * twice for last call received..... then this pin number.....then..." before he had finished I had lost the will to live.

Didn't he realise that what I really wanted was some futuristic weapon that sent a high pitched frequency down the phone, piercing and terrible enough to vaporise the call centre at the other end?

"Wouldn't it be easier if I just put my phones in the tea cosy?" I asked. Silence. "Do you want the service?" he asked. "I'm going to go with the tea cosy option," I said.

Gill was late to work this morning, thanks to our broken night. That might have left some villager in Chiddingfold (where she was working at the local pharmacy) hanging around for a prescription. But I'm sure there was no problem as people in Chiddingfold are rarely in a rush. They will always stop to give you the time of day. It's a village. The shop closes for lunch and everyone knows that. It's civilised, like things used to be.

When I was younger we didn't have a phone at home. I thought I was missing out. Now I'm not so sure. Tonight those phones are going in the tea cosy inside a box, covered with cushions. Tonight I will dream of luggage.

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