Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

Like, don't give me hassle, man
Ever had déjà vu? No? How about now?

Lately I've been doing quite a bit of outbound phoning work for a company in Auckland. Not selling or anything, just keeping in touch with several-hundred clients who haven’t responded to an email.

And the joy of the global office is this: I’m on holiday, so I’ve been making all these NZ-wide calls from the UK. Which turns out to be significantly CHEAPER than calling NZ from NZ.

I mean how does that work? Is it because, as New Zealand gets further away, it appears to get smaller? Or is it down to the thirteen-hour time-difference, which requires me to do all my phoning off-peak, as in overnight? Or is it cheaper because the whole of New Zealand has craftily snuck down the beach, leaving only a computer to simulate responses to the rest of the world?

“Hi – No-one in New Zealand is available to take your call at the moment. Please leave a message at the tone. Sweet as, bro.”

Or... is it cheaper because the British phone companies have cut one corner too many?

Last week, I called client 26380 on the guy's mobile. An Indian-sounding guy answered. I briefly explained who I was, to which he asked me to hold on. He then put down the phone, went out of the room, and yelled to the client that I wanted "There's someone on the phone!" Not very professional, I thought.

I then sat there for several minutes listening to his blaring TV, (obviously a residential house then) increasingly wondering what the delay was. The Indian guy had left the room, and then shouted. That implied that he had not actually seen the person, so he'd probably been shouting up/down a flight of stairs, or through a closed door. Maybe the client was on the toilet? Or taking a shower? I didn't like the idea of taking the blame for dragging someone out of the shower for a business call.

Suddenly a dog started barking, so loudly that my cat sitting opposite me in the UK sat up and stared at my phone in horror!

After about five minutes of this chaos, the Indian guy who'd answered came back to check that I was still there, but was so quick that I couldn't offer to hang up and call back later.


Becoming bored, I started listening to the guy's TV. It was a CNN news item about Google Earth, and its military implications in Israel. Eventually, at around about the ten-minute mark, I gave up, hoping that my client would not be offended when he finally came in to discover that I had gone!

Ha! Funny story. So funny that I emailed my colleague in Auckland to tell them about it, and regaled friends here in the UK with the tale too. Even funnier when, tonight, I phoned-up client 26421 and a very similar thing happened again, minus the dog. Another yelling Indian, another absent client (a woman this time) and another blaring TV, although no report about Google Earth.

As I sat there waiting patiently for this female client to come to the phone, I had to wonder if she and the male client last week both shared a house with the same incompetent Indian relative who spent his days watching TV and answering their calls so badly.

Then the dog started barking. This time, my other cat sat up and stared at me. I reasoned that there were probably many houses in New Zealand that contained an Indian, a TV and a dog in the same room.

This Indian guy also returned to the phone, but this time I was ready for him. I told him that I'd call back, but he also was too brief to let me get a word in edgeways. Crazy.

As I found myself waiting once again, I wanted to hang up the phone, but just as before, I didn’t want to risk offending the woman who I was waiting for. And anyway, that was what I had eventually done to that male client last week. If this actually was the same house, then the Indian guy might well remember me from that first call, and I could get a reputation for dragging people to the phone and then hanging up on them. But it was a company call, so I didn't really have the luxury of hanging on forever.

And yet... I was intrigued to find out what would happen if I stayed on the line this time...

I figured it was time to start listening to the blaring TV again. Fortunately this was reporting today's news, rather than last week's. Or that's what I thought. A few moments later, it was talking about Google Earth... and its military implications in Israel...

What was going on here? Was this actually the same mobile phone that I had called last week? Was this Indian guy just watching the same DVD again? Of news? Maybe he was a professional journalist spending a week editing a documentary that he was making, and just happened to be playing the same clip when I'd phoned both times? That all seemed quite unlikely, but not as unlikely as the other explanation. The weird explanation. The explanation that I could only believe by giving in to grim paranoia.

The explanation that the Indian, the absent client, the TV, the dog and indeed the entire house, including the telephone... were not real, and I was listening to a very long recording.

I hung up. I rung back. After a long pause, which I remembered from the start of my first call last week, I got an engaged tone.

I rang again, I was told the line was unavailable.

I rang again, I got a garbled voice-mail message.

I rang again, a 1970s engaged-tone faded-in. Whoa.

Five calls to the same number. Five different results, none of which connected me to the person to whom I wanted to speak.

Wait a minute, that last engaged tone had faded-in. Nothing fades-in on a telephone in this digital age... except... a recording of something fading-in.

So therefore... I had just been listening to a recording of an engaged tone. Maybe the other 'unavailable' messages I had got had been recordings too? Including the Indian guy and his whole house?

Digging out the mobile number that I'd called last week for comparison, I ascertained that they were two different mobile numbers, on two different networks – Telecom and Vodaphone.

So I rang the second client's landline, intending to ask her, politely, if she knew what was going on. Was this some sort of joke service that NZ mobile users can subscribe to instead of letting their friends hear an engaged tone?

I got through to her landline answerphone, on which she went to great pains to give out a third mobile number. This I then telephoned... and my blood ran cold as it was suddenly answered by the scary Indian guy.

Indian guy: "Hello?"

Me: (FEELING LIKE A COMPLETE IDIOT) "Hello. I called earlier. Who am I talking to?"

Indian guy: "Yeah?"



Well, that settled it – the Indian guy was definitely a recording, and clearly quite unaware of this fact.

Dang it, I knew that woman had been far too keen to give out her new mobile number on her landline answerphone. These people must, in fact, have both diverted all their calls to a harmless practical joke line, designed to wind their friends up. Phew, the world made sense again.

But my brilliant conclusion was still subjective. There was one last test I still had to carry out to confirm this.

I went and got my own NZ mobile phone, turned it on, and rang up myself. I was expecting this call to get diverted through to the NZ mobile I was holding in my other hand, here in the UK.

As I sat there listening to the BRR BRR ringing of a phone that should be connecting to me, I had to wonder if the whole fabric of the universe might just fall apart if I heard myself answer at the other end...



It was the Indian guy!

(PAUSE) "Yeah?" (PAUSE) "Okay, hold on."

At this, he ignored his blaring TV and left the phone to go and shout out of the room for me to come and answer myself.

I hung up. At half-past-three in the morning I really wasn't ready for that conversation. And neither, I suspect, was I.

So here's my question: Did I speak to four different Indians, all of whom spoke the same words with the same inflection, none of whom listened to me, one of whom had stolen my SIM card without my knowledge, each of whom had an identical quad dog, and all of whom were watching the same DVD of CNN news about Google Earth, OR... the international phone company that I use playing these recordings as a means of charging customers for calls that they cannot connect?

Enjoy listening to him yourself, again and again, here.

Labels: ,

0 comment(s):

Post a Comment

<< Back to Steve's home page

** Click here for preceding post(s) **

** Click here for following post(s) **