Friday, 25 May 2007

Telephone manner

Swimming is off. Fish is ill. The awkward Jelly on reception tuts down the phone. She snaps that Fish's lessons are cancelled. Her voice is as sharp as the spikes on a cactus. Then she says 'OK?' and puts the phone down. I can't exactly rearrange our lesson then. She may well have finished with 'Stop bothering me. Now push off'.

This is the second week we're missing lessons and I'm getting huffy puffy about it, considering the disruption they cause and what I have to pay for them. And I can never get past the awkward Jelly to do anything about it. Soon I'm going to drive to the leisure centre and lie on the floor in the reception until we get it sorted out and we get our lessons back. That sounds like the sort of peaceful protest I could do, being a non-violent sort of person, although I slam the phones about a bit when I hear awkward Jelly's voice spiking at me through the earpiece.

Jelly puts me in mind of Gristle, another telephone slasher. Gristle was the receptionist for Da, the boiler man we used to get in whenever the boiler broke down, which it did do, often. Gristle was horrible. I hated calling Gristle on the phone. I would rather die in a freezing cold house surrounded by ice than phone Gristle and ask her when Da could call.

Gristle's answer to my half-started question 'Could Da call-' would be a curt 'Sorry' which meant 'I'm bloody well not sorry'. Then she would skewer out the 'but' which meant 'Don't think you're getting your ruddy boiler mended. I've got Da's diary. And you can put the wailing kid down because that's got no effect on me'. If we got as far as arranging a date she'd spit it out with 'Do you want it or not?' If I said 'Um' I'd get back 'It's booked' and she'd put the phone down.

My first encounter with Gristle was when the children were four months old. And the boiler broke down. 'We have babies in the house!' I cried. 'Sorry.' I'm sure Gristle didn't even breathe in to say that. 'Triplets!' I whine. 'Sorry' stabs Gristle again. She's probably holding a cleaver over the telephone wire. I try wheedling. 'Don't we get a priority above the single bloke in Never Hill who's always out at his girlfriends?' 'No' snaps Gristle. Then, 'Da is busy. Until November. He can't come out. First date. November 13th. Do you want it or not?'

Now we like Da. Da is nice. Da has never electrocuted himself on the boiler and ran out of the house to hide in his van like that other strange boiler man we once got in desparation. And Da has serviced all the boilers here for years, or at least did do before the psychotic Gristle moved in and severed all access.

So every time Da came I gently inquired about Gristle. 'Oh she's gone' said Da last time. Probably to work for the doctor or the bus company or the gas board where her telephone slasher manner can be properly appreciated.

I'm rather hoping Jelly does the same. Except that I'd meet her there next time I rang up to complain about the gas bill.

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