Telephone Exchange
[ Issue 12 ]

Sleepy Jack Hanrahan is one of Emily Bronto's favourite Bikwil features

Bikwil has a thing about Sleepy Jack Hanrahan

Telephone Exchange

With Issue 12 and Telephone Exchange we begin our occasional series featuring the deeds of Sleepy Jack Hanrahan, as recorded by his friend E. Roy Strong.

First, apparently, we have to argue

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Telephone Exchange
[ From Come Spin Us a Yarn, Sleepy Jack ]
— E. Roy Strong


My old mate from uni days, Sleepy Jack Hanrahan, has turned up again. He’s just retired from his post of lecturer in Linguistics at the University of —, and now with more time on his hands, over a glass or four of red he insists on erecting even taller stories than I remember from the ‘50s.

Mind you, Jack’s “entertainments” are a mixed blessing. Like many university types, he’s always had a chronic tendency to recycle his rather forced and feeble adolescent jokes. According to long-time colleague Mary Mary Quiet ‘n’ Scary (who represents, I am assured, the discerning academic female point of view), what saved him on such suicidal occasions was the way his tiny nose (“his sole redeeming physical feature” she calls it — and believe me, she’d know) wrinkled up when he smiled, and seemed to take on a winsome expressiveness of its own.

Which (apart from the “wrinkled” aspect) is more than you can say for the jokes themselves.

On the other hand, his comical stories about real people (even though you always know that the facts are being embellished) can have you, if not rolling about the floor in no time flat, then at least reluctantly ordering another couple of anticipatory bottles. Speaking of garnished reality, I should quote Willem van der Guilder here. His long-held conviction is that if you take any claim of Sleepy Jack Hanrahan’s, reduce it by 2,000 and then extract the square root, you’ll still be left with no less than a conservative exaggeration of the truth.

Well, judge for yourself. I submit the following tale in as close to Jack’s own words as I can recall, and in the first person. Any overstatement is Jack’s, not mine, though as per always he has solemnly affirmed that every detail is authentic. It belongs in Bikwil, of course, simply because it celebrates how (relatively) quiet enthusiasm for modern technology can inevitably triumph over adversity. You do like happy endings, don’t you, where the human spirit comes out on top? Now read on . . .

I’m trying, you see, to get an up-to-date version of some software I own. It isn’t hard to find the distributor’s phone number: There it is, as large as life, in the Sydney phone book — 9416-0601. Looking it up, however, is the last easy task in my quest I’ll accomplish.

Naïvely emboldened by my success in exploring traditional tools, I ring the number. But what do you think happens? I am greeted with a recorded message telling me that the number has changed, and if I wouldn’t mind waiting, they’ll transfer me automatically . . .

This transfer to their new number works ok, but guess what? The woman who answers understands what I want, all right, but informs me that this is not the correct number. The original place — the Linfield Business Centre, she thinks (but has never been absolutely certain if it’s them who’ve been getting it wrong lately) — has mis-transferred me.

Automatically mis-transferred me, you’ll note.

Never fear, the right number is 9970-5488, she says. I ring that, but lo and behold, I’ve reached the wrong number.

"The number you want is 9955-2455."

“You are sure?”

“Oh, yes.”

Dialed that. Go on, have another guess. You are counting, aren’t you?

"The number you want is 9925-7799."

Dialed that.

“Oh, you want tech support, just transferring you.”

Completely unaware that I’m now up to my sixth connection, a nice polite Indian-sounding man comes on the line. Yes, he can help, but first, apparently, we have to argue, just in case I already really have the software I reckon I’m missing and don’t realise it.

Somehow, with a modicum of goodwill on both sides (principally his), I pass this test. You little humdinger. Who said I couldn’t track things down with my walking fingers? If only I’d known!

“Ok, I'll send it to you. What is your name and phone number?”

Not my address, notice, but undeterred I give them.

“Are you in Australia?”

Funny question. Still undeterred, I assure him that I am.

“Is that your telephone number you gave me?”

“Yes. Isn’t that what you just asked me for?”

“Can have I have your fax number?”

“But I don't have a fax machine. Please send it through the post.”

“That will take far too long, sir.”

“Surely not. Two days at the most.”

“Are you certain you have no access to a fax at all — an office — a friend?

“Sorry, no . . . Hang on, why do you need a fax? Aren’t you sending me some software?”

“No, I have to send you an authority form so you can fill it in and send it back with the disc you’re using now. Then I can send you the new disc with the software on it. That's why a fax is better.”

“I don't see why I have to use a fax — send it by mail, please.”

“Do you realise, sir, that I'm in Singapore?”

Thinking very quickly for someone whose grip on sanity has already loosened considerably: “I don’t mind if it takes two or three weeks, send it by mail. Not everyone has a fax machine you know.”

Then, before he has time to reply, belated high-tech inspiration hits me: “What about email?”

“Just a minute, sir . . . No, are you sure you can't get to a fax?”

“Look, there is such a thing as pen-and-ink still, you know, and stamps for envelopes. I'll give you my address, and you mail it.”

“All right, sir, what is your address? What is your email? I'm going to try to send it via email. These are your reference numbers, if you want to ring us again.”

Ring them again? Is this man kidding?

“806 132, your customer number, and 47778, your RMA.” (Whatever that is.) “Thank you for your enquiry, sir.”

Oh, yes, in case you’re wondering. The form did come by email, and Jack filled it in and returned it, together with his original disc. In due course the new software arrived, at no cost, and all was well at last, albeit a little anticlimactic after such unrestrained telephonic excitement.

And they say Government bureaucracies are intricate and painful to navigate. But now Sleepy Jack Hanrahan at least has an inkling of just how Victor Meldrew feels. He does “beleeve” it!

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