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
Which (apart from
the “wrinkled” aspect) is more than you can say for the jokes
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 . . .
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.
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 . . .
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, 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.
number you want is 9955-2455."
that. Go on, have another guess. You are counting, aren’t you?
number you want is 9925-7799."
you want tech support, just transferring you.”
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!
I'll send it to you. What is your name and phone number?”
Not my address,
notice, but undeterred I give them.
you in Australia?”
question. Still undeterred, I assure him that I am.
that your telephone number you gave me?”
Isn’t that what you just asked me for?”
have I have your fax number?”
I don't have a fax machine. Please send it through the post.”
will take far too long, sir.”
not. Two days at the most.”
you certain you have no access to a fax at all — an office — a
no . . . Hang on, why do you need a fax? Aren’t you sending me some
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.”
don't see why I have to use a fax — send it by mail, please.”
you realise, sir, that I'm in Singapore?”
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
a minute, sir . . . No, are you sure you can't get to a fax?”
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.”
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.”
again? Is this man kidding?
132, your customer number, and 47778, your RMA.” (Whatever that is.)
“Thank you for your enquiry, sir.”
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
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!