Making Plans With Nigel

Making Plans With Nigel

Tuesday 15th July 2014. The time is 16.37pm. I’ve been on hold for approximately 23 minutes. I’ve been counting.

Well, not 23 minutes altogether. There were two short occasions when someone did pick up the phone. But only to tell me that they don’t personally deal with my issue and would I like them to put me through to the relevant department. I’m not sure of the purpose of this question.

I’ve now reached over to the table beside me and grabbed myself a random piece of envelope and a pencil and I’m scribbling down the song names as they appear on the company’s hold music. I’m also filling in the artist and year of release, where possible.

17.01pm: I have no less than five song titles on my envelope list. I’ve also made myself a coffee and am buttering some toast.

Suddenly, I’m prematurely (it turns out) sprung into action by an abrupt cut in the music, followed by a click, suggesting that I’m about to be spoken to, only to get another repeat of “We are currently experiencing a high volume of calls”, etc. The vaguely disinterested voice on the other end goes on to suggest that she does, in fact, value my custom, before thanking me for it, along with my continued patience. Personally, I’m not entirely sure I believe her.

As you have probably guessed by now, like many other people at this moment, it seems, I’m trying to contact one of the larger digital communications providers by phone. Always a mistake but I seem to be left with little choice. Actually, I’m trying to communicate with this particular communications giant in order to complain about the lack of communications I have been experiencing in the home Internet department over the past few days. Unfortunately, it seems that communicating with a communications provider about communications problems is not something they make it very easy to communicate about.

Initially, the automated message had suggested that I might like to save time by emailing my issue directly to them. Whether they are being ironic or merely heavily mocking me, I’m not sure. I would indeed much prefer to be able to email them. In fact, what I was actually contemplating doing was writing this communications giant a letter of complaint, signed ‘Angry of Aylesbury’, buying a stamp and posting it to them. A decidedly analogue approach but one worth doing, if only to remind them that the old methods are still sometimes the best-ish!

17.17pm: I’ve emptied the dishwasher and am now making a shopping list, stopping only quickly every few minutes to jot down the title, artist and year (where possible) of the current tune on the hold music play list.

Unexpectedly, a voice breaks through both the music and my thoughts and I suddenly panic to be confronted by a genuine person on the line. For a second, I’ve actually forgotten what I’m on the phone for.

‘Good afternoon’, says the voice, ‘Thank you for your patience. My name is Nigel. How can I help you today?’

I’m thinking that the way he could help me today is the same way that he could have helped me yesterday or the day before, had he and/or his company had any interest whatsoever in the inadequacy of the service they seem happy to non-provide. Mostly, however, I’m thinking that, based on the slight pause before speaking, the tone of the line and this man’s strong Mumbai accent, it is perhaps unlikely that his name is actually Nigel.

I let it go.

‘Hello, yes, I’d like to report and perhaps complain heavily about – we shall see – the fact that this is now Day 3 of my not having any internet connection to speak of, at home’.

(Having now reminded myself of the inconvenience that this company has put me through, not to mention the amount of time spent trying to connect to their inadequately staffed switchboard, I feel that I’m unlikely to give ‘Nigel’ an easy ride here.)

‘However, before we move on to discuss this shortfall in your service’, I continue, ‘I’d like to submit my entry to your ‘Hold Music Quiz’…‘

Nigel leaves an admittedly expected pause in the conversation.

I allow him to offer a ‘um…’ before I cut across him. ‘Ok, my answers are the following. Are you ready, ‘Nigel’?’ (I’m really trying not to say ‘Nigel’ with any undue affectation.) ‘I think the first song played in today’s ‘‘Hold Music Quiz’ was ‘How Soon is Now’ by The Smiths (1984) …’

‘Um, Sir … Sir, may I … ‘

I’m not giving in now! I’ve been on this phone for more than an hour, playing along is the least ‘Nigel’ can do! Also, I’m about to point out to him the insensitivity of ‘How Soon is Now’ to somebody like me who has been slowly giving up on the will to live, during this hold music marathon. But I rise above it and move on.

‘I believe the second track was ’Ever Fallen in Love with Someone’, by the Buzzcocks …’

‘Yes, but Sir … ‘

‘I’m a little unsure of the exact year of release’, I push on, ‘but, without wanting to embarrass myself, I’d like to suggest … 197…8?

‘Again, Sir, I’d … ‘

I steamroller through: ‘…I remember recording it off of the Sunday evening Top 40 rundown. It was onto cassette in those days, of course. Do you remember cassettes, ‘Nigel’? (I’m starting to relax and enjoy myself now. I’ve poured myself a glass of wine.) ‘But I can’t remember whether I was in the first or second year of secondary school … I remember it was raining though …

I’m now in full flow. I’m really not going to go out without a fight.

‘Anyway’, I continue, ‘to conclude my competition entry, the other songs were ‘Down Under, by Men at Work (1982), ‘Love Will Tear us Apart’, Joy Division, (1980) and – and this one seems a little out of place, if you don’t mind me saying – ‘My Heart Will Go On’, Celine Dion . . . oh, I know this one, um, oh! 1997! Titanic and all that.’

… I leave a gap for ‘Nigel’ to fill … I want ‘Nigel’ to respond well here. Come on ‘Nigel’ …

‘How did I do?’ I finally feel obliged to break the silence growing between us … ‘Did I win yet?’

At this point, ‘Nigel’ seems unsure how to progress with the phone call in general. I’m a little disappointed. ‘Sir, is there anything I can help you with today, Sir?

Well, ‘Nigel’ (a little affectation evident this time, I admit), It appears your internet company and, therefore, my internet connection, is being a little bit rubbish at the moment. It’s now Day 3 of no service and I’m wondering whether you guys are going to fix it or whether we shall just accept that you have just broken your contract with me…?

‘Sir, may I please take some security details from you, in order for me to see what can be done to rectify your problem. In the meantime, may I also take this opportunity to apologise on behalf of the company for any inconvenience this breakdown in our service to you has caused, Sir.’

I’m fairly sure that a real Nigel wouldn’t have been quite as polite as this lovely man on the other side of the phone. I’d kinda like to ask him what his real name is, I’m warming to him. But I decide that first thing’s first:

He takes my number and starts to ask the usual security questions. However, ‘Nigel’ is having trouble grasping, let alone spelling, my surname. I like that he perseveres as much as he does but we are eventually reduced to having to spell it phonetically.

(To be honest, even British Nigels have long had difficulty with my surname. You wouldn’t think STURROCK would be such a difficult word to work with but many a utility company has fallen foul of this particular name. I’ve had gas bills addressed to Mr Struck, phone bills to Mr Strout, I’ve had Mr Stomach, Stuckin, Stuckout and all variations in between. My wife has reverted to spelling her surname rather than speaking it at people. Life’s too short, she says. You’re welcome, I reply.)

So I start to spell it, but this isn’t enough for ‘Nigel’.

‘S’, I start.

‘F’, repeats-ish ‘Nigel’.

‘S!’ I repeat.

‘F for Freddy’, says ‘Nigel’. I’m slightly confused; I think he might have me mixed up.

‘No, I say, S for … (I’m not very good at this kind of thing) … S for … Sandal, I say.’

‘S’, says ‘Nigel’.

‘Yes’, I say, T … U … ‘

‘D?’ says ‘Nigel’, ‘D for …’

I’m getting irritated again.

‘T, I repeat. T . . for … I’m blank … for …Tonsillitis.’ (Where did THAT come from?!)

‘T …?’ says ‘Nigel’, a touch of unsurety in his voice.

‘U’, I persevere, ‘For … I’m blank … for … oh, um …

‘Uniform’, interjects ‘Nigel’.

‘No, I don’t like that one,’ I say …

‘…Undergarment’. Yes, Undergarment. Now I’m freestyling. “R for … oh, … Rubber backed carpet’. I’m entering the zone. ‘R … again … for ..

‘Romeo?’ offers ‘Nigel’

Nah, that’s a rubbish one’… R for Rounders bat, O for … Ordinance Survey map, C for … Chicken … [we both pause at this one] … and K .. for … (come on, last one) … Karma Sutra’. (What the hell am I talking about?)

My wife has come home and is now eavesdropping on my phone call.

‘Who’s that?’, she whispers, as she passes me on the way to the fridge.

“Nigel’, I whisper back.

I can see her face searching her memory for a Nigel, failing and offering her ‘Nope, I have nothing’ expression.

She tops my wine up as I return to my call.

The time is now 17.38pm. This has been a long day/call (delete as appropriate), my mobile battery is likely to cut out before we get to finish this conversation and nothing has really been established, other than:
• ‘Nigel’ wishes to be known as Nigel, regardless of his real name
• I’ve invented an ‘alternative’ phonetic alphabet for the intellectually inadequate.

‘Nigel’ eventually informs me that there is staff working on the fault as we speak and that the company will not charge me for the past three days.

He eventually asks me if there is anything else that I would like him to help me with today. I still feel the need to enquire about the prize for the ‘Hold Music Quiz’ and did I win yet, but he is clearly a very nice man (despite his propensity to go through life incognito), so I just thank him and we mutually hang up.

I kinda wish I’d asked him what his real name is. I wonder if he’d have told me.

Adrian Sturrock

Adrian Sturrock

Adrian Sturrock is a Business teacher, writer, occasional musician and ethnic minority (except when in Wales), specialising mostly in observation and unconsidered opinion. He currently lives in Buckinghamshire UK with wife Natalie, his travel companion, best friend and the person responsible for keeping him out of trouble on social media. They have three children between them. Oh, and he once had a horse fall on him.



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  1. huwjenjinn
    huwjenjinn 1 October, 2014, 12:32

    Well, Mr Stomach, very good indeed 1978 was indeed the year of release.

    I especially enjoyed your reference to the “Internet” rather than the all to ubiquitous “internet”. Sadly, so few of us techies (your promotion was merely an exercise in rubber stamping as you’d perhaps anticipated) even dare to suggest difference here these days. Terrific to see you share my passion for correctness when discussing the Internet.

    Also, the rest of it was rather good. I do so hope to find that utility was BT; only to reaffirm my passionate belief that I’m well away from that kind of evening?

    I have spoken to Nigel’s friends.

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