this instalment
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Cottage Diary:

Part One
Part Three
Part Four
Part Five
Part Six

Cottage Diary
Sabbatical, 2004
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It’s our Pleasure to Serve you – Part Two

Welcome to Bell Canada!

Monday, October 2, 2006

The mechanical voice sounded warm, even affectionate.

“Welcome to Bell!  Bienvenue chez Bell!

“To continue in English, please stay on the line.  Pour continuer en Français, dites <<Français>>.”

It proceeded to ask me to make several more choices, and, listening patiently to the many options, I selected, successively, telephone service, home (not business), and no, I didn’t wish to use the automated self-help system.  The ever-so-lovely voice could understand my spoken responses, and I waited (not realizing until somewhat later that I could interrupt her), while she catalogued everything I could possibly do or ask of Bell Canada. and I spoke my selections when prompted.

Finally, she said she would pass me to a living “service representative,” and I settled down to listen to the inevitable hold music.  “Nice tunes!” I thought to myself, “A bit original, edgy, not your run-of-the-mill muzak!”  So, for a while, I hummed along to those I recognized.

In due course a human voice clicked on, speaking rapidly in French.  Although I am not very fluent in that language, I recognized the equivalent of “how can I assist you,” and I replied in French, “can you assist me in English?”

“Certainly sir!” was the instant reply in my own language, then, “what telephone number is this about?.”

“The number is 819-PRO-BLEM.”
    (You realize, of course, that it would be foolish to put a real phone number on a public web page.)

“One moment please,” and the hold music returned.  I hummed along some more, but in fact there proved to be only about five tunes, which soon became quite familiar, then annoying.

Click.  The service representative was back on the line.

“Sir, I can’t seem to find that number.  Are you sure it is a Bell Canada number?”

“Oh yes, indeed!  Well, to be precise, Bell Canada collects our money every month for this phone service, which should be a good indication it belongs to you.”

I decide to elaborate a little more: “Actually, quite often Bell representatives can’t find our numbers.  The phone line in question serves cottages on a small lake in Québec, and for reasons known only to Bell, they seem to be managed out of Cornwall, Ontario.”

“Well, I can’t seem to find any record on my system of 819-PRO-BLEM, and this is the Cornwall service area.”

“Can you search by name?  The phone in question was installed a long time ago by my mother, now deceased, but for some reason, though we have tried and tried, and although Bell bills us by the correct names, we’ve never managed to get “Lorna Harwood-Jones” out of the telephone book!  Can you look up ‘Harwood-Jones, Lorna?’”

“No sir, we work by the actual phone numbers.”

“Well, the dead phone line is my brother’s.  My own telephone, in the nearby cabin, does work – indeed I am calling you from it – so, for the fun of it, see if you can find my number in your database.  819-CON-TACT.”

“Aha!  I have that number, sir!  You are Tony Harwood-Jones at 28 Baines Trail, Avoca Québec?”

“Very good!  But you can’t find my brother – a very similar number – at 30 Baines Trail?”

“No sir.”

“Well, it was installed, as I said, a long time ago, and in fact, it is still on the ‘party line’ system, though I don’t think any other party shares it these days.”

“Did you say it is a ‘party line’?”

“Yes, indeed.”

“Well sir, that makes all the difference!  I wish you had told me that at the beginning.  We don’t deal with party lines in this office, but I can connect you to the people who do.”

“Oh.  Then please do that!”  There was a click, and once more I was listening to the now very annoying hold music.

After a very long wait, I was connected to a person who actually had my brother’s file in front of her.  Success!

“What seems to be the trouble, sir?” she asked.

“The phone line is dead, completely, and I rather think I know why.  Hydro Québec workers have been in the bush behind our cottages all this week clearing brush from around the powerlines.  It could be that the workers accidentally cut my brother’s wire.  It has happened before.”

“I see.  Well, we will get someone out there today, between now and 5:00 PM”

“Can you?  That’s wonderful!”

She went on, “The file says that this is ‘water access only.’ Our technician will phone ahead in order to be taken across.  What is the contact number?”


She repeated it back to me, sounding very efficient and organized, and I thanked her profusely.  The fact that she had that note about ‘water access’ was particularly reassuring, because it convinced me she really had my brother’s file in front of her.  Both our cottages have no road access, and can only be reached by boat (or by walking in through the forest like those hydro workers).

I then explained that time was of the utmost importance.  If this matter is not dealt with right away, I will be soon leaving the lake for the year, and there would be no one here to give the technician that all-important “water access” until next summer.

“Today by 5:00 PM,” she assured me. We hung up.

I was relieved, but also frustrated.  With all the wet weather this fall, the forecast indicated that today would be the last sunny day before I leave, so I was planning to take my boat out of the water for the winter.  I always store it on a purpose-built platform by my cottage, and, when I leave the lake for the last time, I go across in a small, single-person, plastic boat, which can be left at the landing by the road.

the Fisher-Price Boat
But, now that I had arranged for the technician to come, taking the good boat out of the water would have to be postponed, whether it’s raining again tomorrow or not.  I really couldn’t see myself rowing the technician across the lake in a plastic boat!

It is a cute little thing: bright red, light, and easy to drag into the woods at the end of the season.  We call it the “Fisher-Price Boat” because it really looks like a toy.  But it is not the thing for two people and repair equipment!

Another frustration was the fact that I needed to wait for his call, so I couldn’t go too far from my phone.  Run my chainsaw?  No way; I couldn’t hear the phone ring.  Go over to Tim’s, or across to the parking lot?  No can do.  Once, when I heard noises in the bush up the hill, I wondered if it was the Bell technician (perhaps he had walked in along the powerlines?), but I couldn’t go and investigate for fear of being mistaken, and missing the actual phonecall.

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