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It’s our Pleasure to Serve you – Part Four

From Here to Bombay?

Tuesday, October 3, 2006

Today began at 7:30 AM with the all-too-familiar combined racket of chainsaws, wood chipping machine, and the incomprehensible radio voice across the lake.  All of this woke me from a sound sleep, as usual, but I didn’t mind – because I wished to be ready when the Bell technician called.

After breakfast, I busied myself with little chores near the cabin – stacking firewood, breaking and storing kindling – always listening for the phone.  There isn’t nearly enough firewood for next season, but I did’t dare run the chainsaw for fear of missing that wretched call!

Towards mid-day, I wearily sat down to dial 611 once more.

All the familiar rigamarole ensued: the friendly machine (I tried not to shout at it); the first service agent being unable to find the file and unwilling to pass me along without it; and the endless and now totally maddening hold music as my call bounced from person to person.

When I was finally connected to the right department, I got “Manuel” who recognized me (as he had been one of those I had dealt with yesterday), and when I explained that time had run out for me to be able to bring the technician across in a proper boat, he said “Just a minute,” and put me on hold once more.  When he finally came back, he said that his department had paged the technician, who promised to be at the lake – or at least to contact me directly – “within an hour.”

Well, it sounded good, but I was wary.  Before hanging up I asked Manuel to give me the “ticket number,” just to be on the safe side.  I thought that having Bell’s internal system number for this file might help me work through the preliminaries somewhat more quickly, should I ever have to call about it again.  Manuel readily complied, and, after I checked to make sure he had the correct contact number (which he did!) I ended the call.

Time passed.  One hour, two hours, three.

By 4:00 PM, I was becoming slightly crazed.  My boat – which was still in the water (more fool me) – simply had to come out before dark.  I will not have the time tomorrow morning to winch it up and secure it, as well as pack, and close everything for the season.

What is it with Bell?  I was promised “before 5:00 PM” yesterday, and then “rescheduled” without notice.  I was told they would try to get someone here before noon today, and nothing happened.  At noon, I was promised “within an hour” and have waited three or more.  I wish I could just reach Manuel directly, or the efficient lady I talked to yesterday, simply to ask “What the heck is happening?” but I can’t.  I have to dial 611 and go through the whole crazy process again....

... which, with no other choice, I proceeded to do one more time.

“Welcome to Bell!  Bienvenue chez Bell!” said the ever-so-friendly machine, “To continue in English, please stay on the line. ...”

What if this is the moment the technician calls?  Can’t be helped.

I made my selections; I listened to the maddening hold music; I asked to speak English; I listened to more music while the service representative tried – and failed – to find the number on her screen (telling most of these people that it is a “party line” doesn’t do a whit of good, until they have failed to find the number in their database, and seek guidance from a supervisor); and as with everyone else I had to assure her that it really is a Bell Canada phone.  The fact that I had a “ticket number” helped somewhat at this point.  Finally I was connected to someone who had the file before them!

You may not believe it, but this person, with my file in front of them, proceeded at this point to inform me that Bell was fixing the problem from the office – from the central exchange – and that no one would be coming to the lake.

When I said, barely hanging on my sanity, that the problem had been very likely caused by the Hydro workers clearing their powerlines, and that a broken wire is very difficult to fix from the office, the representative said, “Oh dear, the likelihood of a broken line isn’t noted on this ticket.”

It then got even more bizarre.

I went through the entire problem once more, emphasizing that I will be leaving the lake in the morning, and that no one will be here for the next nine months.  The representative, no doubt somewhat uncomfortable at my intensity, decided to transfer me to someone named “Barry,” who, I was given to believe, is a supervisor.  She warned me that Barry was very busy, and that I would have to sit on hold for a little while, but Barry would pick up eventually and deal with this very important problem.

So I waited, on hold, helplessly humming to the wretched music (every note of which I had now memorized), and the clock slowly moved past 5:00 PM.  At least I knew no technician was trying to reach me, so I was a little more relaxed.

The wait was unusually long, perhaps twenty minutes, perhaps more.

Then click, and a voice.  A voice with a strong south-Asian accent, “Please to give me the number that you might be calling about?”

“I have already given the number, many times.  I am on hold, waiting for a supervisor named Barry.  Is your name ‘Barry’?”

“My name is not being ‘Barry.’ Please to give me the number you are calling about?”

“This is incredible!  Are you in Bombay or something?”

“Oh no, sir, we are not being in Bombay.  I must have your telephone number in order togive you very excellent service!  As well, sir, this is the business Customer Service office, and if your problem concerns a residential telephone, you must dial 611....”

I must confess I shouted at him a little at this point, then calmed down to tell him it was not his fault, but I was already connected to residential customer service, and was expecting a supervisor on a file about which there have been many calls already.  Could he somehow manage to transfer me back to the queue where I had been waiting on hold for “Barry”?

“So very sorry sir, but this is not something we are able to do.  Please to dial 611 and specify residential repai..”

I hung up.

Wearily, I dialled 611.  What other choice did I have?

“Welcome to Bell!  Bienvenue chez Bell!  To continue in English, please stay on the line. ...”

I went through the arduous process of working through the system yet again.  When I finally reached someone who had my file in front of them, I explained about waiting for ‘Barry’ and ending up in “Business,” not “Residential” Customer Service at a call centre somewhere in India.  This person replied that he himself was Barry’s colleague; that Barry was on the day shift, while he, with comparable duties, was on the evening shift.  He listened carefully to me, and was very sympathetic.

“No one can come out now, unfortunately” he said, “will you still be there in the morning?”

“I absolutely must leave the lake in the morning.  Do you think you can get someone to come before 10:00 AM?”

“I think so.  Let me talk to a few people and call you back.”

“Well, I won’t be near a phone for a while.  I’ve got to pull my boat out of the water before the sun goes down, and I don’t want to miss your call.”

“That’s okay.  It’ll take me a while to get through to a few people, so I’ll call you after dinner.  Your number is 819-CON-TACT?”

“Yes indeed!” I replied, thinking with some relief that I now had someone working intelligently on my case, “What’s your name, by the way?”

“Max,” he said, “Max Brutus.  You know, as Julius Caesar said, ‘et tu, Bruté’?”

We both laughed, and I said, “Okay, Max.  By the way, what time do you finish your shift tonight?”

“I’m here until 10:00 PM”

“Then you go, pull some strings and call me back,” I said.  Then we hung up.

The sun was going down. I raced across the lake to get the Fisher-Price boat, tow it back, position the good boat on the ramp, winch it up, turn it over, hose it down, and secure everything for the winter.  By the time I finished it was completely dark, but the task was done.  And it hardly rained at all!

Back inside the cottage I made some dinner, and tidied up.  Max Brutus should be calling back any time now.

The phone rang.  Max?

No, it was Heather.  She had a wifely need to tell me exactly how everything in the cottage must be left for the winter.  I took careful notes.

We were on the phone for fifteen minutes or more.  I wondered if Max Brutus called and got a busy signal.  If so, I hoped he would try again.

More time passed.  I spent it doing some of the things on Heather’s to do list.

Finally (I’m a sucker for punishment, I guess) I gave up waiting and dialled 611 again.

I patiently went through all the steps, and by framing my questions carefully I did, indeed, manage to reach Max Brutus himself.  It only took fifteen minutes!

He was most apologetic.  Someone had failed to do what he had requested.  He said he would have to put me on hold again, but would attend to it and get back on the line right away.

“Can you make sure that while I’m waiting on hold I’m not switched to a call centre in India?”

“I’ll be quick,” he said.  There was a click, and the disgustingly familiar hold music began again.

Another click  (would it be someone in India?  No, it was Max).

“Our technician will be there by ten o’clock in the morning,” he said, with vigorous assurance.


“I can’t give an iron-clad guarantee, but I am very confident he will be there by ten.”

“Ten o’clock I can manage, not a moment later.  After that, I’m gone, and no one will be here for at least nine months.  Mind you, he can always walk in along the hydro lines, but if he wants to come across in a boat, well, all I’ve got now is a one-person plastic rowboat, but we can do it, if he is here before ten o’clock.”

“I understand, sir,” said Max.

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