I am on the phone to a man in the West Midlands, ordering a replacement thermostatic cartridge for a faulty shower valve.
Wait – where are you going?
Anyway, it’s the Hudson Reed Valquest Thermostatic Cartridge for Dual Valves (32 teeth), and I have the model number and I’m absolutely ready to rock.
“The model number,” I say to the man on the end of the phone, but he cuts me off immediately.
“The product code,” he says.
Well colour me corrected. The product code. Fine. I mean, who cares? But product code, OK.
“Sorry,” I say. “The product code is D, C…”
“D C,” I say.
“D Four…” he says.
Oh! He’s saying “D for…”. He wants me to give him an example of a word beginning with ‘D’. Sometimes other grown-ups do that. But, God, I don’t know police speak. When did everybody learn that? At S for School or on T for Telly?
Wait! I have one.
“D for Daniel!” I say. “And then C for Car.”
“Delta, Charlie,” he mutters, under his breath.
“OK,” I say. “Well, DC 70…”
“Delta Charlie Seven Zero,” he says.
“Yes, Delta Charlie Seven Zero, then T for… “What’s the ‘T’ one again? I pause, struggling. He says nothing. Come on, dude. Help me out here. You know I said ‘T’.
“…Transport?” I try.
“Seven Zero Tango.”
Gah! Tango! I knew that one! Anyway, nearly finished.
“Thirty-two,” I say.
“Delta Charlie Seven Zero Tango Three Two,” he says, and I kick myself. I’m really making a mess of this unusually specific set of rules this man has for letters numbers and phrases.
“And can I take a telephone number for you please?”
This I can do.
But when he reads my number back to me he’s said it entirely differently from how I said it. He’s said it all weird. Where I’d say ‘07812’ he says ‘Zero, Seventy-Eight, Twelve’. Where I’d say ‘Six One Three’ he says ‘Sixty-One, Three’. I don’t know whose this number is any more. It’s lost its familiar rhythm. It’s like I’ve never heard it before. You can’t do that to someone else’s number – it’s not right.
I’m not sure why this is upsetting me so much.
I think it’s because he keeps challenging me at every corner. In one brief interaction, he’s telling me all my choices are wrong. I say ‘model number’ instead of ‘product code’. I say ‘oh’ instead of ‘zero’. I don’t know my police alphabet. I can’t say my own number right. There is absolutely no doubt that when he puts the phone down on me, he’ll make a ‘tsk’ noise and raise his eyebrows at his colleague.
And yet I suspect he’s just making up the rules as he goes along so he can always be right.
“And can I take an email address?” he says.
“Sure,” I sigh, and when I’m finished I half expect him to wearily ask if it’s ‘all lower-case?’, because he seems just the type of guy to take the opportunity to point out afterwards that I didn’t specify that my email address is all lower-case, even though no one has ever had an email address that wasn’t all lower-case, and then I’d have to apologise again and say, “Yes, my email address is all lower-case, just like every other email address on the entire planet, but I should have been much clearer and adhered to your stringent set of rules, I’m very sorry.”
But he doesn’t say that – he asks if my name is all one word instead.
I start to worry about how traumatic reading him my credit card number will be. How he’ll call the three-digit number on the back my ‘CCV’. How he’s precisely the type of man who’d tell me off for saying ‘Pin Number’ “when the word ‘number’ is already in the acronym so what you’re saying is Personal Identification Number Number”.
And then, as I look sadly again at the model number (product code) for the Hudson Reed Valquest Thermostatic Cartridge for Dual Valves (32 teeth), I think about what I’m asking this man to do. I’m asking him to send me the correct thermostatic cartridge out of all the thermostatic cartridges in the world. I know nothing about these things. I don’t know about inlet ratios or water pressure guidelines. I need him to be precise. If he doesn’t use that same precision, coupled with his professionalism and expertise, I’ll have to do this entire tedious valve-based ordering process all over again somewhere else.
That’s why I’ve come to him. He’s the expert.
“Yeah,” he says, tapping something into his computer. “We’re out of stock.”
“OK thanks for your help,” I say. “Bye.”
Next to godliness
I’ve often felt sorry for the Christs, because it’s hard for any family when one member in particular does so well. How can the others live up to that while making their own mark on the world? Particularly at this time of year!
Well, I’m pleased to say at least we don’t have to worry about Otto. He’s cleaning up!
There’ll be grape expectations
If you were going to ask me what a great business plan would be, I would say to open a shop that sells nothing but Austrian wine. No other wine. Just Austrian. But all the wines have to have a crazy story. Because everyone has a crazy story about Austrian grapes! Anyway, I’ve been beaten to it, again.