Tuesday 6 May 2008

The animal call-screening service

I am at work, trying to recall which week it was that we agreed we would go on holiday this year, so that I can book the required time off. I have done my best to keep track of this and make the process run as smoothly and painlessly as possible using my special patented three-point memory reinforcement programme. You may not be familiar with my technique, so I'll explain it for you: I have covered all the bases by (a) writing the date on a piece of paper (that I have subsequently lost), (b) entering the date in my Palm Pilot (which I have subsequently allowed to run completely out of battery power to the point where it will no longer turn on) and finally (c) writing the date on the back of my hand (which I have then subsequently washed off).
All else having failed, it is time to phone back to basecamp and check in with The Keeper of the Family Diary as to when the proposed holiday date is. This is not a phonecall I am relishing because, well, I have asked her three times already and there is a strong chance she will rightly lambast me for being an idiot. What I don't realise, however, is that The Keeper of the Family Diary is wily. She has taken special measures to protect herself from idiot husbands interrupting her during the day - she has installed a unique telephone receptionist who has taken it upon herself to screen all incoming calls on her employers behalf, in the most surreal manner possible, as follows:
(Phone rings for a lengthy period, and then is picked up a fraction of a second before it would go to answerphone)
"Hello, is that Amelie?"
There is a short pause, while I have a bit of a think.
"Yes, it is."
"It is, though, isn't it? I recognise your voice."
"No. It is Daddy."
"No, I am Daddy. You are Amelie."
"No, I'm Amelie."
I sigh, envisioning a lengthy 'No, I am Spartacus' type conversation. I decide to change tactics.
"Hello sweetheart, what are you up to today?"
"I am on the phone. To Daddy."
"Yes, I know. I meant before that."
"I was listening to the phone. It was ringing."
"Yes...yes, I know how the phone works. Look, is Mummy there?"
"Oink! It is not Amelie any more!" (said playfully, as if joyously announcing the start of the best, most fun game in the world)
"No! It is a little pig!"
Another pause. It is early, and I am only halfway through my first coffee so my brain is not yet firing on all cylinders. I scratch my chin and stab idly at some blu-tac with a paperclip while I think what to say next.
"Um...well, hello there, little pig. Is Mummy there?"
"Um....little cat?"
"No! I am a little puppy!"
"But...but...but puppies don't go 'miaow'! They go 'woof'.."
"Amelie, I need to talk to Mummy."
"Baa! Baaa! Baaaa!"
"Amelie, stop making animal noises, and please go and get Mummy for me."
The phone goes quiet. I listen for a few minutes to the hammering of a keyboard and the sounds of 'Tux Paint', a drawing program for children that I have installed on our home PC for Amelie to play with. I know it is Tux Paint because it features a series of 'animal stamps' that can be pasted onto the page, and each time you use one it plays a recording of the animals' call, followed by an American woman saying its name - so I can hear a steady stream of whoops, chirps and guttural growls punctuated with words like 'orca' and 'pelican' and 'beaver'.
"Amelie?" I call
"Cricket. Hen. Hen. Penguin." says Tux Paint.
"Amelie?" I say, a lot louder
"Penguin. Beaver. Duck" says Tux Paint.
"AMELIE!" I shout, causing people in my office to look around.
The phone is picked up again.
"Hello, who is it?"
"It. Is. Your. DADDY!" I seethe.
"Hello! Hello, Daddy!
"Amelie, please fetch Mummy for me."
"But Mummy is busy. She is cleaning the bathroom."
"That's OK. Let me talk to her anyway."
"OK, Daddy!" she says brightly, and hangs up.
I listen to the dialtone and stare sadly at the wall.
Sod it,
I think. We'll just not go on holiday this year.


Max Halliwell said...

suggest you set up a googlemail account and use the online calender.

Anonymous said...

Excellent. >:^)

PDC said...

Thankyou Bill, and thanks for Tux Paint! :-)
(I've changed the embedded link in the page to go directly to your site rather than the Wikipedia entry)