“I wouldn’t like to go to prison,” said Gimlet. “The idea is a very unpleasant one.” I had to agree with him.
“The conditions are bleak and dispiriting, and the notion of being locked in is perfectly dreadful.”
He was right, of course, but quite what had inspired such gloomy rumination was hard to say.
“Escape isn’t easy,” he continued. “There are all sorts of obstacles to prevent you.” I said that if I understood things correctly, that was the general idea.
“Locked in!” he said woefully.
Gradually it dawned on me that he was referring to the Chilean miners’ rescue in the Atacama Desert. On August 5th, 700,000 tons of rock collapsed in the San Jose mine, trapping 33 men in a tunnel which most people feared would become their tomb. For seventeen days these hapless burrowers lived through unendurable trauma, for the likelihood was that all of them would perish. The ensuing fairy-tale ending has been widely reported around the world. On August 22nd an exploratory probe penetrated a wall only yards from the miners, which enabled food supplies to be sent down, along with medicine and letters from their families. It was enough to sustain them through the rest of their harrowing ordeal. Meanwhile, a 620-meter escape shaft was being excavated which would allow an oxygen-supplied capsule called the ‘Phoenix’ to bring them safely to the surface. Never before in mining’s history has such a potentially calamitous situation resulted in such plenary triumph.
“What a wonderful ending for the miners,” I exclaimed.
“What miners?” asked Gimlet.
“I thought all that talk about being imprisoned was to do with the Chilean miners.”
“Televisions,” said Gimlet.
Sometimes I wonder if he does it deliberately. Quite how one links televisions to prisons and mines is a long shot, even for Gimlet’s labyrinthine mind.
“What,” I inquired, “have televisions got to do with being locked up, apart from the fact that prisoners today are allowed television sets in their cells?”
“I didn’t say locked up, I said locked in,” laughed Gimlet. “It is an altogether different proposition, except that prison televisions probably work.”
Gimlet had taken out a contract with a company called Tiscali to provide him with television coverage. The Tiscali representative, an oleaginous young man, could not have been more obsequiously attentive. He said that were Tiscali to take responsibility for Gimlet’s telephone and broadband in addition to his television network, this would ensure easier billing and provide a better service. Quite what level of service lesser mortals might expect was gently glossed over.
Nevertheless, the idea of having the various systems taken care of under one roof seemed a sensible one.
“For the soul is dead that slumbers, and things are not what they seem,” quoted Gimlet.
By this I took it that something had gone wrong. The story is not an uncommon one.
Gimlet signed up with Tiscali in May 2009. At first everything went smoothly.
After eight weeks, however, the television started experiencing connection problems and a technician was sent ’round to sort it out. The trouble was that he didn’t; or rather he did, but not for long. The next time, Tiscali managed to fix the fault online. They asked Gimlet if he had been traveling and explained that whenever he went away he should switch everything off to avoid complications. The next time he went abroad, Gimlet followed their instructions to the letter, but on his return the screen was once again blank. The problems persisted to the point at which Gimlet could stand it no longer. He decided to take his business to Sky. The customer-services operator at Sky was sympathetic and assured him that his troubles would soon be over. Gimlet could have sworn that the voice at the other end of the line was that of the blandandering young salesman he had previously signed up with at Tiscali.
“So did everything work after that?” I inquired.
“Locked in!” he replied. “If you think you can wish Tiscali a jaunty goodbye and head off into the sunset, you are wrong. It is harder to get out of than rehab. To break off relations, you are required to undergo a recorded telephone interview with a person trained in torture. The plan is to coax, warn, threaten, and to generally bully you into submission. First they inform you that you will lose your home telephone line, a statement which is patently untrue; next they insult you by offering you a better deal than the one they first gave you. Finally, they will remind you that you will be charged for a number of additional items which may have escaped your notice when signing the contract. As far as the telephone is concerned, British Telecom will guarantee that you can keep your current number. You will, of course, have to wait a minimum of five working days for a BT engineer to pay a visit. You will be informed by letter of his visit’s date, which could be any time between 7:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. Unfortunately they will not be able to provide you with broadband until after the engineer has done his work, and it could take up to 18 hours for the head office to be informed that the engineer is done. Once the paperwork has been completed and if you still wish to proceed with your broadband installation, another engineer will be sent ’round in a minimum of five working days. In the meantime you should receive a new router box through the Royal Mail. This cannot be guaranteed to arrive, but if it doesn’t you will be advised that it hasn’t by registered letter. The registered letter should arrive between 7:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m., and if no one is in, it will be duly returned to someone.
“Your television service will be taken on by Sky and an engineer, etc….You will also be sent a welcome pack containing your new Sky card. This may not arrive, as many such letters are wrongly addressed. Any attempt to rectify the situation with any of the above-mentioned service providers will require you to answer some security questions which may not prove possible because of discrepancies over your mother’s maiden name. This can be rectified by the account holder writing a letter in person and black ink (Printed).”
Tiscali was sold to Carphone Warehouse on June 30th 2009 and was rebranded as part of Talk Talk in January 2010. Talk Talk was founded in Leeds in 2003.
Unfortunately Gimlet has no new investment tips this week due to technical difficulties. More when he returns from Petropavlovsk, a gold-mining project in far eastern Russia.
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