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The War on Terror: Chapter 3 The War on Terror: Chapter 3
by Thanos K & Asa B
2007-03-31 09:50:19
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My telephone had represented my last stand against the rise of technology. Every year my stubborn refusal to adapt to the latest developments had been worn away, until only my now-antique Bakelite telephone remained as a symbol of the past. It had a circular dial on the front and handset cradle on top, plus it had told me one night that my father had died…well, it was my mother but her voice came through that earpiece.

Now, all because of a missing hash key, I was forced to upgrade. The new cordless handset may have the elusive hash and even a star, but it has no character, it is totally devoid of personality. There is no dial tone when it is turned on, it feels cheap and lightweight in my hand, the beeps are alien and there is no spiral cord with which to play while I am placed on hold, and this last one is making me nervous.

As soon as the new phone had been connected and the latest updates and security files had been installed, and I had read the instruction manual, I had dialled the number for the police helpline – a number engraved in my memory, so that saved me one space in the 100 speed dial positions. When I reached the same place as last time and then pressed the hash key for the first time, I looked at my old phone sat on the kitchen table and cried.

I blamed mental exhaustion for the loss of emotional control and decided that a cigarette might calm the nervous fidgeting caused by the absence of the cord. I inhaled the smoke, felt my body relax and dialled the number, but nothing happened. I dialled again and again, but the phone had frozen on me. I put the cigarette down in order to reset the phone, but before I could do anything it switched back on. Yes, the phone was against smoking and the manual explained that it was programmed to worry about breathing in second-hand smoke. I cried some more.

A week later I was ready to face the combined psychological task of combating the police helpline on this state-of-the-art phone. I dialled that number for the umpteenth time and was waiting for the usual sexy voice but everything had changed. A monotonous old man had replaced the sexy voice and he was listing the police’s new helpline procedures, plus the new twenty-six departments. I’m not joking. It took eleven repetitions to note down all the departments and sub-departments, none of which seemed to apply to my complaint.

The phone had forced me to quit smoking, so I poured myself a generous measure of malt whisky and stared at the list of departments. Twenty-six departments. So let’s see, if there are twenty-six policemen waiting in the office for the telephone to ring with all the shifts that makes, let me see, twenty six multiplied by three equals seventy-eight people. If you think now holidays and everything that makes it nearly eighty-five people working in a police station just to answer damn telephones that nobody can ever contact. Well, it did explain why there were no policemen patrolling the streets.

The medicinal properties of the malt were working their magic, so with a happy glow I decided to begin at number one on the list. Ten-minutes of stereophonic hold music thanks to my new phone was finally ended by a polite man explaining that my complaint should be redirected to the relevant department, but he could not advise me which that was. The whisky was still working, so I took his answer in good stead and phoned number two. “Hello, terrorist fraud squad. How can I help?” answered exactly the same voice as number one; my heart sank as I began to realise that there probably weren’t 85 police operators answering calls.


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