Only two minutes in and the phone rang, so I paused the TV and picked up the phone. I smiled as I saw the words International Call on the little LCD display. About time I had another one of these!
I sat down on the sofa, took a sip of tea and answered it.
The following is a very abridged transcript of the conversation that then took place.
Hello. My name is James, said a voice with a strong Indian accent. I am calling from The Accident Helpline. Our records show that someone in your household has had an accident in the last year
Hello James. I’m glad you called. Yes, it was me who had the accident
OK. Was the accident your fault? If not, you will be entitled to some compensation
No, it wasn’t my fault. How much compensation are we talking about?
At least two thousand pounds
Is that all? I’d like at least five thousand
Er… I’m not sure if that is possible, but we can try. How did the accident happen?
A car ran into the back of me whilst I was sitting stationary at the traffic lights
Where were the traffic lights?
They were at red. That’s why I was stationary
No, I meant, what was their location?
Oh. At the junction. You know, that awkward one by the Post Office
Hmmm, can you tell me the name of the road, please
Yes, George Street
Can you spell that for me?
Of course. G for… um, George, E for episode, O for organism, R for Rasputin, G for George again and E for… what did I say before for E?
Um, OK. Yes, it’s OK, I think I have that. Can I have the registration of your car, please
I gave him the registration of my first car, dating back 35 years. I gave it three times, mixing the numbers up each time.
I cannot find that plate on our system. It isn’t in the right format.
It was a personalised plate. When can I get my money?
Er… I think I will need to put you through to my supervisor
There was a pause and then another Indian voice: Hello, I am Robert.
Hello Robert. Now look, James promised me some money, but now seems to be backtracking
Yes, we cannot find your car on our system. We will need to send you some documentation to fill in. Could you give me your name please?
I looked at the TV screen, where Captain Jean-Luc Picard was frozen in time, tugging at his tunic. Yes, my name is Stewart. Patrick Stewart.
Could you spell your first name for me please
Yes, it’s P for Patrick, A for anonymous, T for terrapin, R for rap-rap-rap-rapido, I for ickle, C for crash and K for Keeble Bollege, Oxford
Right. Er… thank you Mr Stewart. Now, could you give me your postcode please
I gave him a fictitious postcode.
I cannot find that on my system either. I don’t think you are in this country
Of course I am. You rang me, remember? Now, how do I get my money?
I cannot arrange for compensation for you if I cannot find you on our system
He was getting slightly irate, by now.
Your system sounds rubbish. Is there someone else I can speak to?
Yes, I will put you through to my supervisor
You have a supervisor too?
Yes, Mr Stewart, we all have supervisors
There was another pause and then another Indian voice, a lady this time. Yes. What can I do for you? she asked, somewhat abruptly.
I want my money. Both James and Robert said I could have thousands of pounds, but they won’t give it to me
This is because you have not had an accident
I bloody well have. James phoned me up and told me so
And, I also do not believe you are in this country
Well, I don’t believe you are in this country, either, so that’s two of us
I think you have been wasting our time
I think you might be right
She hung up. I checked the phone: fifteen minutes… to the second.
Not one of my best, but it was most enjoyable nonetheless.