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THE TROUBLE WITH TELESPEAK

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DAILY DOSE BY Bikram Vohra

Actress Chitrangada Singh at the launch of HTC's new phone in New Delhi, on Sept. 23, 2014. (Photo: Amlan Paliwal/IANS)They came from London to this terrific job in the Gulf and the first day he went to work and his wife called his office and was told by the operator that he wasn’t in his cabin.

“Not in his cabin,” she said, ” Not in his cabin, but that’s terrible”

Anguished by the response she called a friend and said, “Bob has been given a Portocabin, can you believe it, they said to him in the interview he would have a proper office, now they have put him in a makeshift.”

The friend laughed and explained that ‘cabin’ meant office in local telespeak.

Why don’t they just say, ‘office’, she asked. Go figure.

Actually international telespeak can be quite confusing for those who are not initiated in it.

Like a friend of ours who also called her husband at the office and was told by the Secretary  he could not be disturbed.

“Whyever not,” she said, ” Is he taking a nap?”

“He is in a meeting.”

“Then why would he be disturbed, is there a problem, besides which, I am his wife, I do not disturb him, on the contrary, I make his day.”

In telespeak, disturb and interrupt mean the same thing.

Another favourite is,”He has left.”

This has nothing to do with Shakespeare (Exit right, followed by bear) but signifies departure from the premises.

I am so sorry to hear that he has left, I talked to him only a week ago, what happened, a run in with the boss, perhaps.

“Left,” can mean left for lunch, left for the day, left the company, left the country, take your pick.

Asians are likely to choose left as a temporary absconding from the office. Westerners are inclined to see as being given the heave ho.

About nine of every ten operators and secretaries will respond,”Sorry, he is not in his seat?”

Well, where is he, then, under the table, hiding in the water closet, behind the couch? Maybe he is cowering in the corner because his Bank Manager is calling.

An option on this one is a more dramatic, “He’s gone.”

As in above for our lot it is the accent which suggests he is either playing golf or returned home to the loving bosom of his family.

For those on that side of the world it is a meeting of angels.

Gone, did you say, that’s so sad.

You almost feel like sending a condolence message and as you begin to commiserate you realise he has only gone out of the office.

‘Not here,’ is another little deflection. It has great potential for mystery since no one tells you where he is. He is just not there,poof, Merlin the magician doing his work.

A very common telespeak torture is from the office operator who moves you directly from the ringing to music.

Now, you wait while listening to the plink plink plunk.’

Finally, you get this hello and you have to ask if this is The Tip Top Trading Company.

Yes.

Well, can I speak to The MD.

Hold.

That is probably the rudest word in telespeak. A single imperial command. Hold.

(Hold what, lady.)  Your hand, my breath, my patience, my temper, my sanity.

Back comes the music, followed by a second voice saying, Hello?

Is that the MD’s office?

Yes.

Can I speak to him?

He’s out.

Out has so many connotations. You could be on the phone all day.

Out of what… sorts, money, order, or just the office!!!!!

Okay, I’ll call later, thanks.

You are welcome.

The last sentiment beats everything, seeing the runaround you got.

I had this experience the other day when I called an office to speak to the GM.

“Can you put me through to the boss.”

“No.”

“I beg your pardon.”

“I cannot, he has gone.”

“Oh, I am sorry, hope he has got a better job.”

‘What job?’

“The one he has gone to, imagine it is a better deal.”

“I didn’t know the boss had another job, where is he going?”

“You tell me, you’re the one who said he’s gone.”

Fraught with danger, this sort of stuff. By the time that guy returns from lunch the rumour mill will have already sorted him out.

 But nothing to beat the operator who said, honest, she did:

“I am sorry you cannot speak to him, he passed away from the office twenty minutes ago, do you want his mobile number?”

So much for sympathy cards.

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