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Number Please…

“Communication let me down…I’m left here”, sang Spandau Ballet in the Eighties.

An interesting contrast then this week. I’m having an argument with Three Mobile because a shop assistant gave me the wrong sim card for my Samsung tablet, guaranteed it would work and then denied all knowledge of anything when it was too small and got stuck inside the tablet, which had to be sent back to Samsung and cost £80 to fix.

I won’t relate the whole sorry story, because a) it’s very boring and b) it annoys me so I’ll tell you about the three ladies I met at lunch club instead. (just like the one in the Waitrose Christmas advert – except ours has been around longer – smug aside).

The three ladies I spoke to this week as we enjoyed our excellent lunch found they had something in common – they had all worked as telephonists in the Second World War. Mrs A, who had been given the nickname ‘Chirpy’ because of her job, worked in a tiny village telephone exchange on the Wirral. When someone needed to put a call through to London the call often took up to 15 minutes to travel down the country, as connections needed to be made with exchanges in Manchester, Birmingham and then the capital.

Mrs B also worked as a telephonist, but at the main exchange in London next to St Paul’s Cathedral. There were different coloured lights on her supervisor’s desk. White meant an air raid, while purple meant imminent danger. The girls had to carry on working though despite the danger, and as they faced their machines they felt the supervisor come around and put tin hats on their heads.

Mrs A and Mrs B had no idea that Mrs C also worked as a telephonist even though they had been sitting together on the same lunch table every Wednesday for quite some time. It was a moment of communication – and connection.

Although I’m still mad at Three, maybe it’s all a bit more in context now after hearing and appreciating these stories of the three women who helped people communicate in difficult times. I’m still after Three to cover my repair bill but it’s maybe not so much of a huge drama now. I appreciate the power of a well-aimed complaint letter, but I recognise the power of these tenacious women even more. Maybe I’ll send them ALL round to the complaints department…


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