My father died in his 99th year.

A few days later, in a flurry of efficiency, I wrote to BT saying that since my father had died would they please disconnect his telephone line and send me the final invoice.

Two weeks passed with no word and then a letter arrived addressed to my father at his nursing home. The letter said, ‘I was sorry to hear of your recent bereavement and would like to offer you my condolences at what must be a difficult time’. The letter then went on to ask my father to contact BT on a freephone number ‘so that we may discuss the future of the telephone service’. 

Even if my father had been alive, I think he might have been daunted at the prospect of receiving an invitation to discuss the future of the telephone service.  Heady stuff.  Surely this would call for strategic thinking, crystal ball gazing, visioning and what iffing.  Something my father, after 30 years of retirement, would have found taxing.

I decided to phone BT on my father’s behalf.  After all the usual frustrations of keying in my father’s phone number followed by the hash key and picking my way perilously between the various options I was offered – none of which quite fitted the circumstances – and being told incessantly by an insufferably cheerful recorded voice that I was in a queue, a human being finally answered.  I was asked for the account number and the phone number then for my address.  Wrong!  Silly me – they wanted my father’s address! 

Having passed these not inconsiderable tests, I was asked what I wanted.  I said I had written asking for the telephone to be disconnected and was now phoning as requested.  ‘Thank you Mr Honey.  May I ask why you want your telephone to be disconnected?’  I explained that my father had died and no longer needed a telephone.  Stunned silence.  Then the voice said, ‘You’ve died?’.  No, no, my father has died and no longer needs a telephone.  ‘You are Mr Honey?’.  Yes, I am my late father’s eldest son and have the same surname.  ‘Oh, I see. There are two Mr Honeys?’  Yes, but one is dead and the other is alive.  ‘Please bear with me, I shall have to transfer you to engineering’. 

Before I could protest, I found myself back on hold, in some sort of queue, being told by a cheerful recorded voice that my call was important but all the lines were busy at present.

As I gazed out of the window at my own telephone line, gently flexing in the breeze, I realised that a quick shimmy up a ladder with a pair of scissors would have been a far simpler solution.

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