Cheerful Monk’s post on the same topic reminded me of a hilarious incident from the late seventies.

My readers must recall those days of telephone switch boards with telephone operators cum receptionists with hundreds of calls to attend every day. In the office where I worked in Bombay as it was then called, the operator, a veteran of many telephone battles and personal friend to many of our customers who used to visit the office from various towns of Western India could speak very good English but only the street Hindustani of Bombay.

One day there was a great commotion as everyone in the office could hear her shouting repeatedly that there was nobody called Ghatkopar Saheb in the office and asking the caller to correctly mention the name of the person.

Ghatkopar is a suburb of Bombay and quite infamous even in those days. Finally, the top honcho of the office got involved in the matter and found out that the caller was a gentleman with some speech defect and was in fact asking for Rajgopaul Saheb!

For quite some time after that, I had to bear with being called Mr. Ghatkopar by that worthy who apart from being my boss was also a personal friend.

11 thoughts on “Miscommunication.”

  1. It reminds me of the probably apocryphal anecdote about miscommunication in the army. After the message “Send reinforcements, we’re going into France” had been passed through a long chain of soldiers, it had become “Send three and four pence, we’re going to a dance.”

  2. 😀
    enjoyed both your moniker and the story and Nick’s army story.
    my mother worked for the phone company (years ago before it was broken up)
    and in the old days she worked at a board just like that one in the picture.
    only it wasn’t so small! it always covered one whole wall and had dozens of operators at it!

    1. As part of my training as a Management Trainee, I had to learn to operate the switch board, perform under the watchful eye of the Receptionist and be independently one for a couple of days. I can assure you that I was relieved when that ordeal was over.

  3. such fun to think about the operators and their tales….my take is not on that kind of operation but the one in stores with the “tubes and metal containers” – I forget the name of the machinery. I worked in accounts of a big store in London, UK – I had to help over the lunch rush at the wall of exit points – mostly to do with account invoices coming through but also “clearing cheques” – i.e. is this cheque genuine etc.
    occasionally we would be backed up with tubes and we would get a frantic call from a dept in the store – had we received a “green” one, as the change hadn’t reappeared – and yep there among all the backed up “black ones” would be that “green one” which we just “shot off on the return tube” – somehow the main clearing dept had misfired the “change one to us….”
    [i may have mixed up the colours here, a long time ago – my mind new what to do then…but remembering now, not so clear]

    1. I am baffled. I have not come across the system of payments ever before. I am unable to find answers via google either. If you remember, please do let me know as the process seems quite interesting.

      1. I couldn’t quite remember the “name” but this morning a quick “is it this, mr google?” – revealed it was the Lamson carrier system – I don’t think in the case of the dept store I worked in that any of it other than entry/exit ports were visible to the customer – it kind of ran above the ceiling.

        We did have customer imprinted cards but still the details were sent after the card was placed under a paper invoice – I made a lot of the kind of cards we have now from banks etc on a manual type of gadget. It wasn’t actually my job but staff were forever, leaving because it was a very boring job!

        I actually worked for the accts manager who dictated [dictaphone machine] her letters and I typed them up and sent them out, mostly only 2 types “thanks for becoming an account customer OR you have not paid your invoice”…this 2nd one might go on for months until debt collection was advised…

        I did have an electric typewriter but this was before xerox machines so I had carbon paper to deal with…

        It wasn’t until later on in “shop career” that I worked on a shop floor (in another store) on Oxford Street…

        1. I took over many small jobs in accounts dept because the “boring jobs” were never held for long – I would just get someone trained up…and bingo off they went. I finally took over imprinting cards and then the filing system….as well as my own job! Can’t remember how long I was there…it’s a long time ago and that particular store is history…

        2. I found wikipedia article on the Lamson carrier system and found the whole thing fascinating. I don’t remember ever having seen one in operation as during those days of visiting the UK I hardly ever shopped except for cigarettes and those were available in corner shops run by Indians who enjoyed chatting with me. I too have used the electric typewriter as well as telex machines besides manually operated calculating machines. Many young people cannot even imagine those contraptions.

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