So, here I am, talking to 'Tim'.
Tim is one of Vodafone's helpful online chat chaps you get through to when you want help and I needed help. I'd stupidly forgot to put £5 on my phone over the weekend and my 'family' package had been suspended. So first thing Monday, I'd put a fiver on my phone, which Vodafone subsequently took off me before they texted me to say they'd reactivated the service. Except every time I now try to ring a member of my group, I get the annoying patronising Vodafone woman saying 'Sorry, you've not got enough credit to make that call'.
'Well, of course, I don't have enough credit!' I scream.'I hate mobile phones and I don't put more credit on my phone for precisely the reason that, if I did have credit, you'd have just charged me 50p to make a call I assumed was free.'
That's how I came to contact Tim and here is our illuminating exchange in all its dull glory.
Is it only me who suspects that 'Tim' isn't really Tim's name? Would a Tim totally miss my attempt to lighten the mood? Why did Tim take me so literally? Would a Tim really mangle the language in such a peculiar way? 'For account verification purpose'! 'Have a lovely day ahead'! 'It was really a pleasure chatting with you at this point of time'!
People call Tim usually use slang, produce typos, or just have plain bad speeling. But this is different. This suggests to me that Tim is actually Indian and Tim is part of the huge shift in global economics which has seen many of these support jobs move east. Could Tim be one of those unfortunate souls who are now asked to deal with members of the British public whilst having a very bad understand of the British public's peculiar ways and humour?
Now, that's not the reason I'm writing this. I'm not angry with Tim. I liked Tim. The reason I'm writing this is because Vodafone clearly think that I might be offended if Tim gave me his real name. It's like they're calling me a racist simply because I'm a member of the British public. It's like walking into a shop, seeing a shopkeeper of clearly Indian lineage, and asking his name. If he paused, looked at you carefully and then said 'my name is Barry', you would assume either that he couldn't remember his name or that he was wary about telling you his name lest you launch into some racist rant. Of course, Barry's name might be Barry, like Tim's name might be Tim, but this isn't the first time this has happened to me this week. I was dealing with a webhost via email and it was pretty obvious that the person on the other end wasn't really called 'Twinkle'.
Twinkle does not sound like somebody who fixes things when your web server goes down. The fact that shortly after talking to Twinkle, somebody from India began checking my site, suggests that my old web host had also moved their support to India.
What annoys me isn't so much that they've done that (though, incidentally, it does annoy me because their cheapness often means I get a crap service) but that they're being so sneaky about it. Of course, these companies would argue that giving their staff Western names makes it easier for us to communicate but I think it's something else. They know that we suspect and they also know that we don't approve. So now we're talking to poor unfortunate buggers who have to pretend to be Tims and Twinkles.
Anyway, I think I'll have to contact Tim again. He's reactivated my phone in that specific meaning of the word 'reactivated' which also means 'killed'. I now can't make or receive calls. This time perhaps I should ask his real name.