Many will be aware of my fastidious nature when it comes to phone numbers, but I’ve never shared with a wider audience. Maybe this doesn’t provide a forum for a wider audience: be that as it may.
The 020 London prefix is now six years old, having been introduced on 22 April 2000. It superseded the 0171 and 0181 introduced in 1995, which in turn replaced 071 and 081 (1990), before which, it was simply 01. (I’ll always remember Going Live being 01 811 8055.) BT’s extensive publicity surrounding the 2000 change concentrated heavily on the 7 (inner London) and 8 (outer London) that succeeded the 020 prefix, which means that to this day, the vast majority of people believe there to be two London prefixes: 0207 and 0208. (My brother has recently been given a three, instead of the usual 7 and 8, but that’s another aside.)
As you can imagine, this frustrates the hell out of me. People quote their number as 0207 XXX YYYY. The correct grouping is 020 7XXX YYYY. When I used to contact our local curry house in Clapham, I used to have to give my phone number. Here’s the associated conversation (always with the same chap) that happened for every single order, verbatim:
Order taker: your phone number?
Order taker: 0207
Order taker: XXX
Order taker: YYYY
Order taker: Your order please?
The behaviour has more recently sprung up in mobile phone numbers. It seems that the first five digits are too long to string together (even though they always start with 07), so people split it after three, or sometimes four. It seems somewhat random, more guided by the presence of double-digits as opposed to following a pre-defined breakdown.
So, please from now on could you quote your London numbers as 020, XXXX, YYYY. And your mobiles should be as follows: 07XXX, YYYYYY.
I often have difficulty finding things, even when they may be right in front of me. Here’s my analysis of the situation.
If I have to look for something, I first picture the item I’m looking for in my mind, and then go hunting for that vision of the object. If the reality of the object differs from my picture of it, then I can struggle.
For example, if I look for the butter (vegetable spread) in the fridge, I’ll picture the tub with the branding that I think we have at the time. (I’m not a loyal butter buyer.) If we have, say, Flora instead of the Bertolli that I envisaged, then I can be looking for five, ten minutes before I find it.
Tonight, I was looking for the lid of the pan I’d just taken out. I was envisioning a green Le Creuset pan lid, with a black circular handle in the centre. The lid was turned upside down, so was cream with no such handle showing. It took the best part of five minutes to find, despite being right in front of me.
It’s very frustrating, but I struggle through.
In Sainsbury’s, bakery items are left on the side, open to the air to make them hard, and people’s breath and fingers to make them unwanted. Tongues are there to select what you want, but it certainly makes the produce less than appetising.
The bakery redeems itself somewhat by being way cheaper than its US equivalent. It’s difficult to find a loaf for under $2.99 in the US, whereas you can get a freshly baked loaf for under half that in the UK: £0.70 for an unsliced loaf.
From baked goods to, er, baked goods. One of the worst aspects of London street life is the prevalence of dog shit. Although it must be slightly nauseating at first, New York dog owners pick up after their animals, turning tiny plastic bags inside out to save any touchage. While there may be some nominal fines for not doing so in the UK, people can rarely be seen picking up after their mutts, which makes for more hazardous walking conditions and a less appealing pavement.
From plastic bags to plastic wrap. UK cling film doesn’t cling too well. Glad Wrap, its US counterpart, while no doubt pumped full of environmentally-unfriendly chemicals, clings like there’s no tomorrow.
And finally, bearing right/left. UK traffic lights are frustrating me as a pedestrian. At a regular crossing, the lights generally have three settings in the sequence: traffic on road 1; traffic on road 2; pedestrians. In New York, you only get two: traffic on road 1; traffic on road 2. The pedestrians walk parallel to the traffic, with the traffic yielding as it turns. It makes for a much more intuitive pedestrian experience.
I recently tried to go through the British Gas enrolment process online. It bombed out when I tried to give it a US zip code for my previous address, as opposed to the expected UK postcode. However, there was a handy ‘call me’ button that I could press to work through the problem. On pressing the button, I was asked for two pieces of information
- What’s your phone number?
- When should we call you?
I responded ‘Now’ to the latter question, and was impressed that the call came through within five seconds. However, here’s a transcript of the call:
- This is an internet callback. Please hold while we connect your call
- Thank you for using British Gas
- Goodbye and thanks for using our free callback service
Not particularly useful.
As an aside, it seems that Geordie is the dialect of choice right now. One of the above messages was north-eastern. Meanwhile, Big Brother is back, with its resident Geordie commentator. And NTL’s dreadful customer service is introduced by a Geordie.
Before this post took effect (at the time of writing it is a future activity), my blog had a total of 500 posts and 500 non-spam comments. Quite neat. I was hoping to reach 512 posts before leaving America (I have less influence over the number of comments than the number of posts), but didn’t force the issue, despite the plethora of posts of late.
Started a new contract (work) today, which was very enjoyable. Still trying to figure out the idiosyncrasies of the London Underground’s Oyster card (it was introduced just before I left the UK, but the pre-pay thing isn’t at all obvious), and I’m baffled by the acceptance of smoking in pubs, but all in all I’m getting used to the British way of life again. The fact that the toilets smell of piss (more so than is necessary) aggravates the shit, or at least the piss, out of me.
A hectic four-day weekend planned before starting work in earnest on Tuesday.
I just got myself a new cell/mobile phone. I had a range of telephone numbers to choose from in the shop, but opted for the one ending in ‘128’, as it was a perfect power of 2.
There is a splodge of concrete on the pavement on the north-east junction of Hannington Road and The Chase in Clapham. It bears a remarkable resemblance to the leaping Michael Jordan in the Air Jordan logo.
I’m proposing excavating the area and selling the splodge on eBay for a ridiculous sum of money. Anyone interested in offering a Buy It Now bid?
I’ve been in the UK for about a week now, and have seen little but rain. Despite this, there is constant talk of an impending hosepipe ban. This while water streams from a hole in the ground across the pavement of The Pavement.
We pay for our water here, yet I’m sure our beloved water company won’t shell out for a new lawn when I have to refrain from watering it this summer!
Free disk space required to install Windows Vista: 15Gb. FFS!
As Elise rightly pointed out to me, you only get to understand the people and ways of your own country if you’ve been away for a while. Below are some examples that I’ve come across in my first three days back.
I took some stuff to the dry cleaners on Wednesday. The guy asked when I wanted it back. I suggested Saturday, and, looking agitated, he said he’d do his best. Three working days and no guarantee: that would be unheard of in the States. I later went to pick up my shoes from the cobblers, handing over my bank card for the £35 transaction. "Sorry, we don’t take cards. Cash only." I was dumbfounded.
I’ve just finished sorting out the kitchen, washing up everything that came out of storage and getting things ship-shape. In doing so, I was surprised at how small our microwave and fridge are. They were a fine size before we went to the US, and they’re the same appliances, but now that our expectations have been adjusted, they’re surpisingly small.
I have one very notable exception on the UK customer service front: New Heights. Their customer service has been superlative.