I know, I’m not fooling anyone. My phone doesn’t make that sound and hasn’t for years. But it did signal to me, sonically, that someone wished to speak to me. I picked up the receiver. The line was totally silent for about a second, and then developed that almost inaudible hiss, that sort of embossed silence which signifies an active call.
The voice was faintly accented and seemed strangely unsure of itself, as if the caller wasn’t really comfortable using the telephone. It only seemed friendly to be a little more positive and welcoming in my reply.
The caller was obviously settling in; their reply was a lot more self-assured. “Can I speak to whoever is responsible for your gas bill?”
“Well, I don’t know. That’s actually quite a difficult question, isn’t it? I mean – who is really responsible for my gas bill? The major component is probably the heating and we all benefit from that so I don’t think it would really be fair to single one person as being responsible.”
“Do you pay the gas bill?”
“Oh, good heavens, no. I haven’t paid a gas bill in years. It’s all done automatically by direct debit. You see, their computer talks to my bank’s computer and they sort it out between them. I don’t get involved. Saves me loads of time. Don’t you have that with your bank? You really should try it, it’s wonderful. It would make paying your gas bill so much more convenient. Hang on and I’ll get you my bank’s contact details – perhaps you could move your account. It’s much easier than it used to be. I’ll be back in a second!”
But when I got back, they’d rung off.
Perhaps they don’t have gas.