AS afternoon ebbs into evening the phone begins to ring.
Of course, I do not mean the mobile which purrs ceaselessly like a stroked cat. It is the landline, which we only keep because of email and the internet.
The callers are inevitably, insufferably, chirpy, as if they're being intravenously fed a high energy drink. They want to swap names and know how I'm doing. Sometimes I tell them I'm feeling psychotic, at which point a noticeable froideur enters the conversation. Mostly, though, I listen to their spiel - for who would want their job? - before remembering I've left a chip pan sizzling and hanging up.
Inevitably, they're selling something I cannot possibly want, like a conservatory, which, even they concede, could be difficult to attach to a first floor flat. Mostly, though, they want me to move from one bank or utilities supplier or broadband provider to another. My response is borne of the cynicism inherent in this inky trade, the thrust of which is that if something sounds too good to be true it surely is.
Ideally, I don't want to change anything. What I do want, however, is to feel confident that by sticking with a business I am not being taken for granted.
There is fat chance of that, as was revealed yesterday when it was reported that loyal customers of Scottish Gas are likely to be around £90 a year worse off than those it has poached from elsewhere.
Nor am I in any doubt Scottish Gas is at all different from its rivals. To them, we customers are only of interest when we're pouring money unquestioningly into their coffers.
Here, then, is my experience of attempting to move from one broadband supplier to another. The chap from TalkTalk laughed when I told him how much I was paying monthly to BT and intimated that if he couldn't offer a cheaper and better deal, then he might as well collect dustbins for a living.
Not only, he said, would I shortly be paying less but I would be able to do so much more and at scary speeds. Moreover, I would have access to television channels without number, thanks to a wunderbox which he, personally, would send me asap.
I was impressed. I was also impatient. I wanted to get him off the phone and resume my life but somehow I couldn't bring myself to put it down.
Also, I felt sorry for him; perhaps I was his only possibility of a sale that day. I pictured him at home, glued to Hollyoaks and wondering why, with a PhD in golf course design, he had reached this pass.
So I said, yes, I would accept his offer and move forthwith from BT to TalkTalk. Whereupon he read out a lengthy statement, which he insisted he was legally obliged to do, and by the end of which I would have been happy to have been given the last rites.
Still, I gave myself a pat on the back. I had apparently saved a few quid and embraced the 21st century. All I needed now to do was sit back and wait for the new gizmos to arrive.
TalkTalk, meanwhile, promised to contact BT and let it know of my desire to abandon it. Did I care if its feelings were hurt? No, I did not, but there lingered a suspicion of guilt, as if I'd just allowed someone else to do my dirty work.
A day passed, after which BT wrote me a touching email, professing, like a jilted lover, that it was sorry things hadn't worked out between us. This was the followed by a call, during which a woman wondered, in emollient tones, where I thought it had all gone wrong.
I made a start; she gave a practised sigh, intimating she had heard it all before, and asked if there was anything at all she could do to reunite us.
First, we talked money, which she said shouldn't be a problem. Then she said she would send me, gratis, her own wunderbox, via which I could watch Hull City play Sunderland.
Delight followed upon delight, to achieve which all I had to do was stay with BT. And so, eventually, wimpishly, cravenly, I did.
"Who's going to tell TalkTalk?" I asked. Suffice it to say, the answer was not the one I wanted to hear.
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