24th May

The System

‘Customer Services. May I take your name, please?’

‘Thank God, a human voice! My name is Geoffrey Archer.’

‘Really? The one who wrote all those books and went to prison?’

‘No, not him. He’s spelled differently.’

‘Oh, what a shame. Do you have an account with us?’

‘Yes, and I’ve already entered the number three times on my telephone keypad, as instructed by your system. That was supposed to direct me to the right department but it kept prompting me to select further options until the only option left was to re-enter my account number. After the third time I didn’t press anything and at last I got through to you.’

‘And how can I help?’

‘It’s about an order I placed last week.’

‘I see. Could you just enter your account number on your keypad for me?’ ‘What, again?’

‘Yes, please . . . Thank you. The system’s a bit slow today, but your details
should appear on my screen any minute.’

‘That’s a relief. The last twenty have been like a Kafkaesque nightmare.’ ‘That’s funny, another customer used that word yesterday. What does it mean? Not “nightmare”, the other one.’

‘ “Kafkaesque”? Well, Kafka was a writer. His stories often describe individuals caught up in bureaucratic processes which cause them to feel alienated and full of existential angst.’

‘Like Mr Archer then? The one who spells things differently?’

‘No, not a bit like him. And he doesn’t spell things differently, it’s his name that’s spelled differently.’

‘Well, they are quite different, aren’t they, Mr Kafka?’

‘My name isn’t Kafka. My name’s Geoffrey Archer. Geoffrey with a G and an O. Kafka was a Czech. Haven’t my details come up yet?’

‘No, I’m sorry. Did you say you paid by cheque?’


‘If you paid by cheque I’m afraid I can’t help you.’

‘But you’re Customer Services!’

‘Yes, but we only deal with orders placed by telephone. You’ll have to contact the Mail Order Department. Would you like the address?’

‘No! I didn’t pay by cheque. I paid by credit card, through your website.’

‘Ah, then you want After Sales Liaison. I’ll just transfer you.’

‘No, but wait –’

Please enter your eight-digit account number on your telephone keypad.

Reader: Tam Dean Burn
Fiddle: Aidan O'Rourke
Guitar: Sorren Maclean
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