Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Humor in Uniform – TELEPHONE HANKY-PANKY

HUMOUR IN AND OUT OF UNIFORM

TELEPHONE HANKY-PANKY
A Spoof
By
VIKRAM KARVE

“There was no need for you to come personally all the way to my house so late at night – you could have called up and taken my approval on phone,” my boss, a Commodore, said to me when I went to his office first thing in the morning.

“Sir, I don’t have a phone at home,” I said.

“What? I had sanctioned a residential phone for you almost a week ago – the day you reported for duty,” the Commodore said.

“Sir, the phone has not been installed so far,” I said.

“Have you checked up with ‘X’?” the Commodore asked me.

(‘X’ was the officer in charge of telephones).

“Yes, Sir – but ‘X’ told me that there are no spare connections available right now and it will take some time to give me phone at home,” I said.

“What nonsense? I had clearly told him to install the phone surrendered by ‘Y’ at your residence – I wanted you to have the same number, so it becomes easy to me to remember,” my boss said.

(‘Y’ was my predecessor who had handed over charge to me a week ago before proceeding on transfer to his new faraway station – in fact, ‘Y’ had got what was considered a “prize posting”)

“I don’t know, Sir – but the phone hasn’t been installed at my residence,” I said.

The Commodore pressed the intercom switch and said to his PA sitting in the next room, “Call ‘X’ here to my office – I want him to personally report to me immediately.”

And while we wait for ‘X’ to come, let me tell you a bit of the background of this episode.

This story happened almost 30 years ago, in the 1980’s.

Of course, there were no mobile phones then.

And in those days, in the navy, having a landline residential phone was a luxury.

In fact, having a residential phone was considered a big status symbol.

Only very senior officers were given phones at home.

As far as the other officers were concerned, only those in “key” appointments were given residential phones.

Now, it seemed that I was in a “key” appointment, at least as far as my boss was concerned.

So, he had sanctioned a residential phone for me, just like my predecessor ‘Y’ had been given.

But ‘X’ had not installed the phone so far, and it looked like ‘X’ was going to get a bottle from the Commodore, who seemed quite annoyed.

(In navy parlance, a “bottle” means a scolding – a navy style dressing-down)

After a few minutes, ‘X’ arrived in the Commodore’s office, and he saluted the Commodore.

The Commodore did not ask ‘X’ to sit down.

The Commodore pointed his fingers towards me, looked at ‘X’, and asked him, “Why didn’t you install a phone in his house?”

“Sir, there is no spare connection,” ‘X’ said.

“What bloody spare connection? I told you shift the same phone that was with ‘Y’ to him – I want him to have the same number,” my boss said.

“Sir, ‘Y’ has retained accommodation. He has left his wife behind in station,” ‘X’ said.

“So? He can retain accommodation, he can leave his wife here, but he has to surrender his residential phone before proceeding on transfer. Why the bloody hell did you sign his outgoing clearance?” my boss asked, raising his voice.

“Sir, I was given instructions…” ‘X’ mumbled.

“Instructions…? What bloody instructions?” my boss said, looking angrily at ‘X’.

“Sir, I was told not to disconnect the phone from Y’s house – I was told that the same number was to remain there…”

“Who the hell told you that…” my boss shouted at ‘X’.

‘X’ uttered a name.

On hearing the name, my boss became livid, and he shouted at ‘X’: “So you are still taking orders from your old boss? I am your boss now – remember that. I hate disloyalty. Now you listen to me carefully – I want that telephone shifted from Y’s house and installed in his house within the next one hour…” my boss said pointing his fingers at me.

“Sir, but…” ‘X’ tried to say.

“You just shut up. If you don’t obey my orders I will make you sign on your ACR. Do you understand?” the furious Commodore shouted at ‘X’ who was now trembling at the prospect of an adverse remark in his ACR.

Then my boss turned towards me and said to me, “You go to your house right now and see that ‘X’ installs the telephone properly. The moment the phone is connected, you give me a call – I will be waiting for your call.”

Then the Commodore turned towards ‘X’ and warned him: “If the call doesn’t come within one hour, you will deeply regret it. I will not tolerate any further insubordination from you.”

The Commodore’s words galvanized ‘X’ into action, and he personally supervised the shifting of the telephone from Y’s residence to my home.

The phone was installed in my house within 45 minutes.

The happiest person was my neighbour’s wife.

She immediately rushed to the solitary STD booth in the market, rang up her mother and gave her my residence number.

She told her mother to call up at 8 PM at night.

Those days the only way to make outstation calls was to queue up at 7 PM outside the lone STD booth in the market and wait your turn to make your call.

Why 7 PM?

Well, STD rates were half after 7 PM.

If you made an STD call, you had to foot the bill.

But if you had a phone at home, your relatives could call you and they would have to foot the bill.

And also, you had better privacy than at the STD booth.

Now, that I had a residential phone, and it was the only one in our block of 4 houses, we would have to do a bit of “social service” and let our neighbours use our phone, and also offer them drinks and snacks while they waited for their calls.

A few minutes before 8 PM, my neigbour’s wife was sitting in anticipation beside the telephone waiting for her mother’s call from Delhi, while I poured a drink of rum-paani for her husband.

Suddenly, the phone rang.

My neighbour’s wife picked up the phone and excitedly said, “Hello, Ma…”

Then she was quiet for some time, as if listening.

Slowly, the expression on her face changed, she gave a puzzled look and she kept down the phone.

“What happened?” I asked her.

“It was some strange man – he was calling me ‘Sugar’ – and he was saying all sorts of obscene things…” my neighbour’s wife said.

Suddenly the phone rang again.

This time I picked up the telephone and placed the receiver near my ear.

“Hey, ‘Sugar’ darling – why did you disconnect – I am back in town – it was a terrible trip – I really missed you – I’ll come over at 9…” the male voice said.

“Excuse me – I think you have dialled the wrong number…” I interrupted him.

“Wrong number? Isn’t this ***…?” the male voice at the other end said, repeating the 3 digits of my phone number.

“The phone number is correct – but there is no ‘Sugar’ around here,” I said, tongue-in-cheek.

“Who the hell are you? And what are you doing in Y’s house?” the male voice said angrily.

Comprehension began to dawn on me pretty fast.

I remembered the name mentioned by ‘X’ in my boss’s office (the name of X’s previous boss who had asked ‘X’ not to shift the phone from Y’s house).

I decided to have some fun.

“By any chance, are you *****…?” I said, mentioning the name.

“That’s right. I am ***** speaking – but who the hell are you?” he said.

I identified myself and said, “Sir, this phone is now with me.”

“What…? How…?” he seemed confused.

I wanted to end the conversation so I wished him “good night” and put down the phone.

I realized that my neighbour’s wife was “all ears” – listening intently to the conversation.

So I had no choice but to tell everyone the full story – about the telephonic conversation and what had happened earlier in the morning.

Everyone started laughing.

And as we laughed, the phone rang.

This time it was my neighbour’s wife’s mother from Delhi – it was the telephone call we had been waiting for.

VIKRAM KARVE
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Disclaimer:
1. This story is a spoof, pure fiction, just for fun and humor, no offence is meant to anyone, so take it with a pinch of salt and have a laugh.
2. All stories in this blog are a work of fiction. Events, Places, Settings and Incidents narrated in the story are a figment of my imagination. The characters do not exist and are purely imaginary. Any resemblance to persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

Copyright Notice:
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Did you like this story?
I am sure you will like the 27 short stories from my recently published anthology of Short Fiction COCKTAIL
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About Vikram Karve

A creative person with a zest for life, Vikram Karve is a retired Naval Officer turned full time writer and blogger. Educated at IIT Delhi, IIT (BHU) Varanasi, The Lawrence School Lovedale and Bishops School Pune, Vikram has published two books: COCKTAIL a collection of fiction short stories about relationships (2011) and APPETITE FOR A STROLL a book of Foodie Adventures (2008) and is currently working on his novel and a book of vignettes and an anthology of short fiction. An avid blogger, he has written a number of fiction short stories and creative non-fiction articles on a variety of topics including food, travel, philosophy, academics, technology, management, health, pet parenting, teaching stories and self help in magazines and published a large number of professional  and academic research papers in journals and edited in-house journals and magazines for many years, before the advent of blogging. Vikram has taught at a University as a Professor for 15 years and now teaches as a visiting faculty and devotes most of his time to creative writing and blogging. Vikram Karve lives in Pune India with his family and muse - his pet dog Sherry with whom he takes long walks thinking creative thoughts.

Vikram Karve Academic and Creative Writing Journal: http://karvediat.blogspot.com
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