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THE Ontario Ministry of Energy's program "Heat Save," designed to help homeowners reduce their heating costs, has produced many humorous responses to the questions asked by the project's staff. Here is a sample:
Q: How do you heat your house, sir?
A: Electricity.
Q: What type of system is it?
A: Mainly hair dryers.
I have five teenage daughters.

A FORMER telephone operator I know was on the job one day when her male co-worker asked her to take one of his calls. He seemed slightly offended as he explained that the caller wanted to speak to a lady operator. When my puzzled friend took the call, she was surprised and amused when a young boy confided that he was baking a birthday cake for his mother, and asked, "Could you please tell me how to make the icing?"

AFTER the directory-assistance operator had given a customer the number he requested, she began to fear that the call was taking an obscene turn — the man asked her to hold on, and she could hear him breathing heavily. To her relief, the fellow explained, "I don't have a pencil, but if you give me the number again, I'll write it on the misted glass of this phone booth."

FOR several days my telephone had been picking up the local radio station, so I called for a repairman. When he arrived, a baseball game was coming through loud and clear. The problem was not new to my area, he told me, and it was easily fixed. Much later he was still working on the phone, and I asked if he had encountered a problem. "Just a couple more minutes, ma'am," he said, his ear glued to the receiver. "It's the bottom of the ninth, two out, two on!"

SOME residents in our city thought they'd help drain rain-flooded streets by removing manhole covers. That made matters worse because the underground system was flooded too. A few covers became lost in knee-deep water, and police were called in to create order. "We've picked up the covers," one officer radioed headquarters. "Now how do we find the holes?" Back came the word: "Easy. Walk until you fall in."

AN OPERATOR for Alberta Government Telephones received a call from a sweet old lady who was having trouble locating a number in the directory. The woman was at a pay phone where, apparently, a few pages of the book were missing. When at last she had the number, she asked the operator to make the connection. She then thanked her and deposited two quarters in the slot, saying: "The other one is for you — for your help!"

WHEN the meter reader comes to our farm, he usually stops his car in the driveway and walks to the back of the house to get the reading. One extremely hot day, he drove his air-conditioned car in as far as he could and then sat with the motor running while he read our meter — from 30 meters away with binoculars.

A COLLEAGUE in our office at St. Francis Bay, South Africa, asked me to get a Paradise Beach telephone number for him in a hurry. He explained that the operator on the St. Francis Bay exchange would have to get the number through the Humansdorp exchange. After I made the request, I heard the operator say, "Humans, can you get me Paradise for St. Francis?  It's urgent!"

ONE of the difficult procedures I have to follow as a telephone operator is securing acceptance of a collect call from the first person who answers the phone. On one occasion, a young boy answered. I asked him if he would accept the charges. All I could get in response was "Hi, Daddy!" despite his father's and my efforts to have him say "Yes." Finally, I asked him to go and get his mother. We both chuckled as we heard him say, "Mom, it's Daddy and another lady."

THE installation of music on the telephone hold-line in our office was a pleasant innovation; however, it has had its drawbacks. During periods of severe weather, including tornado warnings, we changed the stereo system from the usual FM "listening music" to an AM country-music station for better weather coverage. One day during the lunch break, when there were just two of us tending the office and the phones, our company president called long distance and asked to speak to the vice president, who works at our plant. Not knowing whether the vice president was still in his office, I put the president on hold so I could check. My co-worker, realizing who was on hold, screamed, "Listen to what's on the radio!" From the speaker overhead - which duplicated the music playing on the hold-line - came the chorus of the country song: "Take This Job and Shove It."

I WAS sight-seeing in New York and wanted to know the time, so I ducked into a phone booth and dialed "0." A woman's voice came on the line: "Operator. May I help you?"  "Could you tell me the time, please?" I asked.  "We can not give out that information," she replied. "Dial 411 for Manhattan information, request the number for the time, then call that number."  Not wanting to make two more phone calls, I asked, "But, operator, aren't you wearing a watch?"  There was a momentary pause, then a sigh. "It's five-thirty," she said. "But you didn't hear it from me." And she hung up.

SOON after my mother moved to a new apartment, she discovered her telephone allowed her to make calls, but not receive them. She contacted the phone company and was told a repairman would be out first thing Monday morning.  By noon that Monday, a repairman still hadn't arrived, so Mother again contacted the phone company.  The reason they had not come was because they thought no one was home to let them in - they had phoned her five or six times and had received no answer.

THE consultant with whom I had an appointment arrived at my office during a freezing-rain storm. I extended my hand in welcome just as the power went off. Our large warehouse was in darkness. Why had the consultant come? He was a representative of the hydro company who wanted to discuss power reduction opportunities for our company.

TWO work crews were putting in telephone poles. At the end of the day the foreman asked the first crew how many poles they had done. "Twelve," was the answer.  "Not bad," replied the foreman.  Then he asked the second crew how many poles they had put in.  "Two," came the reply.   "Two?" shouted the foreman. "The others did twelve and you did two?"  "Yeah," answered the leader of the second group. "But look how much they left sticking out of the ground."

  Two gas company servicemen, a senior training supervisor and a young trainee, were out checking meters in a suburban neighborhood.  They parked their truck at the end of the alley and worked their way to the other end.  At the last house a woman looking out her kitchen window watched the two men as they checked her gas meter.  Finishing the meter check, the senior supervisor challenged his younger co-worker to a foot race down the alley back to the truck to prove that an older guy could out run a younger one.  As they came running up to the truck, they realized the lady from that last house was huffing and puffing right behind them. They stopped and asked her what was wrong.  Gasping for breath, she replied, "When I see two gas men running as hard as you two were, I figured I'd better run too!"

THERE had been a few recent explosions and fires attributed to leaks of natural gas, so my wife and I were worried when our natural-gas water heater required repair. The arrival of the bill did nothing to ease our apprehension. It was addressed to Mr. Kaboom!

- J. R. Cahoon

OVERCOMING locked gates, tall fences and snapping dogs presents a challenge for meter readers in rural areas where they are required to read all meters. One time a co-worker succeeded in getting past a particularly vicious watchdog tied to a chain that was long enough to give him sway over the entire backyard and driveway. Later, the man was questioned by his superior: "How were you able to get past that watchdog?  The customer is curious."  "That's easy, boss," the meter reader replied. "I parked on his chain."

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Last updated May 19, 2008 by Becquet's Custom Programming