A recorded voice asked me to listen to the following list of options. By the time I'd heard the last one I'd forgotten the number of the option I needed

2nd July 2004 at 01:00
I'd spent a pleasant half-hour setting up the new printer for the library computer, and I just had to load the driver.

Simple. We'd be up and running in minutes. I hunted for the usual CD but it wasn't in the packaging. Irritated, I phoned the company we'd bought it from, to be told they didn't carry spare driver CDs. They'd have to send a whole new kit, but there was a three-week wait. Sorry.

Never mind. The morning was young. I could phone the manufacturer and ask for a driver to be posted. A recorded voice thanked me for ringing, and please would I listen to the following list of options. By the time I'd heard the last one I'd forgotten the number of the option I needed. I dialled again, selecting the one that offered me a human being. A voice told me that all the operatives were busy, but someone would answer just as soon as possible, so don't go off and take assembly because the waiting time would simply fly by and here's an electronic version of the "Eine Kleine" for your delectation.

Eventually, a soft Scottish brogue (why do these huge American corporations always have call centres in Scotland?) announced that she was Karen and she'd like to be of assistance to me. I told Karen I was really happy about that because I needed a driver for my Hi-Whizzo Ten-Ink Pro-Zoom printer.

Karen wasn't too sure what a driver was, but she was certain the service department could help, so she'd transfer me immediately. I hoped I wouldn't have to listen to the "Eine Kleine" played on an eight-note digital keypad again. She assured me I wouldn't.

Seconds later Mozart returned, interrupted by a voice saying unfortunately all our operatives are busy but someone will be with you just as soon as possible so whatever you do don't hang up. I looked at my watch. I was in danger of missing assembly altogether, but having got this far I couldn't bear starting again. Eventually, Mozart was interrupted and Hamish said he'd like to be of assistance. That's good, I said, because I'm having a little problem with my Hi-Whizzo printer. Before he could "process my request", Hamish said he'd need the serial and model numbers, and then he'd give me a job reference I could quote if I needed to call again. I said that if all calls took as long as this, rigor mortis might have set in by the time he phoned again, so could he hang on while I nipped to the library for the information? Yes, Hamish would gladly hang on. Now all I needed was the CD with the printer driver. "Ah, sorry," said Hamish, "we don't carry those. But I could give you the number of the company that handles them for us."

This time I got a butchered "Brandenburg Concerto" and Eleanor, who wanted to know how she could help me. Did she, perchance, stock printer drivers? Yes, she did. And did she stock one for the Hi-Whizzo Ten-Ink Pro-Zoom? Yes, she did. My elation knew no bounds. Could she thenI I inwardly trembledI post me one? She could, and if I held the line she'd check her stock. Butchered Brandenburg resurfaced, and so did Eleanor, to tell me she had drivers for every printer from the entry level Idiotjet right up to the HokeyCokey 2000, but not one for the Hi-Whizzo. It was a very new printer and they were waiting for the drivers to arrive. Sorry. Had I tried the company that sold me the printer in the first place? A tear dribbled down my cheek as I went off to assembly.

I did get the driver in the end, though. I downloaded it from the internet.

It only took me a week.

Mike Kent is head of Comber Grove primary, London borough of Southwark.

Email: mikejkent@aol.com

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