Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Paying for garbled messages


A very cryptic message was handed over by the ‘telegramwala’ to my son. It read ‘N 122 105 5 SNOQ 11 KHBB ZQZQ NNN!’ The telegram was delivered at 2 a.m. and we rubbed our eyes a couple of times to believe what we saw. Yes, we had read the missive right, but for the love of us, neither my husband, nor my son, nor I, could decipher the strange code. There was no sender’s name either.
The only thing that made any sense was the name of the place it came from and as we have a cousin there, we presumed it could have been from him. But what on earth was he trying to say? We have sent the telegram to the cousin to decipher or rather decode it, presuming he has sent it.
An incurable letter writer, 1 have nothing against the P & T department hiking its postage charges and am even prepared to accept that our postal system is perhaps the best in the world. But our telegraphic philosophy needs a bit of revamping. The first lesson they ought to learn is to get the message and sender’s name correctly. When working for a magazine, I had to shoot off a telegram to a writer who was supposed to submit an article on ‘how to make your eye bath at home’. She was quite puzzled to read the telegraphed message — “how to make your own eye balls at home!!” “Bath or ball?” She asked in the next wire which read “Path or doll”.
Thoroughly confused, I had to call her long distance to clarify the whole matter!
 If distortion is their specialty, delay is a policy. The ra­tionale is, if its bad news better postpone it and if it’s good news it can always wait. After all, anticipation is sup­posed to be better than realisa­tion. There are any number of instances of my brother wanting to meet me at the airport, but thanks to a delayed telegram, finding himself at the mer­cy of taxi drivers out to loot. My friend was pretty embarrassed when her in-laws arrived and they were having a cocktail par­ty at home. “Didn’t you get the telegram?” they asked, feeling piqued that they were con­sidered intruders. Of course, the telegram did come, two days later!
As a policy, I have decided to stick to E mails. This is the result of my experience some time ago in the office. I had to send an urgent message to our branch office “Your 10M handed to me.   Will reciprocate”. The branch manager, I believe, went beet red while he read, “Your love handed to me. Will reciprocate!”
A Professor got a telegram announcing ‘your cat died’, sent by his assistant. He got angry with him for breaking the bad news so abruptly. He told him that he should have prepared him by first sending a telegram saying ‘your cat was on the roof….’ Next time, the Professor got a telegram from his assistant saying ‘your mother was on the roof’…