I have a very close friend who is coming to stay in a couple of weeks over the Easter weekend. Easter doesn't normally disrupt much here in godless London, but as he will only be here for a short time, I thought I'd make sure all the crucial stuff is open at the usual times.
Is the National Gallery open on Good Friday? I google it. Nothing definitive. I check the website. Nothing.
I try to book tickets online, which I assume would confirm if they are open. No tickets available, 'click here to try again.' Try a different sort of ticket. There are two kinds of concessions tickets, plus a gift-aid type, a general type, a children's type and then I stopped reading. Each ticket request requires a word verification exercise. This takes a long time.
No tickets available, 'click here to try again.'
Try again. Nope.
Make and eat some breakfast and get a fresh cup of tea. Dogs want feeding.
Okay, old technology to the rescue. Why don't I just ring? Partly because I have succumbed to the trick that they pull on you that makes you feel like you must do everything online, but also because I am avoiding speaking to a human being. Avoiding actual, real-life, real-time communication is my new-technology sickness.
I find the number on their website. I ring them. Get fax machine by mistake. Check number again on website. Ring again. Recording only. Very very long recording with little information but many words. Sounds like recorded voice is reading from printed material on exhibition - not just the leaflet you get for free from the information booth, but the book you buy in the gift shop. Apparently there is no 'press 9 for a real person' option.
Go back to the page where I tried to buy the tickets and note that it links to Ticketmaster. Find evil 0844 prefix Ticketmaster phone number on website. Look up alternative Ticketmaster phone number on Say No to 0870. (Don't get me started on the moneygrubbing phone lines, let's just say they fill me with blackest hatred, but are you beginning to get an idea of where my time goes?)
The heating has gone off and the house is getting chilly. I press the button on the boiler control panel to put the heat on again. (The button is marked "F." According to the manual this means "function," as in, if you are having a special function in your home you might want to heat it at an unconventional time. So easy to remember.)
Ring alternative Ticketmaster landline number somewhere up north. Or maybe Birmingham? Mild curiosity gives me a brief impulse to google dialling code but No! I am trying to get stuff done! Am asked by phone computer voice to state what event I am looking for, what venue and date then press the hash key. Forget name of exhibition, long pause, blurt out what I can remember. Press hash. Get cut off.
Take half an hour a moment to delete two dozen photos from mobile to ease the strain on its tiny electronic brain so it will stop cutting me off when I'm on the phone. The only way I know to delete photos is to scroll down, click on photo, scroll down again, press delete twice and repeat. Briefly consider googling phone manual so I can learn a faster way. No! Getting stuff done, etc..
Postman rings doorbell and dogs go mental. Momentary tension, snapping jaws, boy dog escapes, girl dog is triumphant, etc.. I go to door still in my pajamas and slippers but also with my coat on as immersion-therapy device for separation anxiety, to trick boy dog into thinking I am leaving the house at random times throughout the day, but then I don't leave. Fooled you, fucker! Now will you just calm the fuck down. Coat goes on and off at intervals, but the dog still reacts the same way as he did the first time he ever saw me put my coat on, racing to the door and head-butting it whilst grunting, growling, jumping and barking. There is a convulsion of barking, then dogs are shoved behind separate closed doors, door is answered, hellos exchanged, parcel taken. I daren't look in the mirror as daily past experience suggests I probably look like an interrupted institutional escapee.
Scroll back down phone log to find number. Ring again. Press one to speak to a person. Long recording. At the end of recording my only choices are to listen again or get cut off, no speak-to-person option. My growing desire to speak to a person seems inversely proportional to the probability of it occurring.
Scroll back down phone log to find number.
Ring number. Press button to purchase tickets. Say loudly to computer name of event venue and date, press hash. Am finally transferred to a person.
Tickets available; ergo, National Gallery open. Mission accomplished! In only twice as much time as it would have taken to go to the National Gallery. I could be eating scones in the cafe right now.
Weakened and confused by my ordeal, I hang up the phone without booking tickets. They are available at half-hour intervals and I don't know when my friend is planning to go. Six o'clock? Six thirty? Not feeling capable of making any important decisions, even at this level. Briefly consider that I will now need to repeat much of this process. Feel faint. Make lunch. Change out of pajamas for god's sake, it's two pm.