25 JULY 1931, Page 11


The Englishman is fast coining to regard his telephone system in the same light as he regards his climate. A right number at the right moment, like fine weather over a crucial week-end, is past praying for. Protest is idle ; even hope is faintly ridiculous. But there are one or two incidentals— things not indissolubly bound up with the inspired perversity of the exchanges—which it may still pay to anathematize.

There are, for example, the interiors of telepl booths Few of us enter these austere cubicles empty-handed. True, our personal impedimenta may amount to no more than an umbrella, two best-sellers, an evening paper, and the new tooth-brush which we have been forgetting to buy for the last fortnight. But we have to get our hands rid of these things in order to telephone, and this it is very rarely possible to do—so un-marsupial are our persons—except by lodging them between our knees. If the regulations provided for a shelf beside every telephone, we could more easily forgive them for being regulations. Then there is the question of extensions—those forbidding little black boxes clamped to the wall in clubs and hotels. To comply with the request for " Two pennies, please," when putting a call through on one of these, is quite unnecessarily difficult. An extra- ordinary degree of skill is needed to turn the knob which allows the coin to be inserted, and throughout this delicate operation, for no reason at all, the extortionate instrument sets up a venomous and discordant scream, often totally unmanning the user and always continuing until his trembling fingers have released the coin. The Wonders of Science have been responsible for many disgusting and irrelevant noises ; not one of them deserves both epithets more heartily than

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