Communication breakdown: the journo's dread
Ã¢ÂÂIs everything ok?Ã¢ÂÂ asked the email from an editor in Abu Dhabi on Monday morning. And aside from the pound collapsing against the Euro, it was.
The sun was shining; United beat Stoke 5-0 on Saturday Ã¢ÂÂ a scoreline equalled by Manchester La Fianna in Sitges; the rain held off at Old Trafford and the new edition of United We Stand sold well; and work was fine.
Ã¢ÂÂItÃ¢ÂÂs just that we didnÃ¢ÂÂt get your article yesterday.Ã¢ÂÂ
IÃ¢ÂÂd sent the reaction piece on Real MadridÃ¢ÂÂs defeat at Valladolid 24 hours earlier. Having watched the match, IÃ¢ÂÂd got up early on Sunday to write it, leaving friends on Saturday night despite their cries of Ã¢ÂÂjust come for one.Ã¢ÂÂ
The article didnÃ¢ÂÂt arrive. Maybe pirates had intercepted it off the horn of Africa. Maybe Manchester CityÃ¢ÂÂs owners in the Gulf State have banned my email.
Either way, a journalist who doesnÃ¢ÂÂt meet deadlines may as well stop being a journalist.
"Arr! Give us yer words!"
The problem was down to the internet company Pipex, who sponsored Fulham between 2005 and 2007. In the past three months they have managed to delete over 200 of my emails and cut the service seven times, including once on deadline week. In the last four days theyÃ¢ÂÂve not been sending my emails Ã¢ÂÂ despite them appearing to be sent.
So the La Fianna lads didnÃ¢ÂÂt get the team I sent out last Thursday, and another newspaper didnÃ¢ÂÂt get my reply saying I would like to interview Maradona for them.
Despite having the option of using the likes of Hotmail or Yahoo for free, IÃ¢ÂÂve paid Pipex for 11 years for a supposedly professional service. This year it has been anything but.
When thereÃ¢ÂÂs a problem you canÃ¢ÂÂt ring them from abroad because theyÃ¢ÂÂve abandoned all their numbers for dreaded (and expensive) 0871 versions. I found a way around that, only to be directed to a call centre where the staffÃ¢ÂÂs grasp of English was questionable. One refused to proceed with my complaint because I wasnÃ¢ÂÂt giving her the correct phone number.
Ã¢ÂÂYour phone number should start with zero, sir.Ã¢ÂÂ
Ã¢ÂÂZero and Ã¢ÂÂ0Ã¢ÂÂ are the same,Ã¢ÂÂ I replied.
The call centres were always unable to help and never deviated from the line: Ã¢ÂÂWeÃ¢ÂÂre experiencing technical issues. We understand your frustration, sir.Ã¢ÂÂ
Ã¢ÂÂItÃ¢ÂÂs like talking to a robot,Ã¢ÂÂ I said to one.
Ã¢ÂÂWe understand your frustration, sir.Ã¢ÂÂ
The email from Abu Dhabi was the tipping point; IÃ¢ÂÂm cancelling Pipex and reluctantly changing my email address.
"We understand your frustration, sir.Ã¢ÂÂ
But they're not the only ones. O2, the mobile company I have effectively been with since 1992, sold me a faulty iPhone last month. The same O2 who started charging me to receive calls in Spain six months after I signed a contract that allowed me to receive free calls.
Ã¢ÂÂDo you really think I'd change a contract for one that started charging me?Ã¢ÂÂ I asked in exasperation to an O2 fool who was thicker than a loaf of Hovis. They eventually offered a full refund and IÃ¢ÂÂve complained to Ofcom.
But could I get O2 to change my iPhone for one that worked? No. I was given conflicting information several times, before they asked me to wait at my mumÃ¢ÂÂs for two days for a new one.
Ã¢ÂÂBut I work,Ã¢ÂÂ I said. Ã¢ÂÂI can come and collect a new one? Name your city Ã¢ÂÂ Manchester, Middlesbrough, Glasgow, Newcastle, London, Barcelona. I can be there.Ã¢ÂÂ
Ã¢ÂÂIÃ¢ÂÂm sorry sir, we understand your frustration, but weÃ¢ÂÂre not part of the O2 that has shops."
Lord, give me strength.
As it transpired a former Manchester City youth player who wants to be a football agent sorted it direct with Apple. He manages O2Ã¢ÂÂs shop in Manchester. IÃ¢ÂÂll never knock City fans, nor their team that never wins, again.
Well, for about a month at least.