Anyway, after writing to all those tourist offices and plundering the brochures they sent me for information, I have to phone millions of people – from hotels to museums to night-clubs to candied fruit factories... It’s not rocket science, as they say, but it’s time-consuming, tiring for the voice, and sometimes trying as well.
There are the hotel/B&B owners who let their tiny kids answer the phone to potential customers. I’m not one of them but I might be and, in an indirect way, I represent them. Does a tiny child know how much the hotel charges for a double room in the summer? No, they don’t, and therefore should not pick up the receiver when the phone rings. When I hear a little voice go, ‘Hullo!’, followed by a giggle, my heart sinks. My calls are not refunded by my employers and I know that I’m now going to have to persuade the tiny child to go and fetch their mummy or daddy so the ADULTS can have a meaningful conversation – hours later! I always feel like removing those places from the guide. I don’t, of course, but it’s very tempting.
Then there are the museum officials who don’t know where the museum they’re working in is situated. ‘Could you confirm your address, please: is this correct.....?’ ‘Erm... hey, Nicole, what’s the address here?’ I sometimes say, ‘How did you get there this morning?’
And then there are the museum officials – sometimes they’re the same ones – who don’t know what their opening hours are. ‘Hey, Claudette, when are we open?’ I have to resist asking, ‘How did you know what time to get to work this morning?’
Not to mention the restaurateurs who don’t know how much their menus cost.
And no one in France knows the difference between a website and an email address!
Ah, the joys of dealing with strangers on the phone!