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Chatham Islands mystery: where is it?

Chatham Islands mystery: where is it?

The other day I had an amusing if ultimately quite disturbing conversation with a person working at the call centre of a well-known mobile phone network provider. Now, I don’t expect these customer service people to know everything there is to know about a company and its products. It’s a hard enough job as it is dealing with Mr I’m-angry-so-you’re-to-blame. Nonetheless, I felt my request was fairly straightforward.

I’d called simply to check about service coverage. Admittedly, it might not have been an everyday, run-of-the-mill location in South Auckland or Upper Hutt but certainly nothing too outlandish.

It went something like this:

“Hi, can you help me? I’d like to know whether you have network coverage in the Chatham Islands,” I asked.

“Okay. I’ll have a look … [pause] … can you spell that for me?”

“Sure. Chatham. C – h – a – t – h – a – m …”

“H – a – m?”

“Yes.”

“Thanks … [pause] … I can’t find anything … [pause] … I have the Cayman Islands … [pause] and the Canary Islands [pause] but no Chatham Islands.”

Now this should have immediately rung a few alarm bells – but I pressed on regardless. Nothing comes between a man and his need to know about network coverage – well, almost nothing, if you know what I mean.

“Yes, but I think you’ll find …” I tried to explain a little bit more about their whereabouts but got cut short.

“Where are they near?”

Now, as gobsmacked as I was, I resisted the urge to feign some sort of mock horror at this total lack of geographical knowledge.

“Er, New Zealand,” I said as calmly and plainly as I could.

“Oh … are they?”

“They’re part of New Zealand,” I added in an attempt to fill the silence coming from the other end of the line.

“Where are they near?” he queried.

“Well, nowhere really. They’re in the middle of the … ” I managed to get out Pacific Ocean but he was now on a mission and talked over that bit.

“Are they near any other islands?”

“Well, I guess they’re closest to the South Island but …

“Okay,” he said obviously still eager to help (and get on with the next call).

“… But still quite a way away,” I added for good measure. It was a bit like saying the North Island’s just off Australia but what could I do?

“It is near Christchurch? Or Dunedin? Or …”

Now, I did think about letting him exhaust his knowledge of South Island cities and towns but he’d already come to a stop, so I took pity.

“Neither. They’re quite a way off – in the middle of the Pacific. They’re not really near New Zealand, sort of ‘nearby’ in the global scheme of things.”

“Oh – and you wanted to know about network coverage in New Zealand?” he asked.

“Yes, that’s right.” Maybe now we were getting somewhere. Perhaps I’d been barking up the wrong cell tower.

“Did you check the coverage map on our website?’

“Yes, but they’re not even on the map. They’re off the right hand edge …”

“If they’re not on the map, then we won’t have coverage … can I help you with anything else?”


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