The curious case of Chinese whispers

When you’re relying on a brief and rather crackly mobile phone conversation in the midst of a sometimes noisy canalside environment for information there’s always potential for things to go awry. As we found out to our amusement one morning in January.

It was a very ordinary Friday morning when we received a telephone call from the Met Police. It’s not uncommon for the police to call us, they sometimes need to alert us to incidents and accidents or are looking for details of a boat owner so that they can get in contact with them. Usually these enquiries need our utmost attention as they are of either an urgent or sensitive nature, and sometimes both. So it took Jo by surprise when the PC she was speaking to told her that he was calling to make us aware of a mop head which had been dumped in the Regents Canal. 

Logical justification

Having only recently joined us Jo did think it was odd that the Met Police were calling about something so seemingly mundane. But, when you put this into the context of some of the other enquiries she had already taken she could easily rationalise it, after all mop heads come in all sorts of shapes and sizes so it was possible that this one was causing a real problem. Wasn’t it?

So, Jo duly forwarded this message to the local waterway office and their admin team got cracking with it. In doing so they needed to make contact with the policeman again for some more specific details about the location of the mop head in question. 

The confused and amused

It was at this point that it became clear that neither party could really understand why the other had called. Sarah, from our waterway office, couldn’t comprehend why the policeman who had reported the dumped item only minutes before was now vague and unsure about it….and the policeman who had actually called us to report a dumped moped (you know, those small motorbikes which sound very much like hairdryers on wheels) couldn’t understand why the peculiar woman on the other end of the phone was blabbering on about mop heads!   

After Jo’s initial embarrassment subsided she was able to chuckle along with the rest of the team, our waterway office and, of course, London’s very own Metropolitan Police force.

Last date edited: 21 June 2013

About this blog

Sarina Young

Sarina joined us in 2008 as our customer services co-ordinator. Among other things, she manages our national customer service team, complaints procedure and requests for information made to the Trust. She says that the most important thing to her is to be able to go home and feel as though she’s achieved something, however small that might be. Her job is hugely satisfying, widely varied, full of deadlines, immensely interesting, sometimes challenging and no day is ever the same, although some are surprisingly familiar!  

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