A few years back, our phone bill was way higher than usual.
I checked through it and one call alone cost £60.
The children were too tiny to use the phone.
Our little boy was about four, and our little girl was about six.
That left me and Cathy and the nanny.
I knew it wasn’t me, and they both swore it wasn’t them.
So Cathy called BT to check.
The operator checked the number.
She said it was a phone call that had lasted about two hours.
Cathy said, “That’s ridiculous no one here has made a call that long.”
She asked what the number was.
The operator said, “It’s an 0900 number madam, the sort they use for chat lines.”
Cathy said, “Chat lines?”
The woman said, “Yes madam, have you had a word with your husband? Sometimes men use these lines and…er…forget to mention it to their wives.”
Cathy put the phone down and asked me if I’d forgotten to mention it.
This is getting silly now.
The chat lines are the little adverts you see in the back of Time Out and The Sunday Sport.
“Naughty Girls, Up For Fun (And Anything Else).”
Fair enough., whatever floats your boat.
But, apart from anything else, how can that take two hours?
There was nothing for it but to call the number.
A recorded voice answered.
It sounded like a chirpy, well brought up youngster.
It said, “Hello, this is Jimbo the Jumbo. Would you like to hear my latest adventure? It all started at the airport one day…….”
There it was, problem solved.
There used to be a comic supplement with The Sunday Times, called ‘The Funday Times’.
I used to give it to the kids so I could get five minutes to read the main paper in peace.
My son’s favourite character was a little aeroplane, called Jimbo the Jumbo.
At the top of the cartoon strip was a phone number to call for a story.
My son had dialled the number and listened to the story.
When he’d heard it, he just put the receiver down and walked away.
It must have laid there, repeating Jimbo’s advertures over-and-over, for two hours.
Until someone eventually noticed and popped it back on the phone.
See the only time he used the phone was talking to either of his grandmas.
We’d never told him you had to hang it up when you’d finished..
We’d never told him it cost money.
He thought it was free, like the radio.
At four years old, you don’t even know the world of paying for things exists, or how it works.
You don’t know, and you don’t know you don’t know.
A child’s mind works the same way as a grownup’s mind.
We think what we know is all there is to know.
So we interpret everything according to what we know.
Stanley Pollitt had always wanted a little farm in Kent, complete with sheep.
So when he’d made enough money, he bought one.
It was everything he wanted: picturesque and idyllic.
Except the sheep began getting fatter and fatter.
Stanley realised he didn’t know the ways of the country yet.
And it was obvious he was over feeding the sheep.
So he cut the amount of feed down.
But the sheep still kept getting fatter.
So Stanley cut their feed still further.
And yet still the sheep got fatter.
So he cut their feed again.
And one day the sheep all died.
They starved to death.
It turned out they hadn’t been getting fatter after all.
Their wool had been growing.
Which may be pretty obvious to someone from the country.
But Stanley wasn’t from the country.
And all he saw was the evidence of his eyes.
And we are forced to interpret any situation using the only tool we have.
Our own experience.
Until we know something, it doesn’t exist as a possibility.
Once we know it, we can’t believe everyone doesn’t know it.
And yet there was a time when each of us didn’t know anything.
Not a single thing.
In fact there is still an infinity of stuff we don’t know.
Maybe, rather than defending the tiny bit of knowledge we do know.
Maybe we should be embracing what we don’t know.
Lao Tzu said, “The wise man knows he doesn’t know. The fool doesn’t know he doesn’t know.”
Alfred North Whitehead said, “The problem with the world is that the ignorant are arrogant and cocksure, while the intelligent are full of doubt.”
We think it’s a sign of strength to have an immediate opinion on everything.
But actually all that does is shut down the enquiry.
It can be much more powerful to say, “I don’t know.”
That opens up the way to something new.