After complaints that telephone calls aren't being answered a solution has been determined. Anybody ringing the lending library office at the top of the building finds their call put through to Maisie in the basement. Maisie then tries to put the call through to the lending library office and after three rings it comes back down to Maudie's 'phone, Maudie sitting next to Maisie. Bad words are said by one sotto voce while the other apologises to the caller and tries again. With the same result. Third time lucky, they always say, and as "they" patently have no idea whatsoever Maisie tries to put the call through to the lending counter, that being next to the lending library office. Only to discover that that is no longer a valid number on the switchboard. After apologising to the caller, taking a message and promising to pass it on, Maisie and Maudie draw straws to see whose turn it is this time to run up all those stairs and pass the message on to whoever's up in lending today.
Sybil tries to ring the lending counter to try and sort out an inter-library loan request and gets a disconnected tone. Doreen, who is in charge of the lending library inter alia, is passing so Sybil asks a sensible question.
"Is there something wrong with the 'phone upstairs? I keep getting a disconnected tone when I ring it."
Doreen blows a gasket.
"I only had the number changed this morning. All the lending staff know about it."
After a suitable interval, Sybil points out:
"Yes, but we didn't. What number do we need to ring to get through upstairs?"
Doreen blows another gasket.
It turns out that the new number is what was the old Children's Librarian number, back in the days when dear old Betty Rosencrantz was Children's Librarian Of All The Russias. So that's all right then, isn't it.
Sibyl was bitching about this exchange over the lunch table.
"Why didn't you ring extension 18?" asked Maybelle."What's extension 18?" we all asked."It's the other 'phone on the counter. It's the one the staff use when they want to get through to the counter. It's sort of a secret but everybody knows about it."
I've worked in this building for nearly two decades and it's the first I've heard of it.