JOHN Leonard, who runs the Hong Kong office of the City of Miami, found something odd in his latest phone bill: a call to Algeria, on August 1, costing $43.91 and lasting more than three minutes. As he has no friends, relatives or business contacts in Algeria, and has never made a call to that country, he assumed it was a mistake and wrote to Hongkong Telecom. This was the reply: ''Please be informed that we will not accept responsibility and no refund or adjustment will be made, if the call was made to a wrong number by the customer himself . . .'' In defence of the phone company, the disputed number in Algeria is similar to one that John's girlfriend has used. But the mystery remains. John said: ''Who would spend three minutes and six seconds talking to a wrong number in a country where he knows no one and whose language he does not speak?'' It is odd. We suppose it could happen, in theory, if the caller was very stupid: Caller: Hello? Mother? Algerian: [Incomprehensible Algerian utterance meaning: ''It's five o'clock in the morning, you mountain-goat infidel.''] Caller: You don't sound well, mum. Algerian: [Die, foreign scum.] Caller: Gesundheit. I thought I would tell you about my operation . . . Logical steps TONY Giles was at the Mass Transit Railway station in Central the other day, when he came upon a stationary escalator with a notice saying: Please note: This escalator is now a staircase. ''Sounds to me like a neat way of avoiding an apology for a breakdown,'' he said. ''It also raises an important philosophical question. Shouldn't the notice say: 'This staircase used to be an escalator'?'' We think it's a brilliant concept. You could stick signs on Hong Kong's many dug-up roads, saying: ''Please note: This road is now a hole.'' Quackdown ONE of the oddest newspapers ads we have seen for a long time was pointed out to us by reader John Fleming. ''Water Damaged White Duck Feathers For Sale by Tender,'' it said. A seller in Tuen Mun has 165 bales of them, each containing 90 kg of feathers. This is a lot of duck feathers. Imagine 247 people on one side of a set of scales and the feathers on the other side, and you will get an idea of the amount. But there are two odd things about this case. 1. The firm's name is ''Plenty Luck Midstream Services Ltd.'' John said: ''Sounds like there was not much luck for ducks or company. Guess they were caught midstream.'' 2. The damage was by water. But surely water would flow off duck feathers, like, well, like water off a duck's back? Howard's end GIVING people a list of names of your old bosses as ''referees'' can be risky. This is particularly true if you don't know if your previous boss will write anything nice about you. A friend of Fred Fredricks, tax consultant, wrote off to the former employers of a job-seeker and got the following reply (name changed to protect the guilty): ''Dear Sir, ''We have received your enquiry concerning our former employee, Mr Howard Potemkin. Mr Potemkin's employment with this company was terminated on June 30, 1993, and we are satisfied. ''You asked specifically about Mr Potemkin's responsibility and enthusiasm. We had many problems during the time Mr Potemkin was employed by us and we found that Mr Potemkin was always responsible. ''As for enthusiasm, I do not recall an employee who was fired with more enthusiasm.'' Coke E-coli THERE'S a good reason why Wan Chai Ferry Dumplings have such an unappetising name, we heard from Jon Spall of Robinson Road. Legend has it that they were first cooked up by a woman who used to sell them outside the Wan Chai Ferry. ''News of how wonderful they were spread, and the rest is history,'' said Jon. Incidentally, we hear the Furama hotel has a new cocktail called Victoria Harbour. We cannot help but wonder what the cocktail has floating in it. Some people might think it strange to name a drink after one of the world's most famous sewage outflows. Nosey barker STOP. PUT DOWN THAT WEAPON. We know that feminists are likely to be incensed by this item. It shows the sign on the door of the women's toilet at a building in Causeway Bay we visited earlier this week. one column ragout goes here It appears to be outrageously sexist, but in fact is not. The word ''dogs'' is here not intended as male chauvinist pig slang for an unattractive woman. The sign is in the new RSPCA headquarters. The management fear that soft-hearted women may wish to take their pooches into the rest room with them. That's all, honest.