Google has certainly taught me about the relevance of a number of days I would not have registered in my otherwise dull life. I wonder why they did not tell me yesterday that March 10 1876 was the day Alexander Graham Bell invented the first telephone.
I brought it up, since I am sure everyone has had the illuminating experience of corresponding with these automated telephones. I had an interesting encounter with one of these yesterday, and I might have considered not cursing the phone on it’s birthday. I don’t think I might have gone so far as to get a phone shaped cake with 134 candles on it, but I certainly would have been kinder in my criticism.
I pick up the phone to talk to a normal person, and I was, as expected, received with an abnormally crisp tone. Listening to the tone with which the message started, one would have thought, the machine senses how important this phone call is, and is certainly going to put me straight through to an Indian in a call center rightaway. Life can be cruel that way.
It launches into its melodrama without further ado.
IF YOU ARE STANDING WITH THE PHONE, PLEASE FIND A PLACE TO SIT, THIS COULD TAKE A WHILE. IF YOU HAVE NOT USED A RESTROOM IN THE PAST 30 MINUTES AND YOUR BLADDER USUALLY POUNDS WITHIN AN HOUR, PLEASE HANG UP AND USE THE RESTROOM.
You get the gist. Now, I am twiddling my thumbs waiting for the operator to pick up. The machine senses that I am getting complacent, and pounds me into action. My senses pick up like an accelerating porsche on an empty road, while I listen to the choices offered.
IF YOU LIKE ICECREAM PLEASE PRESS 2
IF YOU LIKE BADAM CAKE PLEASE PRESS 1
IF YOU LIKE CHOCOLATE PLEASE PRESS 1
Readers might be confused that the second and third choices viz. choosing badam cake and chocolate implore you to press 1. I state that merely to drive home the point that it does not matter what you press, the choices are only to sharpen your outlook. Merely testing to see if you are alert. Sometimes people fumble into a drooble riddled sleep induced by inactivity, and that causes delay to the others callers in the queue, because the unfortunate operator, now not only has to wake himself up, but also wake the customer up.
The system, meanwhile continues relentlessly.
PLEASE NOTE WE RECORD PHONE CALLS TO ENSURE QUALITY ASSURANCE.
PLEASE STATE YOUR NAME
SORRY! I DID NOT GET THAT. PLEASE STATE YOUR NAME
I am randomly jabbing things on my keypad to see if anything works as a shortcut. #)0
The phone sees what I am trying to do, and laughs mirthlessly. I can hear it boasting to its co-automatic phones that today another customer joined the long lines in the telephonic Hall of Punishment by trying to jump the system
PLEASE STATE YOUR NAME
All right – Julius Ceaser Cleopatra Masilamani
I AM SORRY. DID YOU SAY <all right july cider clear mass ill>?
NO! Julius Ceaser Cleopatra Masilamani. * inwardly cursing that at this rate cider or no cider, I will be ill by July.*
PLEASE SPELL YOUR NAME
I would have bought a towel and thrown it into the arena in a dramatic gesture symbolizing that giving up is better than this, had it not been for the thought that I would have to undergo the previous 20 minutes again, no matter when I start. I summon all the inner strength that is the hallmark of the homosapiens and hold on.
The system then tries horrendous music, cheesy dialogues, mildly affectionate – “YOU ARE AN IMPORTANT PERSON. JUST NOT IMPORTANT ENOUGH FOR US TO CONSIDER. PLEASE DO NOT THINK YOU ARE BEING IGNORED BY ALL, JUST BY US.” etc at me. I hang on. If anything, we alphabet soup names can hang on. No way are we repeating our kindergarden syllabi over the phone again (A is for apple, B is for Bat)
Finally, a tired sounding human voice breaks in. I could cry with relief and joy. The rationale is, if you are willing to put up with this much, you must really be interested in talking. So, they put me on hold while they transfer me to the relevant department.
Happy 134th Birthday Dear Phone.