Automated Phone Systems – Machine War (text to be published in the Marlin Democrat)
When I sat down to write this article, my computer came up with the dreaded blue screen: no C-drive detected. I felt like I’d been dropped into one of the “Terminator” movies. The machines were out to get me. I had to deal directly with the dreaded auto-system in order to speak with a human minion of the machines.
I dialed the toll free number, and began the auto-sorting.
My problem? “None of these,” I said.My express service number? “On the back of the computer,” it prompted, “Say the number or enter.” I repeated the ten digits.
“Please hold for a representative,” the machine ordered. The phone rang once followed by the empty sound of a lost connection. I thought some words, but I didn’t say them. I hung up and dialed again to repeat the process, hoping for a better result.
The second call netted me a young man in India, the rumbling sound of other calls from folk at the mercy of their machines in the background. After 20 minutes I had a C-drive again. I think the machines want to build a false sense of security in me, so I’ll abandon this article. I am not fooled.
Want to get information on an account, or pay a bill by phone? Yes, I know I can do this by computer. I’ve tangled with the machines before to my sorrow. Machines have suckered businesses into the battle against humanity using these phone and computerized systems to increase efficiency and save money. I yearn for the voice of a live person, even if they owe allegiance to the machines. I hope for human sympathy, and punch “O” over and over and over. Sometimes a machine error allows contact with a biological entity.
I call the doctor’s office at our large clinic. The first thing I get is a machine. It wants information, and if it doesn’t get it, I won’t get the appointment I want, either! It requires a phone number and address, the better to keep track of you. I’m not paranoid, really! Don’t forget the patient’s birth date and insurance.
I wanted to talk to the nurse. Of course the machine won’t let you speak with her; you must leave a message. The machine dictates the data needed, some of which I’ve already given. Do it! The machine insists on it all, or the nurse will not call. Last name, first name, birth date of patient, insurance, doctor, reason for calling, call-back number … all given in a staccato manner, barely a pause…Aiee! What was that last one? What number do you press for a repeat? I punch “O” hoping the system will let me speak to something breathing. Sadly, I must go through the system again.
I’m about to e-mail this column if the machines permit. If you don’t hear from me in a few days, please send help. The machines want to keep their secrets, and hold all of us at their mercy. I’ll keep typing as long as I can….