The other day, I had occasion to make a phone call to a financial institution. Spending time on the phone with a customer service agent is an interesting exercise in the art of developing patience, eliciting wistful thoughts about converting to Buddhism. In addition, calls are recorded “for quality assurance purposes” but only the company has access to the tape, so there’s no meaningful record of the conversation – at least from the customer’s perspective. How very convenient.
I dialed and went through the usual labyrinth of “ for pension advice, press four”. “If you wish to speak to a service representative, press ‘hash’ then ‘the last four digits of your Social Security number, followed by ‘hash’”. Waiting to listen to all the options means that you’ve forgotten what option two was for and end up pressing the first convenient button in the hope that somewhere in the cowshed of a building where such calls are handled there’s actually someone there, someone who preferably speaks a little English and isn’t a minimum wage leprous Romanian who’s hired by the day. Hoop-jumping completed. I waited, trying not to listen to not very soothing music. Female voice “Your call is important to us….blah..” No it isn’t, you mindless, patronising hussy. If it were, I would now be speaking to a real person, not an inflatable like you. More vapid (and identical) soothing music plus additional reassurance of the vital importance of my call. My fingers tightened imperceptibly on the phone as I entertained myself by thinking how nice it would be to bang someone’s head against the wall. Finally, a youngish male voice who “needs to run through a few security checks with me”. My mother’s maiden name? Haven’t a clue but best guess what I might have said thirty years ago when first asked gets me past. There is such a sense of relief that one is actually communicating with a human being that one bonds with the youth, gormless as he undoubtedly is, as one might bond with a kidnapper.
Business concluded. “Is there anything else I can help you with today?” Unless he’s offering to wash my car or buy me dinner he can get the hell off the line. “Thank you for calling”. I can hear the gratitude in his voice.