March 31, 2010

Tales by Triplett – Phone Phobia

Triplett,PatrickBy Patrick Triplett

Remember the good old days when you could dial a telephone number and actually speak to the person you were calling? Well, those days are over. Now you either talk to an answering machine, a voice mail, or a recorded message that gives you an endless list of options before you are able to communicate with an actual person.

A typical business call goes something like:

“Please state your name, address, date of birth, and social security number.”

This is then followed by:

“Press 1 if you are calling for our business hours. Press 2 if you are calling about our locations in your area. Press 3 if you want to open a new account. Press 4 if you want to change an existing account. Press 5 if you would like to hear about our special offers. Press 6 if you would like to speak to someone who will tell you they cannot help you and you will have to speak with someone else. Otherwise stay on the line and a representative will be with you shortly,” (meaning sometime between now and next week).

Then they always conclude with “Your call is very important to us.”

I recently had my home computer freeze up on me and called customer service at the 800 help line number. Naturally I was greeted by the recorded voice, and after going through all the options and waiting for 20 minutes while listening to elevator music, a real person finally answered, named Zamir. The conversation went something like:

Me: I am having trouble with my home computer.
Zamir: What seems problem to be?
Me: I was attempting to save a document when my computer froze up.
Zamir: Hum. Did you try clicking on the rewezert key?
Me: Excuse me. I couldn’t understand. Which key?
Zamir: The rewezert key.
Me: Could you spell that please?
Zamir: R-E-S-E-T.
Me: Oh, the reset key. Yes, I tried that. Nothing happened.
Zamir: Hum. Try clicking on stwrat and then on cumqueter propigeres.
Me: I didn’t understand. Please spell it.
Zamir: S-T-A-R-T. Then on C-O-M-P-U-T-E-R P-R-O-P-E-R-T-I-E-S.

This went on for nearly an hour before Zamir concluded that I needed to call the store where I purchased the computer. After pressing 12 different option buttons; I was finally able to talk to a person in electronics, who told me I could either purchase a new computer for $945 or bring mine in for repair, which would also cost $945 dollars, that it may or may not fix the problem, and would take ten days before they could get to it. After carefully weighing my options, I decided to go with the new computer.

I have problems with answering machines too. I hate leaving messages, even to friends, mainly because I am bad at it. I can’t seem to just do the basics and state my name, number and a brief message as it tells you to do. I tend to ramble and don’t know when to stop.

“Hi. Just calling to see if you wanted to get together on Saturday night. I know this is late notice and I would understand if you already had other plans or whatever. And speaking of Saturday, are you going to the game that afternoon? I heard it was sold out, so you might not be able to get tickets, unless you already have them. I tried to get some but they were out. It should be a great -”

Then their answering machine goes off before I have had the chance to say my name, phone number, and the reason why I wanted to get together, causing me to have to call back.

Leaving a voice mail message when calling a business is even worse. I fumble around, trying to think of everything I need to say. After starting out with the basic information, name, address, phone number, date of birth, and social security number, a typical message, (and thought process) would go something like:

“I am calling regarding a letter I received recently regarding,” d_ _ _ , I said the word regarding twice in the same sentence, “a problem with my account. Well, actually it’s not so much a problem as it is an issue regarding,” d_ _ _ , I said it again. Now I lost my train of thought. “Um, an issue,” quick, what’s another word for ‘regarding’. Hurry up, idiot, the voice mail is going to go off, “With our bank account statement that we, meaning my wife and I, do not feel is correct.” I’ve been talking for five minutes and I haven’t even gotten to my point yet. Maybe I should hang up and start over. No, then they’ll really think I’m an idiot. I better keep going. “So regarding this account —”

I only hope I never have to place an emergency 911 call. Either I or the person I’m calling for would be long gone before I could finish.

Editor’s note: Patrick’s recently published book, Turning 60 – Prematurely, is now available for purchase on request through PublishAmerica at local book stores. This is a book on aging with all of the wit and tongue-in-check humor that Patrick is known for.

For comments regarding this story Patrick can be reached by e-mail at