I Automatically Avoid the Automatic


            Eighty percent of the phone calls I receive on my “land line,” as opposed to my “outer-space line,” are for no good reason.

Here’s a general rule of thumb: If I need something, I must deal with a recording: If you have a billing inquiry, press 1. If you have a service issue, press 2. For adding services, press 3. For discontinuing some or part of your service, press 2X983PpQq9437 …

If I hear a genuine human voice, it is because the caller wants something from me. A donation, for instance.

Of the remaining 20 percent, most of it is from my family. Some would say that I don’t really need a “land line” anymore, but those people don’t realize that my mother would keep right on calling that line for the rest of my life and think I just haven’t paid the bill.

I keep my land line and justify it on the basis of it also being the source of my wi-fi service. It’s fashionable, but not necessarily cost-effective, to “bundle.”

If you call me on my “home phone,” be prepared to speak quickly. When the phone rings, I answer it and count three — one, one thousand, two, one thousand, three – and then I hang up because I realize correctly that there’s some automated process in which dozens, or perhaps hundreds, of numbers are rung at once, and a team of dedicated professionals is charged with punching the number of the poor slobs who actually answer.

I envision a villager, deep in the heart of some third-world nation, clicking on my number, then hearing a dial tone, and cursing in a foreign tongue, even though he has been instructed to speak in broken English and tell anyone who asks that his name is “Chuck.”

I don’t think this is irresponsible because I’m confident anyone who calls is representing a large corporation that is also sending mail, “e” and “snail.” The most efficient way to reach me, inexplicably, is by sending a letter. I do not trust the ebb and flow of my finances to efficiently handle the vagaries of “autopayment.”

Sometimes, when I’m going through that antiquated stack of mail, I don’t even use a calculator. I’m afraid I’ll forget how to do basic math.

Like school kids.

 

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