January 18, 2002
January 18, 2002


FRUSTRATIONS OF OUR AGE THAT CREATE STRESS, are no longer people. It is the machines.

Answering machines: The nemesis of our age. I am sure all of our population has had at least one or more experience with an answering machine. We have become accustomed to the personal ones. Occasionally we get the wrong number and leave an inappropriate message. Luckily there are some kind souls that call us and let us redirect our calls to the proper source, but it is a person that changes the course of action.

Human's are becoming increasingly more difficult to find on the other side of the line. A call to a government organization starts with: If you call Department A push one; Department B push two, etc. After listening to the entire Menu (Why do they call it that? I'm not ordering a dinner) you are frustrated to find that the selection you need is not available. Many of the options do not pertain to the issue that you wish and apparently the government, or corporation, or small business does not feel it is necessary to have an individual swamped with angry calls so they dismiss the caller by creating a circle of non-directional selections.

The one that annoys me the most is the one that says dial the extension number now if you know it. Some are kind enough to offer the names of the departments or persons you might want to reach with their number. However, if I knew the person's name I would probably have their extension number handy. I never know the person or sometimes even the department that I need to speak with. So all that lovely information goes for naught. Frequently, there is no option to speak to a person. Moreover, when there is one, you are left on hold for up to one hour, only to have the line go blank. For a minute it may raise your hopes by actually sounding as if it is dialing your extension, only to dash them again by that everlasting click. You are left to try the same routine over and over again.

Sometimes in frustration, you try some of the options hoping to reach a REAL person. This may be effective in sales because they want to make money, not hear your complaints. So you disguise yourself as a buyer and then you leap upon the human with your complaint to which you might actually get the information that you requested. However, that is not always the case and you are told they don't have any way of obtaining that information. Asking to speak to a Supervisor might lead to the pot of gold, but often it just leads to that damn click again. Or the salesperson accuses you of abusing them because you are at your wit's end and it shows in your voice. From time to time you get sympathetic responders who actually act as helpfully as they can. I try to reach across the lines to kiss their feet. In every way I can't I thank them enough. I want them to know my gratitude for being there. I usually say as soon as I have a human on the line, "Thanks, thank you for being a person. I am so grateful that you are not a machine. You've made my day. , etc."

Yet that often turns into a dead end because the next telephone number that the responder gave you, has the same problems. Another menu. Press one if you want---, Press two if you want___. If that line has the option of an operator, and she is so kind as to redirect you, another round of the same happens. Let's say you strike luck twice! You actually get to speak to someone, but you have been redirected to the wrong department. They can't handle your claim, complaint, or question. Again through the kindness of the human heart you are given another number to call. You dial it and you experience the same run around as the first call. You check your numbers because the menu seems awfully familiar.


Write a letter. It is faster, you can keep a copy to prove that you contacted the party. This becomes a 50/50 shot. I think the art of reading got lost. Often an unrelated answer is whisked to your door. That is better than no answer, after all, now you know that they at least received your missive. AND SOMETIMES YOU ACTUALLY GET ACTION!

Please note: Humor is exaggeration. Take this particular column in the spirit of playfulness.