Long Distance Information by Trevor Plumbly

When my particular piece of modern communication conked out, the manual told me that all I had to do was dial the Freephone number and all would be well. So I did, and discovered the joys of trying to communicate with an international communications company.

Unlike the electronic castrati of the domestic answerphone voice, this clockwork secretary offered no apologies for the absence of real people. She opened by announcing that my call was important, and then promptly destroyed that dream by rattling off the numerical options available in zombie-like tones. I would have preferred to discuss these riches of information with a human being, but stoic that I am, I persisted.

Option one was obviously the shop window, offering all sorts of goodies. I had enough problems with the goody I had, so I soldiered on. Scrolling through, I jabbed the odd number to relieve stress and perhaps encounter a real person, but in most cases I was greeted by a robotic guitar version of ‘Greensleeves’. ‘Sales and service’ seemed the way to go, but the machine wanted my client ID number ‘in order to process my enquiry’. Not being in the army or prison, I was unable to rattle one off and stuck to being just Trevor Plumbly: wrong move! Smartasses on telephone trees get put back to ‘Greensleeves’.

Then I hit the big one: ‘press eight for a CUSTOMER SERVICE OFFICER’. Feeling a bit like an astronaut waiting for lift-off, I nervously touched the magic number and got yet another earful of ‘Greensleeves’. Ignoring the musical torture, I obeyed the electronic instructions and held on, and on. By the time someone finally responded, I had a better understanding of ‘the Stockholm Syndrome’ than previously. I clean forgot they had buggered up half my day and just felt so grateful HE was there and talking to ME! I blurted out my problem; he gave me a few simple tips, none of which worked. But I didn’t care; I was still in grateful mode. I suggested he might take a look at the thing personally. He sounded keen but unfortunately he lived in India. Having invested so much effort in climbing the tree, I was reluctant to end it, but doubtless there were others out there desperate for the sound of a human voice.

Sadly I reviewed the result of the morning’s efforts: Megacorp phonetree 1: Plumbly stoicism 0. Dear readers, if your gizmo goes on the blink, take a tip: unless you’ve got a few hours to burn and like ‘Greensleeves’ ad infinitum, buy a new one; it’s easier on the nerves.

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