I despise the 21st-century. I just wasn’t made to be living during this time period. Call me naïve or romantic, or whatever you want to call me, but, really, those of us with tiny frustration thresholds need to be living in the good old nineteenth century (preferably with extraordinarily strong constitutions, so as never to have to visit a doctor of the age, and with obscene amounts of money, so as to have lots of servants to run the household, never having a twenty-first-century clue that one should feel guilty about such things as having servants. I know. You don’t need to tell me: I’ve read too many books and seen too many movies in my life). The early part of the twentieth century might be pretty good, too, although by then, things like telephones were becoming prevalent, and everyone in the “civilized” world was beginning to expect everyone else in the “civilized” world to know how to use them. Hell, though, even the second part of the twentieth-century would have been fine up until about twenty-five years ago. Then, along came not only the telephone, but also voice mail, voice mail that replaces the human you’re hoping to find on the other end of the line when you need to do business.
I despise telephones. I mean, they’re good for keeping in touch with friends and family members in far away places, but other than that, they’re nothing but a nuisance, always ringing at the wrong time, calls usually coming from someone with whom I have no desire to speak. However, if I lived in the nineteenth century, I wouldn’t really have that many friends and family members in far away places, would I? Almost everyone I knew would probably live within a ten-mile radius of my home. Maybe we’d summer far away in Newport, RI (remember, I have obsecene amounts of money in my nineteenth-century world) or something, but probably half my acquaintances would do the same (or they’d come visit and stay in one of the twenty guest rooms in the house). We’d just sit out under parasols on the sand instead of by the fire in the parlor. Possibly, I’d have some crazy cousins who’d picked up and gone West to find gold or something (or, knowing my relatives just to be able to say they’d made it across the Rocky Mountains and had lost only one toe to frostbite), but for the most part, everyone would be close by, and instead of hearing annoying jangles and beeps and shrills, I’d get calling cards (don’t you just love the idea of calling cards?) from my friends and would actually get to see them when talking to them. Visiting Aunt Betty, who’d moved to her husband’s farm eight miles away, would be an all-day event and an excuse for a fancy afternoon picnic.
But no, I have to live in this Godforsaken age. I wonder if Alexander Graham Bell ever imagined that by the year 2007, most people would use his miraculous invention to interact with an actual human being on the other end of the line only about 10% of the time. The rest of the time would be spent listening to voicemail messages and options. Don’t you hate “options?” None of them is ever the one you really want, which of course, is to speak to a live human being. It used to be, in the early days of voice mail, that if you wanted to speak to a live human being, all you had to do was to pretend you didn’t have a touch-tone phone. Well, that’s not fooling anyone in this day and age. Stop a homeless person on the street, and I bet even he or she is likely to have a cell phone. Can you imagine a cell phone with a dial? Only Thumbelina would be able to use it.
Does anyone else remember the days when you could always “press zero to speak to a customer service representative?” Now if you press zero, after losing patience halfway through a list of 100 different not-anything-close-to-what-you-need-or-want options, you will either be cut off, having to call back and listen to those first 50 options all over again, or you will get a voice that says, “I’m sorry. That is not a valid option,” and will still have to listen to the 50 options all over again. By this point, you’re praying for the “if you’d like to blow up this company” option.
Last time I moved was a little over twelve years ago. Back in those, oh so good old days, I had to cancel my phone service and things like my utility services, just as anyone moving has to do today. I can remember calling the companies, explaining to a live human (I remember the woman at the phone company being especially excited when she found out I was getting married and would need a new name listing in the phone book) that I was moving, asking them to transfer accounts, and having everything in place by the time I moved. The post office used to send out change of address forms to send to magazines, etc. I guess they no longer do that, because I sent them a change of address form ages ago, and we haven’t received a thing. Luckily, my lovely husband volunteered to be the one to call the magazines to which we subscribe and give them our new address. He was not, however, able to call the company in which I was given some stock as a graduation present years ago, and from which I receive small dividend checks on a quarterly basis.
Let me tell you what happens when you try to change your address with this company. Nothing. That’s right. Nothing. Yes, you sit through that long laundry list of options, tell it you want to change your address, and then you are told you have to pick a pin number. This pin number has to be six (six. Who the hell, other than a Guinness Book of World Record’s best memory candidate is going to be able to remember a six-digit pin number unless she chooses something like her birth date, which we all know is a huge “no-no” when it comes to choosing security numbers?). So, you go through this process; choosing a pin number you can’t possibly remember when the system cuts you off, and you have to call back; the voice on the other end verifies your current address; and then it asks for your new zip code. You punch in your zip code. That’s when nothing happens. You call back and go through the whole damn process again. Get nothing. I don’t know; maybe the new zip code is the pin number for the “blowing up the company” option. Perhaps the company no longer exists. Perhaps through all the smoke and debris, all anyone can hear is the monotone voice instructing you to “Say ‘customer service’ now.” God knows where my dividend checks are going to end up. If you get one, would you please forward it to me?
And coming soon: “Fun with Voice Mail Setup”