Thursday, May 19, 2011

Getting the Message...

One of the first things I do upon arriving home from work each afternoon is to listen to the messages on my answering machine. I push the red-flashing button to listen and then move around the kitchen--taking care of my groceries, sorting the mail I just picked up from the box at the end of my road, and occasionally grabbing a pen to jot down the number of someone who needs a return call.

Sometimes, I'm able to wash a sink full of breakfast dishes while listening to the dulcet tones of friends, clients, and associates--as one or two of them are extremely loquacious and they ramble on and on. Most likely, they do so because they appreciate a captive audience…One which doesn’t interrupt them while they speak.

I’m a creature of habit, and I always look for that flashing light as I set my parcels on the sideboard. Once in a great while the button is dark, and for a moment I feel bereft. Wasn’t there anyone who needed me while I was gone?

And once in awhile, I find myself wishing that I’d never pushed that blinking button.

Last Tuesday was just such a day. The message I heard as I put the milk and eggs in the fridge was a recorded one. No live being asking me a question or telling me some news, but a canned soundtrack. It was from my telephone company, informing me that it was imperative that I call the following toll-free number.

Well, what possible urgency could exist which would cause my telephone service provider to leave such a message? I knew for sure I’d paid my bill. Didn’t I? I wracked my brain, trying to recall that happy occasion. I couldn’t remember specifically writing out the check, but I was positive that I would have felt some unease if I was guilty of the offense of non-payment. The problem came when I realized that I didn’t have the checkbook from which that payment would have been written. My husband did. So, I called the number and see what was what. I certainly didn’t want to risk disconnection based on my mental self-assurances. My memory has let me down too many times in the past.

I dialed the number. Not surprisingly—I was greeted by another recording.

The female voice began speaking in English, but promptly switched to Spanish. I rolled my eyes and sighed. I’m pretty sure my telephone company is based in America, and I really didn’t have time to decipher “por (something) espangnol (something something) numero dos.”

So, I didn’t “something something” anything… just held the line and hoped that the robotic voice would revert to my native tongue. After a pregnant pause, it did.

“Please enter your four digit PIN number, then press pound.”

Oh, yeah. My “PIN” number. For the life of me, I had no idea what that might be. None. I remembered getting a notice from my telephone company several years earlier, informing me of that vital combination of numbers, and I’m sure I’d filed it away for future reference. Filed it somewhere. In my office? In mi casa? I had no idea where it was. No idea why I’d need it.

Until now. How would I find out the reason for the urgent call from the phone company if I couldn’t produce that PIN? In another moment, I breathed a sigh of relief. I had options!

“If you do not know your PIN, please press ‘two’, followed by the pound key.”

Okay! I pressed ‘two’ and '#'.... and waited.

“If you are calling regarding an existing residential account, press ‘one’. If you are calling about an existing commercial or business account, press ‘two’.”

Well, heck. I didn’t know WHY I was calling! But because the message was left on the answering machine at home and not at my office, I took a stab in the dark. I pressed ‘one’.

“If you are calling about making payment arrangements, press ‘one’. If you are calling for a new service, a change in service, or to disconnect an existing service, press ‘two’. If you are calling about internet service, press ‘three’.

Didn’t they listen to their own recorded messages? Didn’t the company realize that they hadn’t given me enough information to know WHY I was calling? How much time did I have before making up my mind about which number to press? I could feel a mild panic setting in. Or was it mild irritation?

“If you would like to hear the menu again, press ‘four’.”

Okay, that bought me some time. I pressed ‘four’ and listened to the whole spiel all over again. At the end of the instructions, I took another stab in the dark. I took a gamble on the most likely reason I was calling. It’s not often that I’m the last to know why I make a phone call, but this is the age of technology. I learned a long time ago that I’m almost ALWAYS the last one to understand anything when it comes to ‘modern conveniences’. (And I use that term loosely.)

I pressed ‘one’.

“One moment, please.”

At least the robot was polite. I waited for a human being to answer the phone.

I waited in vain.

“Please enter your PIN number, followed by the pound key.”

Well, for crying out loud! Hadn’t I pressed ‘two’ just moments ago, when instructed to do so after I ascertained that I didn’t KNOW my PIN number?

Yes, I most certainly had.

“I don’t KNOW my PIN number!” I uttered aloud to no one.

A moment of silence, and then, “We’re sorry. Please enter your PIN number, followed by the pound key.”

“I SAID I don’t KNOW my PIN number!” I felt idiotic as I spoke to a mechanical being, but what were my options?

“We’re sorry. Please enter your PIN number, followed by the pound key.”

Exercising my vast reserves of self-control, I kept silent. I seethed—which was, perhaps, an over-reaction--but the thought crossed my mind that this was a ridiculous waste of my time, and as a customer of this company for almost 30 years, I deserved to be spoken to by a real, live human.

I waited.

“Please hold, while we connect you with the next available operator.”

Halleluiah! I was going to speak with a PERSON. I only hoped he or she spoke English…

I heard a click, and then… “Good afternoon. This is Candice. May I have your PIN number, please?”

Oh, for crying out loud. This was ridiculous. I called up faded memories of Sesame Street and growled, “Si. Quatros-uno-ocho-cinqo.”

“Ah. Buenos dias, Senora.”

I hung up.

And sent a new check--just in case.


  1. I got all cranky reading that and threw my phone accross the room...Russel Crowe would've been proud of me...

  2. Hehehe.... My dim-witted brain recalls something about Mr. Crowe and telephones, but I can't remember exactly what.

    Hey, Ali g. It's really (really) nice to see you here.

    Hope all is well Down Under.

    Hugs from Up Above.