As I write, there are an estimated 1.3 million Canadian adults out of work.
I can fix that.
Put them to work, I say. Put them to work at the other end of my telephone line.
There is a galaxy-sized vacuum at the other end of my phone line and it is crying out for human beings to fill it. At the moment it is occupied by a cringe-making mechanical Robovoice. Every time I call my bank, an airline, a government office, the CBC or a large business concern, Robovoice intercepts my call with what has to be the most insincere statement uttered since Richard Nixon’s ‘I am not a crook’.
“Your call,” purrs Robovoice “is important to us.”
No. No it’s not. If my call was important it would be answered by one of the living, breathing 1.3 million unemployed Canadians out there who could use a warm, comfortable desk job answering phones.
What ‘Your call is important to us’ really means is the exact, 180-degree opposite. It really means “We’ve found a way to make even more money by firing our receptionists and replacing them with a recording. Incoming calls are so cosmically unimportant to us we’re willing to risk offending the crap out of our customers by forcing them to converse with a vending machine.”
What’s more, the messages from Robovoice — (‘This call may be monitored to ensure voice quality’ — gimme a break) — are so blatantly false they wouldn’t bamboozle the most gullible and compliant customer this side of Elmer the Safety Elephant.
We don’t all surrender meekly. Many of us instinctively dial ‘O’ the instant we hear Robovoice warming up, and often that will put us in touch with a human operative.
As for the more devious and sophisticated ‘Interactive Voice Response Systems’, there is a growing guerrilla network of websites that offer tips on how to sabotage the CCB’s (cheap corporate bastards). One website counsels that we should abandon the frustrating practice of mashing button after button (‘For help with overbilling, press 368’) and just holler ‘OPERATOR!” at the receiver until a homo sapiens comes on the line.
Another website advises us to swear like a paratrooper — apparently X-rated diatribes can trigger emotion-detection technology which brings a live operator on the run.
Feels good, but it’s bad for the blood pressure.
Problem is, even if we shout or curse or use technological voodoo to bypass most of the commands they’ve still got us dancing like trained monkeys — when all we really want is to connect with another human being with a brain and a heart.
Is that really so much to ask?
We could always take our business elsewhere — providing there is an elsewhere. But with businesses going global and ‘conglomerating’ like cancer cells, too often Robovoice is the only game in town.
My friends say I’m a Luddite when it comes to phone technology. They say I’d be happier if the world communicated by smoke signals.
To which I say: nonsense. I’m an up-to-date guy when it comes to telephone technology. After all, I have Call Waiting.
If you call me and you get a busy signal it means you wait until I’m through.