Joanne Palmer: Press 3 to send me to Fiji |

Joanne Palmer: Press 3 to send me to Fiji

Joanne Palmer

— I just had the worst fight of my life. Not with a family member, co-worker or a stranger. Oh, no. That would have been easy. Instead, I pitted myself against an automated phone answering system. I yelled at a robotic voice. Railed against technology. Went toe-to-toe with option number two. The annoying voice asked me what seemed to be the problem and I snapped, “You are the problem. You are driving me crazy!”

False friendliness always has annoyed me. But when it comes from a computerized voice, it’s even worse. The relentlessly chirpy voice replied, “I’m sorry, I don’t understand that. Let’s start over.”

“Well understand this,” I yelled and slammed the phone down. The thrill of victory lasted all of 10 seconds until I realized, with horror, I’d have to start all over again. Arrgh!

Automation: 1

Home Team: 0

Not one to give up easily, I redialed. Na├âively, I thought I knew exactly how to win this battle. I bypassed all the voice prompts by pressing zero – usually a sure bet to get to an actual person.

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Did I want to enter my 16-digit account number?


Did I want to hear my estimated wait time?


Did I want to leave a call-back number?

Zero. Zero, zero, zero.

Just as my forefinger began to cramp, I got an actual person. Victory! I pumped my fist in the air.

Automation: 0

Home Team: 1

The actual person listened to my super-sized platter of complaints and requests and did nothing. Nothing. She passed the buck right back to automation by offering to transfer me to a different 800 number. “Can’t you help me,” I begged. “I don’t want to start over with another automated system.”

“I’ll transfer you now” she said, “but if I lose you, write this number down.”

I spoke very, very slowly, enunciating my words as if speaking a foreign word for the first time.

“Do you know how weird that sounds? You are the phone company. P-H-O-N-E C-O-M-P-A-N-Y. You should know how to transfer a call, right?”

The only response was a long sigh. And then, she disconnected me.

Human: 1

Home Team: 0

Right then and there, I gave up. This was a perfect opportunity for AFOG (another frickin’ opportunity for growth). I lit some incense and practiced a relaxing chant I learned from the Great Swami Origami. I will share this chant with you, dear reader, for the next time you are frustrated with automation:

“Om, ohblahdiohblahdah. Howdy, oh Great and Divine One. It’s been awhile, but it’s me, the really nice, kind person who just last night gave the last bite of my key lime pie to my son. I believe in karma, but just this once, could you make an exception? I’d sure appreciate it if you transmit a tiny swarm of killer bees through the phone line into the office of the person who invented the automated phone answering system? Thanks, Divine One. Om, ohblahdiblahdiblah.”

Waves of bliss crashed over me. My consciousness shot up into the cosmic stratosphere. I was at one with the world and no longer needed to rail against the forces of automation. Images of the lotus flower appeared before my eyes, and I relaxed into the organic cotton cushions of my couch profoundly grateful for all of life’s blessings.

Ahhhhh …

Press one if you’d like a private session with the Great Swami Origami. Press two if you’d like to go straight to the horoscopes. Press three if you liked this column and would like to send the columnist on an all-expense paid summer vacation to Fiji.

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