First, there is dialing the toll-free number and expecting a human being will answer your call. Silly you — you are calling a computer company, and humans are a sideline.
Now, you have choices to make. Making your way through the menu of verbal options is akin to Alice finding her way back from Wonderland. You need to listen to the whole list of possibilities and then choose the one that is closest to your problem. Of course, if you knew what your problem was, you probably would not be calling.
Some systems have you speak commands, and others allow you to enter numbers on your telephone key pad.
Talking to a machine is an odd experience for most of us. But the voice is kind as it tells you that it does not understand what you said. You might apologize, because you have a stuffy nose. Then again, the computer might not be programmed for forgiveness.
Having made your way to the correct department, you are notified as to how long your wait will be. It can be anywhere from five minutes to until hell freezes over. You know if you hang up you will need to start over, and your time investment is already high. You keep hoping that you will not need to go to the toilet until this is all done.
They’ve chosen their standby music from “Barry Manilow’s Greatest Hits,” which they periodically interrupt for a mechanical command: “Please remain on the line and your call will be answered in the order it was received.”
Finally, “Sandra” answers and asks what she can do. You suspect from her dialect that her birth name may not be Sandra. She asks several questions about what is wrong. You actually do not understand the questions, either technically or linguistically. You do, however, appreciate Sandra’s sincerity, while at the same time wishing that you had been connected to someone in Arizona.
Sandra is patient as you ask her to repeat the questions. She listens as you try to explain your problem, which was at first your computer but is now your inability to communicate.
Sandra asks you to hold while she turns the call over to a specialist for your issue. You are assigned a special case number and asked to wait.
Wait you do.
Kevin answers and asks you all of the same questions Sandra did. You have the same problem understanding Kevin, but he has some answers for you. He slowly walks you through some very simple steps that you could have done by yourself if you had read the computer manual or looked at the website.
Who does that? Kevin did.
The conclusion of your call is a brief reading, by Kevin, of a script thanking you for using their product and assuring you that they are always there to help. You are then notified that you may be called or emailed and asked about the service you received.
You conclude that the service was fine, although it was done through the mutual struggles of two people who do not share the same language. They speak technology, and you don’t.
• Mike McLellan can be contacted by calling and leaving a message at 830-4231 or emailing him at DrMikeM@sbcglobal.net.