Monday, March 31, 2008

Press three for a list of the ways technology has not improved our lives

My cell phone had run out of juice, so I had no way of knowing whether the person for whom I waited half an hour had called me to say she would be late or simply couldn’t make it. I was waiting, primed to tell her all about my bad day. A collection agency has repeatedly been calling me for the past two months looking for my husband, who unfortunately has a common name. So he is occasionally mixed up with others who share his name, though not necessarily his habit of paying bills on time. Last time a mix-up happened, we ended up with a free subscription to an art museum. This time we, or I should say I, have been the less than happy recipient of persistent phone calls to a phone listed in my name only looking for a deadbeat who shares my husband’s name.

Since my husband and I pay our bills on time, I’ve never had an up close and impersonal encounter with a bill collector. If it weren’t so unpleasant, I might feel sorry for the people who do that sort of work. As it stands, however, I do feel irked about the following, and please listen carefully, as our menu of annoyances is long and has recently changed:

Being called once a week by an automated dialing program (“Hel-lo! I’d like to speak to Will-ee-um the Five Hundred Nel-son! If-you-are Will-ee-um the Five Hundred Nel-son, press one!”)

Hearing a bizarrely perky electronic voice ask for my husband by a bizarre nickname (“the Five Hundred”?) that isn’t his, a nickname I can’t be entirely sure of because the bizarre electronic voice isn’t entirely clear (Is there anybody out there whose nickname really is “The Five Hundred?” They’re looking for you, pal, and they’re not the type to give up.)

Not being given an option to say the collection agency is making a mistake (“Press sixteen if we have the wrong household and this deadbeat doesn’t live here”)

Not being believed after I press option 1, even though I am not “The 500” deadbeat, to tell them they are making a mistake

Being asked for my husband’s birth date, the last four digits of his social security number, the other telephone number our household uses, and the quality of our marital relationship (“Are you still married to him? Why don’t you ask him why he’s using your telephone number?”)

Being told that I need my husband’s permission to discuss the details of what the collection agency is calling about (“Hel-lo! We’re calling your phone repeatedly to reach your husband even though we never asked your permission! Press one if you think this is absurdly sexist! Press two if you think this might be harassment!”)

Having to spend time online reviewing my husband’s credit history, itself a tediously detailed tour that stretches back for years (“Gosh, what the heck did I buy in March 2004 that cost that much?”) and includes credit cards you no longer use, plus several chances to refuse offers from three different credit bureaus for newsletters you don’t want that will give you advice on financial sobriety

Finding a mistake and having to open lots of pop-up windows to figure out how to correct it and praying I don’t close the wrong window since I can only see my credit history for free once a year

Not having the computer hooked up to the printer so I can print out the credit histories (because there’s an annoying incompatibility between my laptop and printer that I have unsuccessfully tried for weeks to resolve)

Has anything like this ever happened to you? If so, press one if you resolved it; press two if you think technology is a hassle; press three if you know where Will-ee-um the 500 is.

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