Thursday, August 30, 2012


This morning, I needed a prescription refilled, so, as usual, I used the telephone robo-voice refill service. This particular robo-voice has a melodious and upbeat tone. And mostly I key in the prescription info rather than using the voice option, but at the end when the answers are just yes and no, I revert to actually speaking. I feel kind of compelled to because she's always so nice and I am very polite, with pleases and thank you's and all that. She must understand that it's awkward for me, because at the end, she routinely says "If you're done, feel free to hang up."

Hang up? Without a "thank you" or "goodbye?" Without asking how the kids are?  Deep down, I always feel like I should. 

Ever feel that way? Okay, admit it. You have. I'm sure I'm not the only one. Why else would the robo-voice give me permission to end the call? Then again, how about this scenario?

You call a service provider — telephone, internet, electric company, bank, or the complaint department of any large company.  A robo-voice answers, barking commands to press this key and that key in the harsh tones of a Nazi. One robo-voice I ran into would loudly say, THAT IS INCORRECT, anytime I hit a wrong key. But that's not the weird part. The weird part is I started snapping back, "Don't talk to me like that," as though the mechanical thing might actually understand me.

Maybe they do.  One incident that made me wonder sticks in my mind.  I had lost my internet connection and phoned in only to learn that  my sole technician was a robo-voice lady. She definitely wasn't melodious and upbeat like my drugstore lady. No, no.  She pointed out my errors quite curtly and the relationship just wasn't developing well. After instructing me to climb under my desk, disconnect all the cables, then strike the ends together like I was trying to build a Girl Scout campfire — okay, I made that campfire part up, but what do you expect, I'm a fiction writer? Anyway, after asking for all that she suddenly says, "You-Are-Taking-Too-Long. We-Have-To-Start-Over."

I try to keep this blog obscenity-free, so I won't go into detail about my reply. It's what happened next that matters. "YOU appear," she said, "to be getting impatient with ME and I'm forced to transfer you to a customer service rep."

Which is what I wanted in the first place but only because of her bad manners. Which is something I would never say about the ever-cheerful robo-voice lady, who I talk to every month at the drugstore. Never once has a cranky syllable come from her robo-mouth.  One of these days I might even invite her over for coffee.

Sometimes, though, I wonder if I'm the only one these things happen to. Are the rest of you so patient and mature that the absurdity of being served by robo-voices doesn't begin to feel personal? Or make you want to laugh out loud? Or roll on the floor and pound your fists?

Let me know.  It might be fun to trade stories about our robo-voice friends. Who knows, one day they might even win civil rights.

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