... A Pressing Matter
Progress isn't all bad. Dishwashers and antibiotics and TV's remote control. A cute wee lemon screw you insert in a lemon half that almost works.
But the ubiqiutous answering machine that gives you a 10-minute barrage of choices, none of which you called for, is heightening blood pressure, anxiety attacks, and the urge to kill. Not to forget the poor duffers who feel guilty as sin if they happen to still own the old non-participating "rotary phone." God forgive them. Are they still wearing high-button shoes?
Citizens under the age of 12 have no trouble with the machine's menu of multiple choices. Schools today ARE multiple choices: "Circle one of the above..." But if you remember the good old days when any phone call was answered by a fairly live human being able to reply to your query or transfer you IMMEDIATELY to the right person, today's maze of directions brings your teeth to the gritting point and words to your tongue you hope the kids next door can't hear through the open window. Not that they don't know them. And can probably say them better than you.)
"Thank you for calling the Theatre of the Unsound. If you are calling for our summer schedule, press 1; if you want our box office, press 2; if you want to order 12 or more tickets, press 3; for our administrative offices, push pound -" Pound? Where on earth is the pound sign? It must be - click! Cut off! I had my chance and I muffed it! Redial and gnash through the whole horror again...take deep breaths, do Yoga, and keep your finger over the pound sign, dummy! This time I'm ready, I push pound - "There will be a short delay as all of our lines are busy." On comes the tinkling music, created to play on the phone and offend no one. Except me. Abruptly, a few clicks and the lifeless voice returns: "Thank you for calling the Theatre of the Unsound. If you are calling for -" Enough! They lost my $22 ticket. Off to the movies!
I dial the movie theater. The recorded voice and speech are that of a high school sophomore who didn't pass Speech and Communication I. The titles are so slurred that I can't tell if the first of 14 films is The Horse Whisperer, Hope Floats, or Bulworth. The custom at this movie theater is to gently set the recording at ppp - triple soft, so I have to silence the radio, my husband's breathing, and the cat's licking of his paw. Another ploy to stimulate the caller's bloodstream is to start their tape with "-at 4, 6, 8:10 and 10:22." No matter how loud I scream "Which movie? Which movie is this?!" the canned cool voice purrs on softly to "Exterminator VII: 4:10, 6:10 ..." Back to C-Span.
A big department store - if you can still find one - can unmake your day. You're given Push 2, 4, 9, 18 for every appliance, tool, women's wear or cleaning fluid known to man (or woman). But not the item I want. "Your call is very important to us," assures the sincere recording tape before switching on the tinkle music! Why not "For classical music, press 1; for Beethoven or Brahms, press 2; for Shostakovitvh or Stravinsky, press 3; for jazz, press 4..."
The computerized machine has swept the country. I'm sure if I have to call 911 some day, I'll hear: "You have reached 911. Your call is very important to us. If you have an honest-to-God emergency, press 1; if you are just a little worried about something you ate that tastes funny and might be poison, press 2; if this concerns a knifing, gun shot wound or strangling, push 3; if victim is struggling for breath and turning blue, press 4; if victim has stopped breathing, hang up; if victim is breathing really hard..."
Incredibly , one place where you will find a real live, even friendly human person is the White House. Yes, you may get a recorded survey to answer first, but you can skip it and suffer in silence waiting your turn - there is NO canned music! Not even Barbra Streisand or a saxophone solo. And no "If you want to talk to Hilary, press 1; if you want to Chelsea, press 2; if you want to talk to Bill..."