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Memories of simpler days

I’ve had a few of these days recently, and they seem to be increasing in frequency. I call them the-world-is-broken days.

Typically they involve a phone, recorded messages, a menu of number-pushing options [sometimes with no offering relevant to you, so you just have to randomly pick one and pray], execrable recorded music to keep you entertained [“current wait time is approximately one hour thirty-five minutes”], breaks in the music to thank you for waiting and assuring you that your call is important, short commercials for services to improve your life, connection finally to someone [in the Philippines?], a series of security questions, an offer to put you through to someone who can better assist you with your specific needs, a line which goes dead, a need to repeat the entire process …

Yes, I’m sure you’ve been there too.

Then there’s the spam, either by email, text or phone. The latest figures I could find suggest that the country most plagued by spam calls is Brazil, followed by Peru. New Zealand does not even make it into the top 20.

And here’s a frightening statistic about a spam caller from India; in just one year, he made over 202 million spam calls. To put it another way, he disturbed the lives of 664,000 people per day. Those calls must have been important to him.

He must have done it by sending batches of recorded messages because there just aren’t enough minutes in a day

Another alarming fact is that, when the world was hit by covid, the world’s scammers turned to offering life-saving pharmaceuticals, oxygen cylinders, hospital beds, and ointment.

I realize that when your screen shows an unknown caller, it could still be a bona fide call, but to play it safe, it might be best to avoid it.

Or you could answer with one of the following all-purpose messages if you’re game:

*Hello and Welcome to [your name] telephone life-coaching services. Press 1 if your life is a shambles. Press 2 if you just need someone to talk to. [You can make up the rest yourself but I don’t think you’ll need many.]

*Thanks for your call, which is important to us. Please hold while we put you on hold. Please note that this conversation may be recorded for training purposes.

*Hello and welcome to Karaoke Hotline, where you get to sing all the hits. What song would you like to sing for us today?

*Thanks for phoning. Please tell us the reason for your call, and we’ll do our very best to waste your time.

*Hello and welcome to the hotline for nature lovers. Leave your message after the tone, and one of our nature lovers will call you back for an in-depth discussion [whales, penguins, and moss are biggies at the moment].

*If you understand English, press 1 for options. If you don’t understand English, press 2.

*Thanks for your call, which I hope we can safely assume is socially responsible, gender-neutral, race-neutral, sexuality neutral, medically approved, based on sound nutritional principles, free of greenhouse emissions, guaranteed to cause no harm to penguins, and available in a range of attractive designer colours. Press 1 for more options.

Anyway, it’s time to get back to my most recent the-world-is-broken day. At the end of it I switched off my phone, turned to Mrs D and said: “I just want to walk into a grocery store to face an apron-wearing man with a pencil behind his ear, ask for a pound of flour and half a pound of plain biscuits, pay with cash and enjoy the pinging sound of the cash register, wish the grocer well and head home with my paper-bagged goodies.”

Of course, I’m dreaming.

Wyn Drabble is a teacher of English, a writer, musician and public speaker.

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