As I prepare to travel to Iraq, I can’t help but be excited about one little thing…there will be peace in the Middle East. Well, at least a certain kind of peace…there is no cell phone service over there. Sweet land of liberty! No wonder we were so eager to invade that place. But don’t get too excited, folks…it’s only a matter of time before Verizon and Nextel erect towers in Baghdad. You can bitch about Halliburton all you want, but it’s those subtle corporate devils you have to watch out for. When everyone you know owns a cell phone, it’s easy to overlook that industry’s imperialism. But it’s there, people.

Cell phone companies are setting out to take over the world. Witness, for example, this news item…the government is close to lifting the ban on cell phone usage on airplanes. That would be just damn annoying if that passed. Yes, there are other annoying things to put up with while air traveling. I can tolerate a crying baby on a plane because, well, it’s a baby. It’s a little bothersome, yes, but at least it doesn’t cry to the tune of some obnoxious TV theme song like phones do. So yeah…the cell phone ban should remain. But people are actually lobbying for that to change. Pissing others off in movie theatres, restaurants, and churches isn’t good enough…it’s apparently time to tackle the stratosphere too.

Where’s the outcry? There’s not much of one because over the past decade we’ve been trained to think differently. They have gradually conditioned us to believe we need them. So much so that they neglect customer service. When you have a problem, you often don’t get to speak with a person, let alone someone in America. Rather, you get the condescending automated “helper” lady.

My cell company, Sprint, calls their helper lady “Claire”. I believe she’s a demon who was conjured up to lull customers into submissiveness, but that’s another story. Upon researching this topic, I was told she was called “Claire” because the name sounds like the word “clear”. Clever marketing, huh? Maybe Sprint should call her something more appropriate, like “Roama” or “Droppedcallissa”.

Another way cell companies avoid service is to persuade you, while you’re on hold, to use their website rather than speak with a live person. Here’s what I heard once when I was on hold long enough to develop bed sores…

“Thanks for calling. Your call is important to us. Every customer is important here at Conglomerate Communications. Someone will be with you momentarily. Of course, your answers may be found online at our website. That’s right…help could only be a double-click away. Go ahead, try it. Clickity click. What? You’re still here and not online? Not trying to push you away or anything…your call will certainly be answered in the order it was received. But you know what else we answer? Emails. That’s right. You should try it sometime. Like right now. Or you could wait for a representative who will say his name is Brian but whose name is really Nahatreijskketal. Good luck to you.”

If you choose to hold, they’ll try to prep the representative by asking you a series of basic questions with that automated voice, but that lady sometimes understands less English than Nahatreijskketal.

“Quickly tell me what the problem is.”
“Billing question.”
“Technical support. Okay. What system are you using?”
“I don’t need tech support. I have a billing question.”
“November. Is that correct?”
“I didn’t get that.”
“I said suck it, Claire.”
“Additional features. Okay.”

Sometimes it’s just too blatant — companies use computers and other high-tech gadgets to control us and eventually the world. And they make it look like “progress”. They have even installed that “OnStar” thing in some cars. If you get lost, get your keys locked inside, or have an emergency, this thing will talk to you and save the day. This is the closest I’ll ever get to having Kitt from Knight Rider in my life, but I still don’t like being trackable. I’d rather be stuck in Kansas without my keys than under a Big Brother microscope. Well, okay, maybe not Kansas. All it takes is one look from a “Children of the Corn” local to feel creepy in that state.

There’s no real point here, other than that I think cell phones and rapid-moving technology are over-rated and, in most cases, annoying. If you’ve read my past columns, this is no news flash to you. I’m apparently older and grumpier than other people my age. But I don’t care. I’m going to entertain the troops next week, and I’m going to enjoy my time there because for once a show won’t be interrupted because somebody forgot to turn his A-Team theme song ringer to mute. And who knows…maybe I’ll actually get to meet Nahatreijskketal. Oops, I mean Brian.

Categories: Columns