Busy Signal

Last week my wife Sara called one of the airlines to use our air miles for tickets to Aruba. After twenty minutes of deciphering prompts, keying numbers and sitting on hold, a cheerful associate came on the line and advised her she had to call the international air miles department. She provided the new number, which Sara immediately dialed, only to get a busy signal. She tried every half-hour for the next two days without success, before calling the original number back, going through the entire process again, only to learn that she had been given the wrong number the first time. Sara then dialed the new number and the pre-recorded monologue at each prompt went something like this.

“Thank you for calling Bankruptcy International Airlines. Your call is very important to us. This call may be monitored for terrorist profiling. If you are calling from a touchtone phone, (does anyone own a rotary phone anymore?) press one. If you would like to speak in English, press one, followed by the pound sign. Please listen carefully as our menu options have changed recently. If you would like to order breakfast, press one; for lunch, press two. Due to unexpected call volume, we are experiencing delays of up to seven hours. If you would like to continue to hold, and have your call answered in the order it was received, press one, followed by the pound sign. If you do not wish to hold, then just pound salt. After all, we’re giving you these tickets for free. And besides, a couple of hours wait is nothing compared to the time you will spend on the tarmac without air conditioning, waiting for clearance to leave that third world destination.”

Yesterday, my friend Bruce, a former veteran detective of some “war-zone” cities, forwarded me the transcript from a police department’s telephone response system. Here is the script.

“Thank you for calling the Pandomonia Police Department, Our hours are 10 AM to 4 PM weekdays, with no service on weekends and holidays. Since no one is here to take your call, please choose from one of the following options. To request police assistance for a problem that you created, press one. If you would like us to take control of your sorry life due to chemical dependency, press two. If you would like us to raise your kids while you collect unemployment, press three. If you would like to whine about us doing productive work rather than keeping your butt out of trouble, press four. If you would like to sue us, or tell us you pay our salaries, press five. And for all you other losers, press zero. Thank you for making us the number one police department in the national ineptitude ratings. And remember we’re here to save your ass, not kiss it. This call may be monitored for use as evidence against you in a court of law. You have the right to remain silent.”

Well, at least that police department has an answering service. Ours has an unlisted number.