According to Hofmann: Press 0 and fight the machines | According to Hofman

As a journalist, I have to talk to a lot of people on the phone because I have to interview them and ask them questions like, “Why are you running for public office? “, ” Where is the office ? “Why were you found trying to smuggle a goat across state lines?, and ‘Are you serious?’

While it’s not fun at all, making phone calls is mostly not fun in my private life — you know, the in-camera stuff that I end up putting in a newspaper column every week.

Me, myself, me and the rest of us have to make business phone calls from time to time, but all of us (I can’t speak for me, me and me, but I’m sure the rest of us ‘between you feel the same) find it the most repulsive and tedious thing to do on the planet… except running for public office, of course.

Every time I call and have to deal with these automated operators, I kind of feel like my intelligence is being insulted when I have to “talk” to them.

“Hello…Mark,” a pre-recorded female voice says every time I call to make a wire payment, because I’m supposed to feel good that this software has linked my phone number to the account that’s under my name. .

They say your own name is the thing you like to hear the most unless you’re called to the gallows, but I have to say I find hearing that computer say my name a bit off-putting, c That’s why I’m thinking of legally changing my name to something more complicated. I would like to listen to the computer stumble, sparkle, crackle, turn against its own program and erase itself.

It’s either the computer recognizes me when I call, or I get this message when I call: “All of our operators are busy with other callers, but I’m here to help.” Please say your name so I can search for your account.

“Mark Hofmann,” I say.

“I’m sorry, but I didn’t quite understand,” he replies. “Please say your name so I can look up your account.”

I know he’s picking up background noise, so he thinks I’m saying “Marhfdoivwouvhsojgpebsovpwfmann”, but how much do I have to say for this soulless machine to understand me?

It turns out that after 32 attempts to pronounce my names in different tones, dialects, accents and imitations of Yakov Smirnoff and Christopher Walken, the computer finally realizes that I am me and lets me continue before throwing more columns of d humor on my way.

“Please wait, while I search for this account,” says the disembodied voice followed by the sounds of clicking a keyboard as he tries to convince me that someone is typing in information to view my account.

I really don’t know who they’re trying to fool – maybe a retired typing teacher who nods and says, “Oh, my God. They type a good 90 words per minute!

Anyway, back to verbal warfare against a machine.

The machine’s next weapon is the guilt trip because it has your information and knows you were mean and didn’t pay your bill on time. At least when you’re talking to a human on the other line a gory story might give you pause, but when I’m faced with a megabyte collector I think of what Michael Beihn’s character Reese has said in “The Terminator”. .”

“It feels no pity, no remorse, no fear and it absolutely won’t, ever, stop until you’re dead.”

Ok, that’s too much because I’m sure it would shut down if there was a power surge or something, but what can you say to those things on the phone?

“I know the credit card bill is overdue, but I was, uh…a sitting goat for my friend while he’s under federal investigation because, well, we won’t get in in the details of this. Anyway, the goat decided to nibble all the bills I had on my table, including the credit card bill, and I forgot to contact the credit card company because I I was overwhelmed with joy that my friend’s survey was rejected, but I’ll get you the minimum payment ASAP, I promise!”

“…ERROR! ERROR! NON-SEQUITUR! HUMAN EXTINCTION MUST BEGIN!”

Now, I’m all for making life as stress-free as possible, so my advice for you this week (even though it’s far from an advice column) is to just press 0 and bypass everything computer gibberish that won’t be able to understand everything you say anyway.

You may have to wait a few minutes to an hour or three more, but then you will be in contact with a real human being who knows what you are saying and knows his stuff and, God willing, he sympathizes with your plight and your friend’s beak-eating goat.

According to Hofmann is written by Rostraver Township staff reporter Mark Hofmann. His books, “Good grief! A Guide to Biting the Big One…and Dying, Too” and “Stupid Brain” are available on Amazon.com.

James G. Williams