Arguing With A Robot

March 2013

It had been a long day at work and I had just settled into my big ole comfy chair at home while sipping on a Dumb robotbigolesweettea, and listening to the day’s events as discussed by my wife and daughters when I realized that I am really not that “hip” or “cool”. Up until now, I felt fairly comfortable with my knowledge of recent trends in our language. For example, I know full well when to use the words “sweet” and “cool” and “spiffy”. That makes me current right? Wrong, wrong, wrong!

The evening conversation that was taking place was so far over my head that I had given up on taking part in it. Like a good little husband I sat there and kept my mouth shut, for a little while. After a half hour or so of what seemed to me to be Greek jibber jabber, I finally heard something that sounded familiar. Tiffoni, Monique and Micala were now talking about Tiffoni’s wedding plans and someone said “RSVP”.   “Hey, what does that mean anyway?” I blurted out. My Harvard educated wifey pooh jumped right in as if I were not cool or hip or spiffy at all. Go figure.

“It means Reply, See Voo Play!” she said. “Reply See Voo Play?” I asked exasperated. “I get the reply part, and I kind of understand the play part, but I don’t get the rest of it.” She prissed around the corner with an indignant school teacher’s look about her and said “Darn it Ken, it means please reply! It is French!”

“Well that changes everything!” I said. “I had no idea our family was now speaking French! Stunned that we were suddenly, and without warning to me, a multi-lingual family, I asked very humbly, “Why in the world don’t you just say “Hey, let me know that you’re coming to my shindig.”?” That made a lot of sense to me but apparently the circles in which the female units in my family run frown upon such simple requests, especially if they are submitted with a southern accent.

“Dad!” the girls all seemed to be in concert, “You just aren’t up to date with things are you?” That is when Monique, the youngest, began to instruct me on a few of the new terms used by young folks today. To my surprise I am not allowed to use them, any of them. I am not sure why.  She explained the use of words like “G” and “most”. I think “G” stands for gangster or something close to that, but it may mean “greatest”. I argued about “Most” as she used it in a sentence to help me out. “You’re the most” she said. “I am?” I replied. “Not really,” she said, “I was giving you an example.” “Ooooh,” I said. So let me see if I understand…

Slowly and calmly I said “So if I am the “G”, that is good? “Yes,” Monique answered. “ And in a few years, if I remain cool, the next bunch will say I am M, N, O, or God forbid a P? And if I am the “most” now, doesn’t that leave very little room for improvement? I mean how do I get better or bigger than the “most”? I suppose the good news is that if I am the “most” now, then I have no reason to diet because I can’t get more mostest’er right?” “She sighed and said, I was giving you an example, you are not the most,” laughing at me. “Well that’s depressing coming from my own daughter!” I shouted.   After they finished laughing at me for the third or fourth time I just gave up and tried to change the subject which brings me to a question.

Is it appropriate or allowed to argue with a robot?  I hope that it doesn’t make me a weirdo but I had an all-out brawl with my wireless company’s new supposed “user friendly”, “more convenient”, “ better for my overall well-being” answering system. It is about as convenient as a rusty spoon in the eye, or a belt sander on a toilet seat, both of which I was almost willing to do to myself before the call was completed. I won’t name them although I am tempted. I will say that their name rhymes with “Pee-wire”.

The rhyme and the experience overall reminds me of a time when I was three or four years old and I had an encounter with an electric fence that my mom, Ms. Dot, had clearly warned me not to touch. But, like most boys, I was hard-headed. On that day as I played in the back yard near Smithville, Mississippi, I had to use the bathroom pretty bad.  Curiosity got the best of me so I thought it a good idea to just pee on that fence.

Peeing on Fence

Needless to say, I learned a valuable lesson that day.  When I got up off the ground I remember saying to two things to myself.  1.  I hope no one saw that, especially mom, and 2.  I will never do that again because it hurts really bad!

That was a bad day for sure, but not much worse than the day last week when I called my cellular company to ask one simple question.  Here is how my call went (Not word for word, but you get the idea from my point of view):

Carrier: “Welcome to ___**___ company. Please listen to the recording because we changed our menu options and you can’t talk to a human. This is to help you and make your experience much more pleasant, frustrate you until you scream, chew a gap in your steering wheel, and run up the number of minutes you have to pay us for. Please tell me what you would like to do.”

Ken: “Customer Service”

Carrier: “You can’t do that. Let me give you some choices to pick from. You can say Pay my bill, add some more expensive stuff, or buy another phone altogether. What would you like to do?”

Ken: “Representative”

Carrier: “You can’t do that. Let me give you some choices to pick from. You can say Pay my bill, add some more expensive stuff, or buy another phone altogether. What would you like to do?”

At this point I decided to use an age old trick and press “0” to hopefully get to a representative. The annoying voice recording reminded me right away that I couldn’t do that and she did not understand. It may have been me, but it seemed as if she was getting increasingly annoyed with me. I swear, I think they programmed the system to sound more and more condescending as you continue unless you answer the questions in the way they want.  To make matters worse, I had now been on the phone with this narcissistic robot for over twenty minutes and my patience had expired.

Ken: (yelling, as the lady in the car next to me considered dialing 911, I am sure)  “REPRESENTATIVE, REPRESENTATIVE, REPRESENTATIVE!!!!!” I must have said it ten or twelve times, more angry with each interruption from my new robot friend.

Carrier: “You can’t do that, You can’t do that, You can’t do that,” to each of my screams.

Ken: “Holy smokes lady! All I want to do is find out why my bill went up! You morons can’t figure out how to simply send me to a person? Of all the stupid…..!”

She finally understood one word out of all of my ranting…”bill”.

Carrier: “Pay your bill! Let me help you with that. You can say “Pay my bill now, pay my bill later, how much do I owe, and hey, I want to spend a whole lot more money. What would you like to do?”

I literally pulled my car over the side of the road and screamed at the top of my lungs. Want to know what she said?

Carrier: “You can’t do that.”

Will someone please, the next time I have a thought of calling a company that has an automated system, please, for the love of all that is good and holy, put an electric fence in front of me and turn it up on stir fry.   That sounds so nice right now!

May God bless you and all that you do.

Ken Dulaney

Ken Profile 6

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