I rang my Bank this morning - for an account enquiry. I dialed with trepidation and I was hoping for some human contact. As I expected though a cheerful machine voice answered my call and I was first given a set of commands and was then asked a series of questions.
The first command I was given was for me to press ‘one’ for instructions in English - then press the # button.
I was then ordered to input my sixteen-digit account number - yes sixteen fucking digits - then press the # button. The machine lady then asked me to input my six-digit telephone banking code – and then press the # button.
I was prepared for all of this.
I did what I was told.
The next few minutes were frantic and frenetic.
They were electric.
I was sent into a number selecting frenzy. I picked option three. Internet Banking enquiry – I then pressed the # button. I selected option two next - overseas transfers - then I pressed the # button. Option four - payment not recorded - then once again I pressed the # button.
Then I waited.
I was patient.
Music then played. It was dreadful music that I suspect was designed to drive me mad in the hope to get me to hang up. I intermittently received a recorded message. This voice was male.
It was commanding.
It was soothing.
It said “Your call important to us. All of our customer services officers are currently busy at the moment. Please hold and we will transfer your call as soon as one is available”.
Although I knew that this statement was a lie I persisted. My call was not at all important to these people and they knew it. Every three minutes the recorded message was repeated. I know this because I timed it. One hundred and eighty seconds. Eleven times. Thirty-three minutes. By now my patience had eroded and madness was beginning to engulf me. I was riled.
I was annoyed.
I was vexed.
Eventually I heard a human voice and I was momentarily elated.
“How can I address you?” was the opening line.
“I am Peter” I replied.
“May I call you Mr. Peter?” was the next polite enquiry.
“You may” I responded.
“It is my name”.
“May I ask for yours?” I requested.
There was a pause. A deliberation. There was some palpable hesitation.
Eventually, “My name is Rajesh” was uttered.
“Before we proceed,” said Rajesh,
“I will be needing to ask you some security questions”.
‘I understand” I retorted.
“I will be needing to be asking you a few myself”
There was another pause here – a slightly longer one than before.
“May I have your full name Mr. Peter?”
“May I have yours first please Mr. Rajesh?”
Remember, I had been waiting for thirty-three minutes. I had been purposefully lost in the machine and I now craved some human communication. There was a silence.
It was deafening.
“Are you there Mr. Rajesh?” I enquired.
“Can you hear me?”
Rajesh’s voice was hesitant.
There was a little tremor in his voice when he replied “My name is Rajesh Adapa Gupta”
I asked him to spell it as I wrote it down. I then gave him my name. He asked me to spell it. I assume he entered it into a computer for I could hear a keyboard clicking.
I could hear it clacking as well.
Data was being entered.
“Now I will be needing your date of birth,” asked Rajesh.
“But first I will be needing yours” I rebutted.
“But why?” Rajesh asked. I could hear the rising anxiety in his voice now.
“Security” I responded.
“I need to know that you are who you say you are”
We then swapped dates of birth. Rajesh did so less willingly than me. For the record, he is a Virgo and I am an Aries.
We are destined to clash.
“I have one more question Mr. Peter,” said Rajesh.
There was frisson in his voice. I could feel his distress. I could taste his fear.
“Me too. Mr. Rajesh” I asserted.
“I am be needing the maiden name of your mother Mr. Peter - or the naming of your first pet”, he whispered.
“Please sir. Do not be asking mine”
“But I am be needing to as well Mr. Rajesh” I replied.
“I simply must”
I thought I heard a wail before I was disconnected. Despite my enquiry going unanswered I felt a perverse degree of satisfaction.
I had a rush of whimsical elation.