Gabriel Fraire 2017 Sept

Gabriel Fraire

Having lived a few years sometimes seems to confuse my thinking. I get confused between what I grew up with and what I live with today — for example, customer service. When I was young, customer service meant someone would be trying to help me, the “customer,” with some “service.”  Often, businesses were rated on their customer service.

Today there is limited customer service. And, if you do any business online, forget about it — unless you know how to talk to a machine, have the patience of a monk and the determination of a driven personality.

“If you think this message was sent to you in error call 800-***-****.” 

So I called. My call was answered by a talking voice.

Press 1, if you have the patience to sit through a bunch of meaningless selections.

Press 2, if your time is of no value and none of these questions matter.

Press 3, if you want to reach your hands through the phone wire and strangle that voice that sounds like a cross between a robot and a 1950s suburban housewife.

At least those were the words running through my brain as the voice gave me instructions: “To find the location of the company bathrooms in a hurry, press 911.” 

“To request a directory of listed employees press, ‘I don’t care.’”

“If you really need help, try prayer.”

Much to my surprise after several minutes of pushing buttons I got a voice on the phone. Turns out the number I was given was not to the technical support line, but a local branch of law enforcement. I apologized and hung up quickly.

Another search and I got a number I believed was the technical support I needed. Another push button attack, this time I pressed the number that gave me instructions in Spanish. I don’t understand Spanish well, but I figured at least that way I would have a good reason for not getting anywhere. I just pushed random buttons. After one of the pushes a person answered but he was speaking to me in Spanish. Fortunately, he also spoke English. He listened to my concerns. There was something extremely irritating about that young man’s voice. He had arrogance and he kept making me feel like I was bothering him.

Sometimes when I get frustrated with phone service help I ask the phone bank person where he or she lives. If it is in a place like Nebraska, I will hear how cold it is there or how hot. Then the person will ask me where I live. I say, California, and the response is always, “Oh, that sounds nice.”

For a moment it makes me feel better, at least I’m not in the cold/hot Nebraska.

I asked this young man where he was located. He said, “Maui.”

I waited multiple minutes. Waiting-time is much longer than real-time. It drags on and it is worse if I’m forced to listen to some horrible music. But, for the first time in this whole experience I was finally getting somewhere. I was even very proud of myself. I had remained calm and patient through this whole ordeal. Not once did I use the Lord’s name in vain; nor did I make disparaging remarks about lack of service. I didn’t even play the “old man card.”

Finally, the music stopped; there was that little blank pause where I waited for the person on the other end to acknowledge my presence. Another recorded message came on saying, “Due to the high volume of calls on your issue we are unable to help you today. Please call back tomorrow.”

Gabriel A. Fraire has been a writer more than 45 years. He can be reached at

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