Please Press One ... by Cindy Beck

© Cindy Beck, 2009

(Keywords: Cindy Beck, telephone, ESPN, HBO, programming, funny, humor, Latter-day Saints, LDS, yourLDSNeighborhood.com)

Do you remember the days when real people answered the phone? Yesterday, my husband Russ, spent hours trying to correct a problem by talking with a fake woman. Yes, one of those electronic females who answers the phone and doesn’t have a brain. Or a body. Or for that matter, anything but wires, circuits, and maybe a little dust.

When Russ placed the call, an artificial woman answered and said, “Please choose from the following options: Press one to hear this message in Tagalog. Press two for Dhimba, three for Palenquero, and four for Beothuk.”

Hoping to get a live person, Russ pushed every number on the phone’s keypad.

The voice said, “I’m sorry; I can’t understand what you need. Please tell me your phone number so that I may access your records.”

Russ paused, scratched his bald head for a second and tried to remember the number, which wasn’t easy since it was new. “714-555-1212,” he said.

The line crackled with static and the disembodied woman said, “Let me repeat that back to you.”

And that’s when Russ made his first mistake. “Okay,” he said.

“I’m sorry; I can’t understand what you need. Please choose from the following options: Press one to hear this message in Tagalog. Press two for Dhimba, three for—”

Russ punched every number on the pad. Twice.

“I’m sorry; I can’t understand what you need. Please tell me your phone number so that I may access your records.”

Russ wiped off the thin bead of sweat that had appeared on his upper lip from the aggravation of it all. “714-555-1212,” he said, and then waited in silence this time.

The fake woman’s voice sounded like someone gargling with peanut butter for a second and then she said, “Let me repeat that number back to you.”

Silence. Russ knew better than to tell her okay.


A tickle developed in Russ’s throat but he didn’t dare clear it for fear he’d end up with the voice speaking to him in Dhimba.

“Your phone number is seven …” the woman said.


“One …” she intoned in her plastic, other-world voice.


“Four …” she repeated, dragging out each syllable—even though “four” is only a one syllable word.

“Aarrrgggg!” Russ shouted in frustration at the voice's snail pace.

“I’m sorry; I can’t understand what you need. Please choose from the following options: Press one to hear this message in Tagalog. Press two for Dhimba—“

Russ jabbed every button on the keypad. One button flew off, hitting him in the forehead and ricocheting onto the floor. Corky Porky Pie, the dog, walked over. His black ears twitched with interest, and before Russ could snatch the button away, Corky gulped it down.

“I’m sorry; I can’t understand what you want,” said the voice in the phone. “I’d be happy to help. Please tell me what you need. Would you like to order ESPN-15? Or perhaps HBO? Speak clearly into the telephone and tell me what you would like.”

Russ gritted his teeth and said, “Programming problems.”

“I’m sorry; let me make sure I understand you correctly. Would you like to add additional programming? If so, please speak clearly and say yes.”

“NO,” Russ thundered. Corky leapt in the air, certain that intruders had entered the house, and tore off in a frenzy, barking all the way up the stairs to the front door.

“Corky, it’s all right. Be quiet,” Russ hollered over the dog’s barks and yaps.

“I’m sorry; I don’t understand the word, ‘Corky,’” the voice intoned in his ear. “Is Corky a program you wish to purchase? Please speak clearly and say yes.”

“No! No pro … gramm … ing!" Russ said it emphatically, enunciating each syllable for the hard-headed voice to hear. He continued, “Cust … o … mer ser … vice! TALK … TO … A … REAL … PER … SON!”

“Please wait while I connect you to customer service.” The fake woman disappeared with a click, and the Monkees’theme song—played on an accordion—sounded in Russ’s ear.

“Finally,” Russ said to Corky Porky Pie, who had given up on catching burglars and now sniffed the carpet in hopes of finding another yummy keypad button. “I’m finally going to get a real person.”

“Hello, this is customer service,” said a pleasant male voice with a slight New York accent. At the same time, a scent wafted through the room and Russ sniffed the air. It smelled like a cross between old, crusty snow, and the odor of doom and gloom.

Ignoring it, Russ opened his mouth to speak, and as he did, the male voice continued, “How may I help you? Would you like to add additional programming? Would you like to purchase HBO? Please say yes, then press one to hear this message in Tagalog …”

What's playing in my head: The Monkees' Theme Song.

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Unknown said...

Ah, hysterical, but I think we all agree how frustrating it is when we have to call anyone to resolve a problem. I dread it when I have to do it and put it off til the last! BTW, thanks for all your comments on my blog :) and sorry I haven't taken up your taggity tag challenge yet. I was actually thinking through it last night.... maybe yet! :)

Karlene said...

Funny. But I shouldn't laugh. It happens to me all too often.

Anna Maria Junus said...

I have an idea. The next time a salesperson calls, act like an automated woman.

Unknown said...

Ta-da! You will be so proud of me, I finally did my random 25 list. :)

Triple Nickel said...

You have reached the automated blog response system. Please press one to continue in English. I'm waiting...
OK. Now tell me what you want. Say something like, good review (cost $10), mediocre review ($5).
I'm waiting...
OK. You want a good review. Please say your credit card number now. I'm sorry, I don't understand that word.
Welcome to the automated blog response system...

Nichole Giles said...

I'd laugh, really, except we just did this with the Microsoft people. It was not fun.

Have you ever heard of the Xbox 360 red ring of death? We have it at our house. Its a disease that requires the help of video-game-programming-experts.I only hope it isn't contagious, or our computers are in trouble!


Cheri J. Crane said...

This would be hilarious if it wasn't so true. ;)Been there a few more times than I care to recall. [Pun intended. =D ]

Great blog entry as usual.

Danyelle Ferguson said...

Soo funny - and totally true. John hates those automatic systems because his voice isn't high enough to be recognized as a woman, and not low enough to be recognized as a man - so usually the system can't pick out his voice and keeps telling him to repeat. It drives him NUTS!

Dave Beck said...

Cute Baby Boy!!!! I wonder if he gets through to real customer service faster then the rest of us!

Unknown said...

This made me giggle. So true!

Cindy, so sorry you didn’t win the give-away on my blog this week at Not Entirely British.

Thanks for taking part. Hope you will enter again soon. The latest contest is for 2 books and a CD!

Unknown said...

I just have to tell you, this really happened to me a few weeks ago when I had to call Chrysler Financial... everytime I said "speak to a customer representative", it flipped me back to the beginning of the recording. I was pretty "argh!!!" by that point, but somehow, someway, managed to get through to a FOREIGN representative who I could NOT understand, who then transferred me to a FOREIGN supervisor, who I also could not understand. I hung up in frustration....

Sharon Robinson said...

I bet "Rolayne" could have "handled" that problem!!!...:)
Love ya,