~ The number you have called is not in service.
I guess anyone my age has a lot of good telephone stories. “Telephone” was a game when I was young, people sat in a circle, you know the drill. But telephones were not a game. The Bell System spent millions publishing pamphlets on “telephone etiquette”. Millions more on how to be a good party-line person. AT&T charged a dollar a minute (or more) for any long distance call (1950’s until the breakup). It was serious money for a serious activity. Local calls were generally of course free. As if the monthly service and equipment rental bill didn’t amount to anything. It did; and a lot of people didn’t even have phones. Telephones through the fifties were still a bit of a luxury for most Americans.
There were no phone banks then; call centers pitching consumerism; ruining the dinner hour and ones whole day if given half a chance. Businesses answered their own phones then, real person, real place – local (unless long distance). People were friendly and helpful and informed. Children and the uninformed were expected to stay off the line when it came to business calls. “Let your fingers do the walking” was the slogan of the telco that reminded one that one didn‘t drive to the local stores and one should not waste money when a kind and knowledgeable and helpful (did I say well-informed) person would pick up the phone and answer your every question in a most satisfactory way. Call centers have been the ruination of America. The banks started them. Don’t be deceived. The other corporations quickly followed and in time they broke up AT&T and the Bell System and soon talk became cheap not just inexpensive.
One should appreciate the novelty of working in a telephone call center in India or the Philippines when ones parents never even had a telephone when they were growing up. These “first generation” phone warriors don’t just make local calls; they get to talk long distance, to America in fact; calls that used to cost $3.00 or maybe $5.00 per minute. Now these special children get to argue with Americans each and every day, long distance, and get paid to do it. They get to lie, to vent, to outwork their frustrations at being paid 20 cents per hour (or thirty sometimes) when the very RICH Americans they talk to make maybe $20 (per hour); maybe a whole lot more. Language (the English one) is the great equalizer; people think that a common language equals a common pay, a common outlook on life, an economic equality of sorts. The Americans forget the inherent inequality of the conversation; the impossibility of getting a fair return when the odds are stacked against the call-center employee 100 to 1.
The voices are all so pleasant. Each one so anxious to preserve and serve. That’s on the surface. Unflappable. Please hold for my supervisor. Thank you “Donald” or whatever other name you might be going by. Please repeat your birth date, your social security number, your wife’s mother’s maiden name and all the other private ID you’ve ever had – “it’s just to confirm who you are”; I don’t mean to be so demeaning, so nosy, so ready to know the every secret of your private life. Trust me; at twenty cents an hour and computer literate why would I be tempted at any theft of your identity. They screen us before hiring us for 2 bucks a day; no Al Qiada here. We will destroy America from the inside, one telephone call at a time; slow and painful, no towers down – that’s the cabal. “We are the real enemy, that’s why we sound so sweet and have such a sugar coating.” “God, Americans are so easy and so dumb.”
US West became Quest. Just another name for US Worst Communications. Give the bad association to any “quest”; denigrate the name and the concept with just bad management; fat and sassy leftovers from the days of monopoly and not competition. GM was a monopoly too; in it with Ford and Chrysler – like the Bell labs and AT&T; two names, one purpose. Bad cars, bad time, bad money, bad memories just waiting for a bailout that makes good. Hang up the phone. The talk is cheap. Everybody is doomed anyway.
I think I will disconnect my phone. I don’t need the line. Call centers just make me sad. There is no remembering the way it used to be; no happy honest voices from businesses – from any business. You get my drift. The past is dead and gone; hang up (on it), let it go. Telephones are just a luxury, mindless chat mostly. I do not chat when I need to talk. “Chatty Kathy”, now that’s a different story. I wish him well.
The phones were not ringing at the mall yesterday evening, after dinner or before. No phone squads out to break the slumber of the “dinner hour”; no dining, no diners. There was no business at the Mall. Nobody informed, no knowledge, no one “to take your call” like in the old days. Fingers still do the walking but Malls depend on feet (foot traffic); and America’s feet are tired. Peddle to the metal for far too long. Gas up or down America is out of gas and talk and money too. Everybody knows who lives away from the Beltway and Wall Street and Beverly Hills; those are the exceptions. La, la lands of the funny farm where the leaders are still laughing while everyone else only cries. Oh Lord, Hear my cry! Because the bureaucrats, the bankers, the politicians will never listen. No telephone is necessary if you want to talk to God. Some people just still don’t get that.
Ring ring; ring, ring. Hello. Goodbye. It’s just the telephone. There’s no need to answer it.
[2009.03.31 / Tuesday – Telephone]