Jerry's Ink

Is There Anyone Alive Out There?

My troubles with fake phone voices and unreachable giant companies like Uber continue to frustrate me.

True story: A number of years ago when, after a half hour of being switched from fake voice to fake voice by American Express, I finally reached a human, an American Express official in India who insisted that he must cancel my American Express card because someone using my card number tried to buy a $1500 refrigerator at a Virgin Megastore in Beirut, Lebanon. You can’t make this stuff up.

The trouble is, first they wear you down jumping from fake voice to fake voice, and then, when they have you where they want you, they finally give you a real human voice, but it’s coming from a country a million-miles away. The voice from another part of the world is trying to be helpful, but often they are as confused about your situation as you are.

Over the years little has changed, except today, when the fake voices have finished with you, often they don’t have the courtesy of letting you talk to a human. Instead, they tell you to go to their confusing website, where you stumble around and finally give up.

I once had an encounter with a humorless fake voice at Delta Airlines, who answered my call for flight information by saying, “Delta, KLM, Air France. Are you a Sky Miles member?”

My stupid answer was, “Is that anything like The Mile High Club?” Naturally, the voice immediately switched me to the dreaded Delta Flight Line service voice.

Have you tried to talk to a human at Uber lately?

The other day, I used my Uber app to order a car.

My driver, I was told, was named Muhammad.

No surprise there. My experience with Uber is that all their drivers are named Muhammad, and they’re all nice, sweet people who haven’t been in the United States longer than a month and who couldn’t find their ass without a GPS.

My driver was, according to my phone, seven minutes away. Then, after a long while, he was four minutes away. Then, after God knows how long, he was 10 minutes away. On my phone, it appeared that my Muhammad was driving away from me as fast as he could.

Then the alert came that Uber was sorry, but my Muhammad had to cancel and leave me, but they would find me another driver.

That’s when I raised my hand and hailed a taxi driven by a guy named Abdul. So, I tried to tell Uber that I was canceling my order when they informed me that my latest Muhammad was already on the way to me, so I had to pay a penalty to cover his disappointment.

“WRONG!” I screamed, scaring the hell out of Abdul. Uber was charging me for a car I hadn’t ordered after the car I HAD ordered failed to show up. Then, I tried to reach someone at Uber to tell them I wasn’t going to pay for their mistake. That’s when I realized there is no way to talk on the phone to any human at Uber because there are no humans at Uber.

And that’s when I realized that we have been invaded by aliens and I don’t know what got into me. I’m so ashamed.

One minute I was a normal, upstanding citizen politely trying to reach Uber on my cell phone. The next I was screaming out incredible profanities into my phone. And then I was a defeated, broken man. Uber is in charge . . . pass it on.

Have you tried to call anyone for information about anything lately? There are no humans answering phones these days. They all have these voice systems that are activated by any sound you make. I called Delta Airlines (1-800-221-1212) and all I wanted to know was, “Does the Delta Shuttle fly to Washington D.C. on the hour or on the half hour?” A simple question that a human could have answered in a second.

What I got was a recording of an incredibly deep, fake male voice asking me if I wanted to use their website for discounts and to warn me that this call may be monitored for quality assurance.
Let me get this straight: This is a fake voice worrying about the quality of the message I was going to get from other fake voices?

Mr. Testicle Throat (my name for him) gave me a menu choice of four numbers which I could push. None of the choices were about whether the plane to Washington was leaving on the hour or the half hour. I pressed number two because he mentioned schedules.

Next came this recording of a woman’s voice, who I will call Deaf Dora, and she came on the line with a breezy “Hi!” as though I were her next-door neighbor in her totally fake world. She was too cheerful and sounded like she had swallowed a handful of uppers.

Deaf Dora asked me if I had a flight number and what was my departure or arrival city.

Now you must understand this voice recording equipment is so sensitive it can pick up the slightest sound and then translate it into the name of a city. At that point I coughed and the fake automated woman’s voice immediately said, “PITTSBURGH!!!! Is that your arrival or your departure city?”

“Oh damn,” I said.

“SPOKANE!!!” she said happily. “Is that your arrival city? Do I have that right?” she wondered. “You are departing Pittsburgh . . . What is the arrival city?”

“NOT PITTSBURGH. NOT PITTSBURGH. YOU DEAF PUTZ!!!” I screamed.

“Let me repeat that,” she said. “You are departing Pittsburgh and you are arriving in Pittsburgh? Is Pittsburgh your arrival city?”

“OH %@#&!” I screamed (the word that rhymes with “luck”).

“Let me see if I have this right. You are departing Pittsburgh and your arrival city is Gulfport-Biloxi.”

This simple call was now taking over 15 minutes and I was heading for Gulfport-Biloxi — a place I didn’t even know existed before I made the call. It was like a conversation with my late father who, when he was 92, was deaf in both ears and when I kissed him on the forehead and said, “I love you, Papa,” he would answer, “She went to the store. Why do you ask?”

Of course, the smart thing to do with Deaf Dora was to hang up and quit, but I couldn’t let go. The voice was now in complete control of the conversation and I must admit, I was intrigued. Just what could I say to this automated voice and what would she hear?

This is my dirty little confession. I said, “You sound cute. I’m a fake voice, too. What if the two of us find a place where we can talk privately?”

That’s when, I swear, the automated voice said, “PLEASE HOLD WHILE I CONNECT YOU TO A DELTA REPRESENTATIVE.”

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