When my family first bought an answering machine, my grandmother didn’t understand it. For weeks we recorded her breathing with the occasional ‘hello’ punctuated by a frustrated *clunk*. How could we be at home, but not be at home? She resisted learning about this new fandangled technology largely because her message became the *clunk* and we’d know to call her back.
I found it amusing at the time. If she were with us today, she’d find it hard to believe an answering machine was the easy part. She never had to grapple with concepts like mobile phones, text messages, internet and emails. But there are many elderly, internet-less folk grappling right now as they struggle in a world designed for internet users. If you’re not a part of the system you are often disadvantaged.
Today, I began to believe my ‘answering machine’ days weren’t far away. That dreaded moment when a scary-technology-thingy bamboozles me and I’m left feeling incompetent and all the young’uns laugh. I have this delusion that I’m okay with technology but really, I’m okay with technology that interests me. I pick and choose the pieces of it that make my life easier, (particularly from a writerly standpoint) and tend to ignore all others. Like internet banking. Yes, of course that would make my life easier, but when you have a husband willing to do the work for you, I file it under ‘no need to worry’. Unless he was unable to do it. In which case-
My husband has been encouraging me to sign up for internet banking for about a month now and I’ve kept conveniently forgetting. But today, today I tried to sign up online. I couldn’t. It instructed me to call a phone number or physically call into a branch. The last time I called into a branch I waited an hour, so I picked up the phone and spoke to an answering machine.
“To report a lost or stolen card, press 1; For phone banking services, press 2; To enquire about new products and services, press 3; To find the right person to speak to, press 4”. I pressed 4.
“For account enquiries, press 1; To update your details, press 2; For fees and interest enquiries, press 3; For branch locations, opening hours and contact details, press 4; for internet banking enquiries, press 5-“. I pressed 5.
“So we can serve you quickly, please key in your internet client number and press #”
What? That’s what I was ringing for. Had I missed the option I needed? I hung up and tried again… “So we can serve you quickly, please key in your internet client number and press #”
What? This time I waited longer. The machine continued, “Your internet client number is an eight digit number which you use to do your…”. I hung up again.
I tried different options, experimented with different button presses and each time the machine requested my internet client number. On the seventh about-to-hurl-the-phone-across-the-room attempt I finally thought to let the machine finish what it was saying “…Your internet client number is an eight digit number which you use to do your internet banking. Please key in your internet client number and press #. If you don’t have this number, just press #”.
Arrrgggghhhhh!. I pressed #.
Then it wanted my card details. Fine. Then, to be fast tracked through the queue, it wanted my telephone banking code which I hadn’t used for fifteen years. Fine. “This enquiry may be recorded for quality assurance and training purposes.” Good!
And then I got to speak to a person. An actual, real person. He was most helpful, and set up my internet banking thing faster than the seven phone calls I’d made to get to speak to him.
“Is there anything else I can help you with?”
“Well, just for feedback on the automated prompt system – I had problems getting through because it kept requesting an internet banking number that I didn’t yet have-”
“It doesn’t only request your internet banking number, it gives you other options.”
“Oh well, yes. It just took me a while to work out I only needed to press #”
“But you can enter your card details.”
“Ah, yes, but that’s after you press #… ”
“One of the prompts is for your card details.”
“Yes, but-” Why is he trying to deny my experience? “Look, it’s fine. I just wanted to leave some feedback. You probably don’t get the opportunity to listen to the service.” I added a laugh.
“I know it very well.”
“Oh, sure. Ok. Fine. I just found it tricky that’s all.”
“I’ll be sure to submit your feedback.”
“Great, ah. Thanks for your time.”
“Not a problem, Kate.”
I felt one hundred and three.