Selective Technologist

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-

*runs away*

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.



8 thoughts on “Selective Technologist

  1. Oh, God. Even reading your post has raised my blood pressure in sympathy.

    I hate phone menus. I hate having to listen to fifty billion options when all you want to do is ask a simple question. I turn into Homer Simpson, mashing the keypad with my aged, stupid hand, while wailing down the receiver. How anyone thought those sort of menu-things were good for customers is beyond me. All they’re good for is cutting down on staff answering the bl***y phone at the other end. I tend to avoid interacting with technology, too, besides the very basic stuff that I need to live my life, and I don’t even care that this makes me into a curmudgeon. I am proud of it, actually!

    I agree that the man who (eventually) answered you was quite rude in how he dealt with your feedback. As if the experience hadn’t been bad enough up to that point! But, on the bright side, at least now you have internet banking, and everything will be uber-fast from now on. *crosses fingers* 🙂

    • Also on the bright side – I write posts faster when I’m angry. I’m not sure if this has real world applications or not. 🙂 I need to write an angry book apparently.

      Why *was* he arguing with me? All he needed to say was, “Oh, really? We’ll look into that for you. You have a nice day!” Given how inexperienced I was with his phone menu, it was fairly assured I’d never talk to him again.

      Thank you for your sympathic ear (eyes?). Internet banking. *Tick*. Other techo-gizmos can wait. 😀

  2. I’m sorry to be the weird one here but I just have to say – personally I love technology! It makes life easier! I still cannot understand why my parents stubbornly refuse to use internet banking when it’s so incredibly convenient! Why? How can it be? Why do people still use a knife when they can cut their carrots in a mincer? Why work the dough with your fingers when you have a blender? All those lovely things get the job done faster, and then you’re free to enjoy yourself and your hobbies. I got an electric toothbrush lately, and already I cannot understand how I lived without it telling me when to stop brushing my teeth and not to press it too hard to the gums 🙂 To say nothing of phones, mp4 players, computers, netbooks, gps and other stuff of that kind. Whenever I hear about some nice new life-simplifying object, I want to have it. Not very easy when you try to avoid everything made in China but luckily for me there are plenty of used things and there are still European manufacturers out there so when I want an item of quality, I go for something German, and when I just want to try something to see if it works out for me, I buy something used and abused from one of the sellers on our local ebay 🙂

    I think I can safely say that mostly technology is for lazy people like me who want to get stuff done but hate the idea of actually doing it all themselves 🙂 This year I’m planning to add bread maker and ice-cream machine to my collection of kitchen gadgets, and as soon as I have enough money I’m laying my hands on a vacuum cleaning robot 🙂

    • I find myself in a funny place when it comes to technology. That’s ‘funny’ meaning strange. I worry about it. I worry about our reliance on it, I worry that money is becoming a virtual currency, I worry about how these objects are powered and whether it is sustainable, I worry about landfill. I just worry. A lot. Which makes me feel a bit guilty about owning some of it. And that’s before I even get to the part where I’m daunted by it. 🙂
      I do like a kitchen gadget, they definitely make life easier, but I do enjoy kneading dough by hand. Very satisfying! 😀

      • The problem is, the companies nowadays are not interested in making things that last. Quite on the contrary. They specifically design and produce them in a way to make them break in a designated period of time so that we would go and buy a new one. And no one ever thinks about what it does to the environment!! If nothing changes, one day our planet will look exactly like in WALL-E: one big dumpster, a huge dead space. It makes me so angry when I think about it…

        I like having new stuff – new in a sense that there’s a new development and now there’s a totally new machine doing something no one did before. But I never ever buy things just because I’m tired of the previous model or because this one is more fashionable or pretty or whatever. And even if it breaks – for as long as I can repair the thing or give it to someone who can repair it, I’m not giving it up. I hate throwing things away. Even if it’s a piece of old clothing that is so stained and worn-out that it’s impossible to do anything else with it. My only consolation is that the thing had been thoroughly used, in all possible ways, and it lived a long life 🙂

      • Exactly. Exactly *nods vigorously*. We have (near where I live) an electronic waste recycle centre for people’s unwanted technology. They’ve stopped accepting large (when I say large, I mean pre slim-line) televisions because no-one wants them. And you should see all the computers… It makes me worry.

        As an aside – I love WALL-E! 😀

      • Yes, there were indeed some hard truths in ‘WALL-E’, but (unusually for me) I could see the positives in its message and I adored his character. I could see a bit of myself in him and his hoarding of objects… 😉

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