Atrocious Torture & Terror
It’s been a while since we last communed via the written word, and I’ll tell you whose to blame, the man (and Netflix). I recently moved, and I foolishly assumed I could call AT&T, place an order and receive service. I ordered internet on August 10th. They were supposed to set up high-speed internet on my birthday, August 14th. They failed, a bad sign for my 24th year, so I called.
After navigating the automated system, I finally reached a person, Lou, but I don’t think that really was his name. He paused before he said it, as if he was reading it off a list of “Western” names. He also had a British accent, suggesting his country liberated itself later than 1775. I should have acknowledged the fact that I knew he was in India. How were we supposed to create a healthy relationship founded on lies?
I gave him my account number, and he announced that he couldn’t tell what was wrong with my account. There was some sort of technical problem, blocking his ability to access my account. I wanted to ask what he was doing at work if that was the case? What could he possible do for me or anyone else for that matter? I didn’t do this. I wasn’t that angry, yet. My service had only been delayed a day or two, but I would have to call back later.
I called the next day and had a harder time finding a person. I don’t know what was wrong with the old system of pushing buttons when communicating with a phone computer, whatever you call those robots that have taken over all major corporations’ phones. If you push a button, you’re at least speaking the robot’s language. If you have to actually speak to the robot, you always get, “I’m sorry I didn’t get that.” Of course you didn’t get it, you’re a machine! But you have to remain calm because even phone robots sense emotion. They know when you’re angry and they retaliate. “I’m sorry I didn’t get that. I’m sorry I’m having a hard time understanding you.” The third time it didn’t understand me, it’s because I was sputtering with anger, and then the robot hung up on me. “Please call back when you have more information.” I felt hurt and rejected and patronized. The machine thought it was smarter than me, and it probably was because I couldn’t figure out how to get it, something humans designed, to help me.
I went through the hoops again, speaking calmly and steadily, channeling a robot. This time, I was put on hold for the Order Status Department. “All our representatives are currently assisting other customers” repeated until it became a taunt, “All our representatives are currently assisting OTHER customers.”
Finally Mary Beth explained that the 1/2 in my address so confused the company that they had extended our activation date until the 21st. The next week I went out of town, but my roommate received a phone call saying they still didn’t believe our address was legitimate, so they were contacting our landlords, those pillars of responsibility who failed to fix our gas leak and never return our phone calls. I called AT&T again.
They claimed to have activated the account, so now we could finally put in a help request because it still wasn’t working. I thought I might actually see someone affiliated with AT&T at my house, but I wanted reparations.
A month had passed since we ordered internet, so I was less than civil on the phone. I wanted some free internet or else I was calling Time Warner. I was transferred to the Retention line. They kept me on hold for an half an hour, until I had to get off in order to go to work. In what world is it a good idea to keep someone on hold for the Retention Department?
Two phone calls later, and I was talking to Ed in St. Louis, a fact he proudly stated at the beginning of our phone call, as if to say, “Don’t worry, during certain hours our calls are taken by actual Americans.” Ed couldn’t locate my account, which puzzled him. He also didn’t really want to talk about my immediately stated reason for calling, “I want some free months or I’m canceling.”
Finally, using my blood type and birth certificate, he was able to locate my account. “What happened?” he wondered out loud. This isn’t something the people providing you with the service are supposed to ask. This is when I lost it.
I’d already wooed Marge, Thomas, Henry, and Phyllis. They all agreed that I deserved some free internet. They were horrified by my plight, especially since the lack of internet was keeping me from my long-distance boyfriend. “You’re denying me love, AT&T. LOVE. No one can live without love!” But Marge and Henry could agree with me because they didn’t work in billing. Ed worked in billing. I started shouting, and I don’t remember what I said, but I did hear myself say, “I need you to show me you appreciate my customership.” Customership.
Apparently, inventing words raises a red flag, so Ed threw a hundred dollars worth of credit at me. I calmed down, feeling like it should take more than just a measly hundred dollars to solve this. He hadn’t expressed any remorse. Customership is the combination of “relationship” and “customer,” and this was an abusive relationship, where I did all the work.
Perhaps I was choosing to take a stand because this was all too familiar, reminiscent of all the boys I dated in college. If they had had phone robots answering their cell phones, the message would have been like this, “Please state your purpose for calling. For example, say, ‘Booty Call, What’s up, Bro?, or I want a relationship.’ I’m sorry. I’m having a hard time understanding you. Did you say relationship?”
It was still another week after I talked to Ed before we had internet, which means I made two more phone calls. In total I probably talked to ten different people, and each of them heard my complaints. If only I could stand up for myself in my real, non-AT&T life. I wouldn’t have kept calling those silly boys in college. I need the safety of talking to someone in India, via phone robot, to express my anger. Perhaps I will save on therapy and simply call AT&T. After all, they’re in communications, and communication is essential for a healthy emotional life. I’m calling Lou right now.