I should be out there hurtling Genghis but it’s SHEETING RAIN & I’m looking for excuses to put it off.* So I thought I’d tell you my next The Insanity of Technology story. I should rename this blog The Technophobe. But I’m not going to. I love my piano. Especially when it—she—does startling, unpianoish things, like fly.** I do not love technology. I may have said this once or twice recently. & I’m certainly not going to give uglytech any greater freaking profile in my life by calling my blog after it. Even, you know, reversely.
Last post I was telling you that part of the terror of having my credit card shut down even for long enough for me to figure out what the menacing & mysterious*** charge was, was the possibility of having no credit card if I couldn’t figure it or similar bankish hysterics out fast enough.† It’s been on my mind [sic] for a while now that I really should have a second credit card so if my bank’s card admin does jump off a tall building & go squish, I still have an option for ordering this week’s organic groceries & superfluous books.††
Mega department stores don’t exist much any more but there are one or two still hanging on. I’ve been buying all my major appliances at—oh—let’s call it Mortimer Cheeseparing—for the 30-plus years I’ve lived in the UK.††† It generally has customer service, which puts it up on just about every other giant corporation out there & a lot of the smaller ones too, & it tends to honour its guarantees. Fancy. So, possibly because I’m an old & comparatively rarely uppity customer‡‡, they sent me, & kept sending me, a come-on for a credit card. Okay, I thought, they’re about as economically stable as anything else on this mad planet at the minute. So I applied. Except that at the point when they wanted to know your dog’s middle name & how often your bank has come after you about the overdraft‡‡‡ I started feeling nervous & wondering if I should be checking if the initial invitation was a scam, & if the answer is yes, how I find this out?? Once you start seeing conspiracies under the bed you see them everywhere else too, behind the woodstove§, under the piano, who hasn’t flown anywhere recently, taped to the back of the laptop screen which since I never put the lid down & there are giant piles of BOOKS on the other side of the table is a really good place for a (small) secret conspiracy.
So I dithered about this for a while, AKA didn’t get around to doing anything§§, because it probably involved ringing Mortimer Cheeseparing’s customer service’s number & I comprehensively hate corporate phone numbers any more because of the Robot Factor WATCH THIS SPACE.
& they sent me the card anyway. Welcome to your new Mortimer Cheeseparing credit card! We’re delighted to have a new way to get money out of you! We’re so delighted we’re sending it to you even though you never finished applying!
But . . . wait . . . Where the screaming doodah did they get all that stuff they need to prove I’m a, like, solvent, human being, with a bank balance with actual§§§ money in it?ɸ
So at this point I decided it had to be a scam, & buried the fraudulent card in some pile of random Notes to Self, crumpled bits of the semi-discarded wrong sizes of dress patterns, magazines &/or confusingly ill-numbered drafts of story in progress, which is dismayingly easy to do in this house.
Then I started getting the, Please activate your shiny new Mortimer Cheeseparing credit card! emails. We’re longing to start depriving you of your miserably inadequate moolah but we want what there is of it anyway! These emails are of course ‘no reply’.
Eventually I gave in to pressure, totally failed to find a working customer service email address—you know those endless loops you get sent in? First they say, Let us HELP you! Then they offer live chat, which turns out not to be open right now, then they shove you at the FAQ which does not, for some reason, have a Why have you sent me a credit card I didn’t finish applying for?? listing, you know, out there in public where other potential customers might see it & think, wow, I’m not shopping here where the admin’s total IQ must be roughly equivalent to that of a small heap of dead guinea pigs. You’re beginning to realise that there is No Hope but a phone number . . . so you allow yourself to be chivvied to the list of phone numbers . . . none of which appear to apply to your situation. A bit like the FAQ really. There is no phone number for Would you like to talk to a dead guinea pig about something we screwed up?
So I chose a number more or less at random . . . & OF COURSE was instantly tangled up in the rotting, serpentine carcase of the ROBOT MAZE. Holy meltdown, Batman. I used to be able to talk on the phone to customer services although phone calls to strangers have never been my favourite thing, but since I moved over here & even after over thirty years still find some regional British accents difficultɸɸ, I like them even less & THEN SOMEONE LET THE ROBOTS IN. I had thought musak was as bad as it could get. . . .
BUT THERE’S A NEW SHORT CIRCUIT IN THE ROBOT HYPO DRILL. Oh yes, I forgot to mention that British customer-service robots never understand my unflagging & inexorable American accent. What? they say. Or [whirring noises]. Or long silences followed by the exact same question they’ve just asked you. Which, as far as they’re concerned, you have failed to answer. Occasionally you get ‘we’re sorry, we didn’t quite catch that.’ & then they say the same thing over again.
& over again.
& over again.
It ALSO used to be that if you failed once at the British-English comprehensibility test, they’d give you numbers to poke. If you want the dead guinea pig option, please press one. If you want the Amazonian rain forest soothing sound effects option, please press two. If you want a live human being . . . HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA.
My relationship with my iPhone is not the best to begin with.ɸɸɸ I go into these customer-service confrontations swearing to myself that I won’t throw it across the room (it might gouge my beautiful wallpaper), I won’t throw it on the floor & stomp it to shreds (Genghis might pick something up in his paw; I won’t notice, such would be my fury, if my bare foot, since I’m almost always barefoot indoors, is streaming with blood & broken bits of curly wire), or throw it through a window (I might hit a litigious passerby).
So after I’d been through the ‘we’re sorry, we didn’t quite catch that’ something like TEN TIMES & was beginning to wonder where headquarters was so I could go there & throw the iPhone through the window with a note tied around it saying Your customer service? AAAAAAAAAUGH . . . Eventually Robot Mistress※ gave me some numbers, by which time I was gibbering with exasperation.
When I explained about the dodgy card to the LIVE HUMAN BEING!!!! who finally answered the ringing noise frequently halted for another robot voice to say, your call is important to us! Take a long jump off a short pier why don’t you! at intervals of about three seconds, the live human being said calmly, oh yes, that does keep happening.
So she activated the weaselly card & we had quite a nice chat as one human being to another & she promised, almost successfully stifling her laughter, to pass on my remarks about robot answering services to her admin.
It wasn’t till that night that it occurred to me that I had no idea what the PIN number to my Mortimer Cheeseparing Weasel Card is. So I . . . please don’t kill yourselves laughing here . . . decided to sign on to the Cheeseparing web site & consult Manage Your Account.
Pardon me while I half-kill myself laughing.
Of course it didn’t work. OF COURSE. I appreciate that they’re trying to keep you & your embarrassingly paltry bank balance※※ safe, but after they’ve insisted on sixty-seven passcodes, which they keep sending to your overheating iPhone, I’m losing the will to live. At some point I bumble through some virtual doorway & am told that the next screen will REVEAL. MY. PIN.
& then it rejects my passcode.
& then it does it again.
I go back to the FIRST passcode that worked to get me in the flaming Manage Your Account at all.
It rejects that one.
The little additional doohickey to all this is that the passcode screen does not have a ‘show’ option. After the first passcode failure I also started making myself crazier by putting the blasted code in two or three times worrying that as my HANDS ARE NOW SHAKING WITH RAGE I could easily be putting it in wrong. I could still be there, re-putting in some flaming passcode or other except Genghis thought it was time to go out again.※※※
You’re given eight tries before they shut you down. I stopped after six.
Next day I HAMMERED MY (*&^%$£”!!!!! WAY THROUGH CUSTOMER SERVICE ROBOT ATROCITIES AGAIN & this time, when I finally got a live human being he said calmly, oh yes, that does keep happening . . .
SOMEWHERE WELL BEYOND ARRRRRRRRRRGH.
I did say, you know I’m used to getting the PIN in a separate piece of STREET MAIL from the card, usually you have to scrape something off to show the numbers to PROVE it hasn’t been tampered with⁑, but the point is you don’t have to do any on line wiggins⁑⁑ to get your PIN!! He said, yes, well, they didn’t send it because your card was sent before you finished applying for it . . .
Okay. I have a working credit card⁑⁑⁑. I have a PIN. I am good to go. I think I will lie down with a dog & a nice hard copy book now.
* * *
* According to the forecast it’s going to keep on sheeting, so it’s not like I’m doing anything practical. I’m just shirking. I can shirk a little longer.^
^ Although I live on a hill, & rain always sounds melodramatic, & even the lightest, ghostliest little breeze wraps around this house like a hurricane with supplemental banshees.
** Like sound warm & lovely even when I’m playing her. On a good day, although define good?, on a day when my real-world brain is working even less well than usual^, & particularly now that it’s getting late enough in the season that mostly my windows are closed^^, I can sing & keep myself semi-right by hiding behind the sound my right hand^^^ is hoicking out of my poor patient piano.
Sometimes, yes, I stop trying to sing & add my left hand to the keyboard mix . . . we should probably not go there. There’s only so much even a warm & lovely piano can do with a seventeen-fingered insufficiently-jointed tone-deaf misfit.^^^^
^ generally speaking, having a non-real-world brain is an advantage for a writer, but it does sometimes make all that remembering to eat & hurtle the GWHP & pay the bills stuff a serious crashing bore. I have to do what? Why? Who says? Other than Genghis. I do listen to him. Sort of.+
+ Except when he’s trying to put over something like But I haven’t eaten/been walked/petted/fussed over/addressed in terms of endearment &/or fiery wrath in DAYS!! I am a poor sad starving forlorn ignored~ thing!
~ HA HA HA HA HA. Dogs generally are not very ignorable, at least those that live in the house with you, but a GWHP?! Nobody in the history of furry four legged moochers has ever ignored a GWHP.%
% Mine at present is doing the standard Genghis thing of taking up three-quarters of the space at my end of our two-person bench. His end is empty. We could have ANOTHER dog . . . NO NO NO NO NO.$
$ & to think I used to have several of these creatures at a time. Previous generations have certainly lain on me when we were on the sofa together but I never had that body-snatcher sensation before, when I wonder if I might look down some day & discover that I have several extra legs & a strange desire to bark. Weren’t we just talking about barking?}
} No, we’re just about to. I can’t keep track of my own footnotes.
^^ The problem with living in town is, you know, neighbours. Mine have already commented on my Interesting Musical Choices, & all they’re hearing is the radio & my (interesting) CD collection. You know, professional musicians.+
+ A few of them are barking, of course, but that keeps it . . . interesting. &, speaking of barking#, my right-hand neighbours have a dog. A dog nicknamed The Dogbell by a regular visitor. The Dogbell doesn’t necessarily wait for visitors. He has dangerous, threatening hallucinations. At midnight these are not popular with his neighbours.
# Anyone not well acquainted with British slang: barking as an adjective means bonkers. Round the twist. Mad. Doolally. Um, crazy?
^^^ No of course I can’t play with two hands AND sing! What do you think I am! A professional musician??!!!+
+ & then there’s the tale of my violin. Sic. Some other post. It’s a long, sad story. But I’m still planning on a happy ending. Well . . . relatively happy.
^^^^ Actually I’m not tone deaf. That makes it worse.
*** The not at all freaking mysterious!! Bank logarithms are more insane than I am! Not only is it a magazine subscription, once I found it, but it’s a magazine subscription to The New Yorker for pity’s sake, how mainstream do you need it?, which, furthermore, I’ve subscribed to for years, & the sub therefore comes round regularly! Arrrrrgh.
† Another great scam would be to do this in a sufficiently labyrinthine way that the poor sucker whose card it is gives up mid-no-way-out-jungle & agrees to the charge to get it over with.
†† There is no such thing as superfluous books.
††† I’ve told you I’ve now lived longer in the UK than I lived in the US?—the apparent arithmetical disparity is the five years I lived in Japan as a kid. & you’re going to have to get used, I think, to me hopping around like my feet are on fire about being this old. It’s like the t-shirt says: it’s WEIRD being the same age as old people. & even someone with as cracked & leaky a memory as mine, if you’re this old, your memory goes a very long way back. Halloooooooo. & that’s weird.
‡‡ Way too often I can’t be bothered. My bad.
‡‡‡ Only once. & it was the bank’s error. Guess how long that took to get sorted. Guess why.
§ Which woodstove? I have several. Are they ALL bugged?
§§ A close cousin to can’t be bothered.
§§§ or virtual. Who pays with money any more?
ɸ I assume the answer is that they frelling poached it off my frelling account with Mortimer Cheeseparing. GUESS HOW PARANOID THIS MAKES ME FEEL. WHO NEEDS CONSPIRACIES? ORDINARY REALITY IS ENOUGH.^
^ with or without the secret cabal taped to the back of my laptop. They unstick themselves when I’m not around & leave tiny teacup rings on the long-suffering oilcloth. Just so long as they don’t leave rings on the books. That is beyond treason. Whatever beyond treason is.
ɸɸ At least the farming-out of all call centres to other countries where, I’m guessing, minimum wage doesn’t exist, nor does anything like job training, nor even some kind of check that the person just hired to do a job they don’t understand because no one has explained it to them can at least speak comprehensible English seems to be over. We’re now back to English regional, with the occasional Scots or Irish regional thrown in. Meanwhile I’ve also got a bit deaf. I’m getting better at local Scots, but oh, glory, an Irish person in full singing flow . . . whimper . . . the Welsh don’t seem to do call centres? Sensible folk.
ɸɸɸ Another potential source of endless Technophobe blog posts.
※ Whose bright idea was it that women’s robot voices are more, what, emollient than men’s? All that happens is that I have an overwhelming urge to find a headmistress & loo-roll her garden.^ Hey, I’ll use eco friendly loo roll. The kind that will disintegrate on first contact with a single raindrop. She’ll never know it ever happened. Now let us consider how well this stuff does its supposed business. Ahem.
^ I’ve never done any of those classic Halloween pranks. But robot voices can drive even the sanest grown up to untoward lengths & I AM NOT THE SANEST GROWN UP.
※※ At my age I should be retired. If I want to keep eating organic food, I can’t afford to retire.
※※※ Dogs are lifesavers.
⁑ Scammers have x-ray vision.
⁑⁑ I’ve been rewatching BUFFY. Deal with it.
⁑⁑⁑ Yes. I’ve tried it. I suppose it could still go wrong the second time . . .