I got a telephone call on my mobile the other day from my phone service provider, Telstra. It was a robot calling. It told me immediately that this was not a telemarketing call, that my mobile phone bill was some $157 overdue, and that if I did not sort out it right now, I was toast. It then invited me to embark of a series of telesteps which were quite impossible, since I was in a busy street at the time and just about to go into a meeting. Being a robot, its understanding of the situation was very limited. So I hung up. Big mistake.
Anyway, as soon as I had a moment I looked in my pile of postie rubbish to see if I had missed a hard copy bill. No. So I got onto the Telstra website to see if I could pay the bill on-line. Big mistake. No, not without the bill (which I did not have) in front of you. You can try ringing up, but you just get put on hold for ever. You can try on-line chat, but yesterday that just timed out as well.
There is a system of registering an on-line account, and after being on another on-line chat with Telstra that lasted for several days, I looked at my watch and saw that only a few hours had passed. In the end, I got to chat with someone called Erika, who typed me friendly messages with smiley faces and wishing me a wonderful day and all that sort of thing. Eventually, she sorted me out, and I concluded she was probably a real person (either that or a much cleverer robot that the one which had rung me up to tell me that there was an overdue bill).
The bizarre thing is that my annoyance gradually drained away during this process, and instead of resenting that my day was being wasted, I almost got to enjoy the absurd exchange of messages, and giving my date of birth over and over again (I think it might be a test to see if you have Alzheimer’s; you might be able to remember your date of birth 2 or 3 times, but can you still remember after being asked a dozen times?). It was a sort of Stockholm Syndrome thing, I suppose, whereby hostage captors start to get bizarrely supportive of their captors, despite their predicament.
I wonder if Erika was speaking to me from a call centre in Stockholm?