Phone calls are starting to drive seniors crazy

Posted by : Press release | On : January 27, 2012

By Emily Lundy

It is not my purpose to spread bad news, to forecast what lies on the horizon. But as a senior, one of the senility group or on the way, and for those approaching, you must turn some situations around, make adaptations, or you will be among the confused and lost. This news is worse than trying to find a phone number even with bifocals.

First, telemarketers are getting hostile, more desperate. These are employees of something needing customers, more money. They are calling the wrong people. My husband made the mistake of answering such a call yesterday. During the conversation, the line broke. My husband hung up. Then the caller dialed our number again.

“Please let me speak to the Mr. again,” he said. I answered, “He’s not here.”

“How is that possible?” the caller asked. “He was talking to me 12 seconds ago.”

“Well,” I replied, “he was standing on the porch, lost your contact, hung up, and he’s gone.” I then hung up again.

One day a special envelope arrived, causing me to open it as it had “second contact” on the left corner, loaded words used in getting a payment if I ever saw one. Then in small print there was the threat of criminal treatment if the envelope was misused in any way, even a hefty fine. I opened it to find a warranty pitch for a pickup a grandchild wrecked years ago. It was totaled, sold for its good pieces, paid off, etc. On what list would our name for this truck still be living? What a waste of funds for such a fancy appeal.

The tone in the voices, the tricks used like the horn of a liner for a cruise – all turn me into a hang-up ______.

Then reporters or announcers are speaking faster. If I’m where I can’t see the speaker, only hear, it sounds as though five minutes of information is being spoken in 60 seconds.

Sometime the phone message is a number I should call. The number rushes out by automation with no pattern to it and fast. We know phone numbers have a system, a rhythm to repeating them. First, we say the area code, pause and give the three-number prefix, and then pronounce the four-numbers, carefully saying “zero” for “0.” If the number were given any faster, I’d hear a blur. So I hang up clueless (or numberless). Of course, in sitcoms and other plot-related shows, it would help if characters did not have the same color of hair, same height, few distinguishable differences, but I stray.

That leaves the most disturbing trend of all facing us – the increasing use of robots to talk to us as though we’re equals. The telephone voice for unknown numbers has improved a smidgen, but he or she does not recognize the different between cities and states, and if the town has an out-of-the ordinary name, spelling it out may or may not help, such as Biardstown or Round Rock.

If a robot is not making you choke yourself with repeats and questions it can not understand when you do answer, or you have someone with a foreign accent who speaks louder the second, third and repeated times. One such caller asked my Texas friend if anyone lived in the house who could speak English. “Well, I can,” said my friend, “but you can’t.” Think of an automated voice with a foreign pronunciation. This is surely on the way.

But the worst is the nonhuman voice asking questions with you to provide the “right” word spoken into the phone. Nightmare. “I did not understand that,” is the reply. Then there is the pitch to use the website which I may not remember when I get to my computer. After all, it took three days to find the correct telephone number. Yes, I know the wait will take hours, but I touch “speaker phone” and go about my personal doings until I hear a change in the music or hear a human voice.

These artificial recordings will even give samples of words they want the caller, me, to use to secure help. Of course, none of the words are what I need. If I say my own word, I hear, “I’m sorry. I did not understand you.”

The topper of this conversation was having me give my telephone number one digit at at time. This is where a recording device in a different use would have been of the most aid as I said my number three times. Then, I was to give an alternate number. I have none presently. I said nothing. The message gets repeated. This continued until I said, “Zero, zero, zero, pause, zero, zero, zero, pause, zero, zero, zero, zero.” That was wasted effort too. Did I mention I weep easily?

After another repeat of rejected zeros, I switched to “wait time,” hearing automated apology after apology for my not being helped. All this waste must be to save money when people need jobs. But what do I know. It’s called progress.

The next time you are bored, call the social security office in a city about 50-100 miles proximity. Take your blood pressure medication first.