If you have a touch tone please dial one…
By Bill Eagle as printed in the July issue of the Columbia River Reader

Sometimes I have a hard time coping with things.  Things will bother me, that really shouldn't.  A good example is an extra charge of seventy five cents on my telephone bill.
At one time seventy five cents would get you quite a bit.  Do you remember ever hearing the old rhyme "Shave and a haircut six bits…?"  Seventy five cents won't buy a person very much anymore; it certainly won't buy you a hair cut and at most restaurants, it won't even purchase a cup of coffee. 

I was having a good day, I had a song in my heart and a smile on my lips when I picked up the telephone to call my friend who runs a St. Helens computer store. 
I punched the number in on my telephone and instead of a ring I got the sound of a busy signal.  Accompanying the busy signal was the sound of a recorded voice: "The line is busy, for only seventy five cents the telephone company will keep trying and call you back when the line is no longer busy."

"Mmmph" thinks I as I hang up the telephone.

I try again. Once again a busy signal sounds in the background and a recorded voice chants: "The line is busy, for only seventy five cents …."

"The heck with that noise" mutters I as I slam the telephone back in it's cradle.

A short time later, my telephone gives a strange double ring.  I look at the caller I.D. and see that it is my computer store friend.  I pick up the handset, and I get a dial tone.

"What in the devil?" Mutters I.  I dial my friend who is no longer talking on the telephone.  Mid conversation, it suddenly dawns on me.  The telephone company has just figured out a way to charge me seventy five cents.

I am outraged.  "What right do they have to do this?  I didn't ask them to call me back.  I didn't punch any buttons, and I certainly didn't expect to get charged for a service that I didn't initiate. 

I dial "O" for operator.  The Operator answers and tells me that I need to call the business office… or she can connect me for a fee.

"A fee?  No way lady, I will make the call myself."  So begins my adventure in automation.

I dial the 800 number for my telephone companies business office.  It rings and a recorded voice announces: "Welcome to your telephone company.  Check out our web site at www….   If you are currently a telephone customer please enter the area code and number you are calling about.  If you are calling about new telephone service, press two".
The message is then followed in Spanish.

I enter my telephone number.

A cheerful computerized voice repeats my number back to me followed by the statement, "If this number is correct press one."

"Now that's a no brainer thinks I" as I press the one.

The Voice continues:  "Please select one of the following options:
To make a change in your service or disconnect your service press 1.
To make a payment or if you have received a notice regarding your account, press 2.
If you have a question or wish to discuss the changes on your bill, press 3.
For repair press 4.
To use our automated service center for billing and payment options,  product
information or descriptions press 5".

I press "3".

My cyber trek continues: "for automated information regarding last payment received and balance due press 1.
To get a copy of your bill press 2.
To speak to a billing consultant press 3.
To repeat these options press star."

I press "3" again.

Still more: "For questions specifically regarding long distance charges press 1.
To speak with a consultant press 2".

My choices are fewer, and I just know that I am finally where I want to be.  I press the "2"

I hear ringing, and a recorded voice croons "Please hold. This call may be monitored for quality assurance."

I can feel the stirrings of what may soon be the thrill of first contact when a recorded voice blurts: " Due to the unusual number of calls today, we are unable to handle your request.  Please call back at a later time."

I am not happy, and a mutter a couple of words that should not be repeated around children.

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