Hi-tech’s tor­ture at times

The Star Late Edition - - METRO - dbeck­[email protected]

DOES ev­ery­one some­times feel a funny, wob­bly mo­ment when it hits you that some­thing you’ve known all your life, some­thing you’ve taken for granted, has van­ished?

That hap­pens to me, quite a bit. I wasn’t go­ing to say so, be­cause I took this as an Old Guy’s Agenda, and I cher­ish youth­ful read­ers. A great mem­ory is a young Hol­lard main­te­nance man, Vuyani, stop­ping me in a street to as­cer­tain I was the Stoep Talker and giv­ing me an ab­sorb­ing ap­praisal. I wouldn’t write for Vuyani more than for his mom or dad, but as an old guy ad­dress­ing a gen­eral au­di­ence I’d take care not to cut him out.

But then I re­cal­cu­lated. Hold on, that wob­bly mo­ment can’t be old guys’ prop­erty, not any longer. Not in this break­neck age.

Take CDs. To me they’re shiny new. I’m still fig­ur­ing out what hap­pened to fast-for­ward, and they’re al­ready crum­pling on his­tory’s scrapheap. For a re­cent soli­tary trip in a rental car I got the in­tel­li­gent mem­ber of the fam­ily to loan her ex­cel­lent col­lec­tion, only to be baf­fled, on the high­way, why had this car hid­den its CD slot?

A call to Europ­car re­vealed that cars are post-CD. Which might give gig­gles to the hip, woke or hap­pen­ing, or the cur­rent slang is for with-it young peo­ple, but I’ll bet many gig­gle softly, shed­ding a tear for their own col­lec­tions gath­er­ing dust.

This week my bank­ing app went on strike, a re­minder that as won­der­ful as the dig­i­tal age gen­uinely is, there are times one is moved to thoughts of vi­o­lence.

Young peo­ple, too, might re­mem­ber when phon­ing banks could mean mind-numb­ing se­rial tring-trings, hold­ing your cra­dle-shape re­ceiver in your hand un­til it slips from your slum­ber­ing grasp and bounces off your foot on its curly cable.

Well, was that bet­ter or worse than the (de­cep­tive) in­stant recorded greet­ing with its long list of words. From that you are speak­ing to an au­tho­rised fi­nan­cial ser­vices and reg­is­tered credit provider. Through tat-for-app en­quiries you press two, for tele­phone bank­ing ser­vices you press three, to re­quest copies of state­ments you press four, to have your card pin read back you press five and to re­set your lim­its you press six.

The mo­ment of the ac­tual hu­man voice – “good morn­ing. You are speak­ing to Ter­ence. How may I help you?” – comes across in con­text as akin to as­cend­ing to heaven, and gets bet­ter when Ter­ence takes you mas­ter­fully through your is­sues.

But then, the un­rav­el­ling re­quires that I call back.

“You just ask for me”, says Ter­ence. Hmm. When I’ve got through the bar­rage of press-but­ton in­struc­tions again, ask­ing for Ter­ence turns into re­ceiv­ing Ed­die. I ex­plain my­self all over again, and lo! We come to the same crunch, and I must phone again.

By Round 3, the press-but­ton in­ven­tory is ex­cru­ci­at­ing. It hurts the ears. Ex­plain­ing to Ipele­geng is far from fun, no fault of hers, and on Round 4 the al­go­rithm has de­cided to have fun of its own: Heh-heh, let’s put him on a per­ma­nent loop so he never again gets a hu­man voice, he can for­ever have the recorded in­ven­tory re­fer him back to it­self again.

I’m em­bar­rassed be­fore my cred­i­tors – one in par­tic­u­lar, sorry Billy. In an­other few days I’ll no doubt stiffen the sinews suf­fi­ciently to try again.

Mean­time, I find my­self han­ker­ing for old days of ami­able queues in the bank­ing hall, and the old fa­mil­iar tring-tring as some­thing calm­ing and prac­ti­cally mu­si­cal.

DE­NIS BECKETT

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