Hi-tech’s torture at times
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.