I took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. “For English, press 1. Para Español, número dos.” Why did automated phone systems bother me so much? I reached out and pressed “1.”
Suddenly I heard it again, “For English, press 1. Para Español . . .” Breathe, Jill, I reminded myself, as I pressed “1” again.
I always put off calling this particular company. It seemed impossible to get to a “real” person, and when I did, they always seemed robotic. Like they were reading off a script or something. I’ve talked to fabulous customer service representatives many times, but this company seemed different somehow. Even the way their people spoke was mechanical. Measured. Impersonal.
Since I call them often for work, I’ve tried to ask questions and develop a relationship with the person on the other end of the line. But it never works. One time I asked the woman what her weather was like. She said, “Excuse me, ma’am. What was your question?”
I smiled. Finally I’d gotten her off script. “What’s your weather like? We’re pretty cold here; in fact, we even have snow!”
She paused for a moment, but then her voice came over the wire. Very clipped and metallic. “I’m sorry, ma’am. We don’t have an answer to your question. I cannot help you.”
The automated voice jarred me back to the present. “For English, press 1 . . .” I groaned. Today was not my day. I’ve already pressed 1 several times. What’s wrong with their system?
Suddenly I realized the automated voice was still speaking. “Please hang up and try your call again from a touch-tone phone.” I hung up and spoke aloud in the office. “Lord Jesus, please give me patience! I need it!”
Dee, my coworker, laughed from her desk. “Be careful what you pray for, Jill. You never know what’s going to happen!”
I nodded and picked up the phone again. This time I actually reached a person, but they couldn’t help either. After a while they finally said, “I’m sorry, ma’am. I cannot help you. I’m transferring you to my supervisor.”
The supervisor was much less mechanical, more human somehow. After listening, he said, “Ma’am, please turn your company’s phone off right now.” I pressed the button, but it refused to cooperate.
As I struggled, he spoke again, “Now, your phone should be turning on.”
“I’m sorry,” I said. “I’m still trying to get it turned off.”
He took a deep breath. “Ma’am, I’m telling you for the last time, turn your phone off!” Suddenly our roles reversed, and I realized he’d had a tough day too. I had become the frustrating customer.
I struggled to keep the laughter out of my voice. “Yes, sir, I’m doing that now. What’s next?”
Soon our problem was solved. I’m sure he hung up quite relieved to be rid of me. And me? I couldn’t get the phone down fast enough. I laughed until the tears ran down my cheeks. God had given me a good lesson. One in patience, in not taking myself so seriously, and, most important, in seeing life through someone else’s eyes.
Jill Morikone is administrative assistant to the president of 3ABN, a supporting Adventist television network. She and her husband, Greg, live in southern Illinois and enjoy ministering together for Jesus.