Ernie Raub, one of my oldest friends and co-workers back in the days of perpetual blue, and I enjoyed lunch this past week at Bandannas, in Jefferson City. The conversation moved around a bit, but we did manage to focus on a few irritants. This list grows longer as you age.
If you are of the conservative or even moderate persuasion, the dramatic shift in the attitude of America will provide all the conversational fodder you need. If you are an old cop, there is yet another layer of head scratching stuff to discuss. We easily slipped through road rage, remembering the days we could actually do something about the bone heads who seem to surround us on the highways these days. I confess, every time I slapped my ticket book closed after rewarding a bone head with a invitation to explain his or her latest maneuver to a judge, I smiled. Good guys 1, bad guys 0. Politics, bad drivers, the latest ailments and family considerations aside we focused on the grand-daddy of all that is terribly wrong with America, the scourge of daily life, the impetus for cardiac event inducing anger accompanied by acute indigestion and apoplectic seizures. The call taker.
Back in the day, totally unknown to each other, Ernie and I had a policy in our respective divisions. Our iron clad, guaranteed response to the calls that were routed to our shops was an answer, by a human being, to your question! Magic stuff today. Ernie directed the Research and Development shop and I had inherited the Traffic Division, so odd calls that hit the switchboard were often directed to our offices. If we had no idea what the answer was, we took a call back number and ran the traps for the caller until WE could provide the answer to the question. If further information was needed, we caused the appropriate person in state government to call the person making the inquiry back and help them. No phone tag, no wandering around from office to office, we cut to the chase. If two Missouri State Highway Patrol Captains could not get an answer to a citizen inquiry, imagine the frustration of the caller, as he or she navigated the system in Jefferson City!
Ernie Raub is not excitable. He is one of the more reflective, direct and patient people that I know. Ernie, having recently lost his mother, had been navigating the various social security and Medicare components of government. He talked of the various folks, when you actually talked to a person rather than an electronic router, who could barely speak English, who obviously kept a roster of numbers routed through the same electronic prompted maze. I felt his pain. Rather than sign up for social security on the computer, I opted to appear in a Social Security office in person, thinking a conversation about my options would be helpful. It was, to me, not so much for the official who was interested only in getting me out of their office expeditiously. I should have used the computer.
People cost money….electronically recorded responses do not. Want to talk to someone about service on an appliance, your call is answered in another part of the world, who relays the information (or not) to a service center in your region, who relays the information to a service center in your state, who then notifies a service tech who must check with his dispatch center to arrange a specific time, who then notifies you he will be by between 6AM and 5PM on the appointed day. Efficiency indeed.
We need to do a study. Rather than the mating habits of earthworms, let’s look into the daily activities of the folks involved in major, life altering or life ending events. I am betting you will find an experience with a call taker in the preceding day or two of the event. While we are at it, let’s add anotheir category for death certificates signed by coroners and medical examiners, “telephone induced cardiac arrest”, or TICA.
Telephones should have warning labels………..