You are faced with an everyday problem which needs immediate resolution. This could be with your internet or television service provider, laptop computer, neighbourhood bank, credit card company, washing machine or even your car service. Helpline ahoy!
The moment you call any of these numbers, the first thing you will hear is some mindless hotel lobby type instrumental music. This will go on for about 40 seconds or so, after which a recorded voice will crackle through. ‘Thank you for calling Bye-Bye Sky. All our service representatives are busy with other customers. We will be with you as soon as one of them is free. Meanwhile please stay on the line. We value your custom and apologise for any inconvenience. Your waiting time is three minutes.’ At which point the disembodied voice goes off the air, and the doleful fusion music returns, repeating the same 12 bars in an endless loop.
After about three and a half minutes of this dirge, the music is interrupted mid-stream and the same voice returns with the same message. ‘Thank you for calling Bye-Bye Sky. All our service representatives are busy….’ You know the rest of the spiel. Only this time round the waiting period indicated is four minutes. After another two or three forays into this Chinese torture, you are ready to yank your hair out and swallow the glass paperweight at your work station. Worse, for the next couple of days, that interminably insipid instrumental music you were subjected to, refuses to leave your head, burrowing its way into your cerebellum and cerebrum (I can never tell the difference).
A variant to the unlistenable music while you are on hold is to have to put up with a slew of promotional announcements. ‘Bye-Bye Sky has four new packages for you to choose from. If you want our Hindi package with Sports channels, press 1, the Tamil package with Telugu news channels and free Bible lessons, press 2, Malayalam family package with free cookery classes, press 3, and the mega English films package with free yoga lectures by Shri Shri Ravishankar, press 4.
All this after it took several attempts to get through to the helpline, then select from ‘Press 1 for English, 2 for Hindi, 3 for Sanskrit, 4 for Konkani and so on. Having pressed 1 for English, you wait patiently for another set of options to choose from, ‘Press 1 for internet related issues, 2 for cable television, 3 for billing queries, 4 for transmission problems and 8 if you wish to speak to our representative. Why they jump from 4 to 8 to get to a human voice is baffling. Perhaps they’re counting on your getting fed up and hanging up after pressing 3. Then you wait, and go back to the endless rigmarole of suffering the unendurable music. They have added a new, comforting twist, ‘Don’t worry if the line gets disconnected. Our representatives will get back to you on your registered mobile number as soon as they are free.’ All of them? In several languages? A telephonic Tower of Babel!
Needs must. You decide to swallow your pride, as opposed to your paperweight and finally (Glory be!), you hit pay dirt! A live female voice, with a faint Bengali accent comes through over the ether. ‘Am I talking to Mr. Subrahmanyan?’ When you affirm the same, she proceeds to ask me to confirm my registered mobile number. Irately I ask, ‘You want me to confirm the mobile number which you can clearly see on your screen, by which you have already identified my name?’ My biting sarcasm goes clean over her head. ‘Standard procedure, Sir. Please can you confirm your date of birth?’ ‘January 1st 2019.’ I thought I’d humour her. ‘Sorry Sir. That is not the correct information as per our records. You have one more try available.’ What was this? A quiz show? She was deadly earnest, though. So before she could ask me what the name of my pet dog was, I decided to play ball and repeated my date of birth. Correctly this time. ‘Thank you Sir. Now what is your problem?’ she asked archly.
I didn’t even know where to begin. ‘Lady, don’t get shirty with me. I am trying to make sense of this new TRAI package and how to…….’ At this point the line went stone dead on me. ‘Hullo, hullo, are you there?’ Nothing, not a peep. Sucked in by the Bermuda Triangle. However, as I had been assured that a disconnection should not leave me hopelessly depressed, I waited for her to revert. When nothing happened after 20 minutes, I went through the whole shebang again. Only this time I got through to a male voice, rabbiting away in Malayalam (‘Subrahmanyan aano?’). I decided I have had enough, and cut the line. I let nature take its course. Nature then gave me a Tamilian, which was fine as it was my tongue, with which I gave him a lashing. A minute later, I receive a text message thanking me for contacting Bye-Bye Sky and would I share my feedback. F5 for Excellent, F4 for Very Good, F3 for Good, F2 for Fair and F1 for Poor. I keyed in F minus10 for Beyond Redemption. I did not reply to a message asking me to expl
ain Beyond Redemption. I yearn for the good old days when we had an antediluvian landline telephone at home with all those knotty, tortuous wires.
When it went on the blink, we would visit the telephone office, given number 183 on the waiting list. Six days later, a greasy bird with a toolkit would turn up, open up the instrument and its innards, fiddle around a bit, put it all back, pick up the handset and hey presto, the phone worked. Tipped him `5 and he skipped away, happy as a lark. Technology? Strictly for the birds.
(The author is a brand consultant with an interest in music, cricket, humour and satire)...