The other day I had the occasion to call the claims office of my insurance company. This is not the same thing as the local office, where people are invariably friendly and helpful. The claims office is so far from friendly and helpful that it can see the curvature of the earth.
When you call, the first thing that happens is a male voice, using a weird cadence and the same tones one would use to announce the arrival of Doom, says, “All our. Representatives are. Helping. Other. Customers. Waittimeisapproximatelytenminutes.”
Then, to remind you that you have descended to the mouth of Hell, the phone starts to play horrible scritchy music, interrupted by loud pops of static.
After a few moments of this, you realize that the music is actually an orchestral rendering of the insurance company’s theme song. Your brain, slowly turning to mush and oozing out your ears, begins to sing along.
At this point, a certain type of person will start to swear at the phone. This is okay, because the voice that you thought, with a leap of hope, was someone actually answering your plea for help, will be the recording, again.
Another male voice, possibly recorded as someone was coming out of anesthesia, groans, “Your call. isveryimportant. To us. Pleasestay. On. Theline.”
“Listen!” you scream at no one, “If my call was important to you, you’d freaking answer it! Give me a human!”
But the phone has gone back to the death-gurgle of the theme song, this time with a kind of back beat that could be an attempt at jazz or more bad static.
You start to wonder what your premiums go for, and if you can require the company to update its telephone equipment.
A voice interrupts your reverie. This time it is a female voice, and for a second you feel that your prayers have been answered and someone is going to deliver you from limbo.
It is, in fact, the voice of yet another recording, speaking Spanish at a breakneck pace, telling you that if you would like assistance in español, press numero uno.
You would like assistance in English, or, in fact, any assistance at all, even in Urdu, but this is not one of your options.
When the woman finishes speaking, the music does not come back. You hope wildly that it has finally died the lingering death it sounded like, but in just a moment, struggling up from the bottom of some deep well of sound, the warbling, gargling noise returns, this time with some sort of vocal “oooh” sound behind it. Obviously, those are the souls of others who, like you, have been caught in the claims department for all eternity.
A loud pop of static erases whole lobes of your brain, and you fling the phone away from you just as you hear a human voice, again.
Because you have still not learned the lessons of insurance company claims lines, you grab at the phone and yell, “Hello?” only to hear the concussed voice say, again, “Ourwaittimes. Are. Ten. Minutes. Pleasecontinue. To hold. YOURCALL IS. Veryimportant. to. us.”
Your wait time was 10 minutes about 15 minutes ago. You consider hanging up, but are afraid that even if you call back at the crack of dawn, you will be in limbo again.
The phone announces that “All. Of our. Representatives are. Helpingothercustomers.” You wonder who these lucky people are, and how they got helped.
You also start to wonder how many people are employed by the claims department. You suspect that there’s three of them and two of them are out because Hell doesn’t pay very much, so they might as well take a sick day.
Just when you are lying on your floor in a puddle of your own drool, you hear a voice that is NOT a recording. This comes as such a shock that you’re unable to respond for a second. “How may. I. Helpyou?” The voice asks. “Gwahh?” you reply. “Gurble blurts!”
“I’m sorry?” The voice says. “Let me transfer you to our Spanish-speaking line.”