SPEAKING OF SMART PHONES … Marilyn Armstrong

Word Prompt Xmas Zombies

You’d think one day with Bank of America would have sufficed me for the week, but you’d be wrong. Having also finally signed on with Sirius for the absolutely lowest price we could get for a year’s subscription, I discovered the ONLY way I could turn the radio on was to call them — on a smartphone — from the car.

The Renegade

Lucky me, I charged the phone the other day because even though I have it turned off, the battery gradually weakens, so even if it looks good, when you turn it on, it will drain really quickly.

As we pulled into the driveway, having completed — or Garry having completed — a trip to the dentist (I forgot to take my antibiotics, so I have to go back in January), I said: “Gee. I hope I have Sirius’ telephone number in my contact list.”

I might have if I ever turned the phone on so it could synchronize with our computer. But it’s pretty much always off, so when I finally turn it on, it beeps, jangles, dings, twitters and occasionally makes some other noise I don’t recognize.

Maybe that’s the sound it makes when it rings? I’ll have to check on that.

Phones

Anyway, I finally made my way to Sirius website where they had no record of my ever having signed on with them and they wanted my password.

Did I have a password? Our little Google phone does not offer the full Gmail experience, so I have no folders and cannot look anything up. I opted for “I forgot my password” because I not only forgot it, I’m not sure I ever set it in the first place. It isn’t unusual for me to sign up with something, but never log into their website. I figure they’ll email or call me if they want to get in touch, but then come these moments when it’s obvious — I need to “be in touch.”

I got their telephone robot. Of course, I got their telephone robot. They are waiting for me wherever I go. They line up secretly in hallways, waiting for a brief glimpse of me so they can ask me the same questions repeatedly and when I answer them, they can tell me they didn’t understand me.

Do the people who program these things do it on purpose? Can all of this be accidental? I’m like Garry with slow drivers. He is sure they have drones watching for him and blocking the roads on purpose.

After a while, I just sat there saying AGENT AGENT AGENT and at some point later, I got one. An agent. This one seemed to speak some version of English and I could mostly understand him when he slowed down enough. Otherwise, it was just jumbled noise at high speed.

He asked me — again — for radio’s number which I gave him, no problem as it was printed across the radio’s face. In very big letters. Then I had to spell it out, one letter at a time. With extra backup words if I thought there might be confusion.

He then said he was going to send a signal to the radio to tell it to turn itself on and wanted to know if we had a clear sky above us (“Garry, look up. Can you see the sky?” “Yes.”)

The sky was seen and declared free of flying debris and trees.

Next question: “Is your telephone (incoherent mumbling).”

“WHAT? Can you slow down? NO idea what you just said.”

It turned out he wanted to know if my phone was connected to the radio. I gagged at the thought and said “NO.” He then said he was sending a signal, but it might take up to five minutes to work, but no problem he’d stay on the phone while we waited.  After which he immediately hung up.

I don’t think he was on the phone for a full minute before hanging up. I redialed the number. I got another representative. Gave them my name. Again. Spelled Marilyn. Again. Then I had to spell “ARMSTRONG” which usually, I don’t have to spell because it’s Armstrong and everyone knows how to spell it. Except for this lady who I guess needed to make sure I used the usual number of consonants and vowels. Nothing weird like ending it in a double “G.”

In fact, I had to repeat every single thing I had said on the previous call. She said she was sending a signal too and would, of course, stay on the phone, not to worry.

Then she immediately hung up. But by then the first signal had come through, so I hung up.


NOTES FOR NEXT YEAR:

We now have Sirius radio which we got for $3.99/month for a year. Plus taxes and other weird charges, so it’s more like six dollars and when the year runs out, I’ll go through the same siege again. I’ll reject the price. They’ll beg me to stay and lower the price by a buck. I’ll still refuse because their basic price is obscenely high. I’ll tell them to just turn it off. Who needs it anyway? 

Just before next Christmas, they will email a better price, but not good enough. I will reject it out of hand. They will call me. Beg me to sign up, but only when they offer me another year at $3.99, will I take it. 


It took about an hour to set up the radio, what with two phone calls and repeating the same information one letter at a time, then using it in a word so they couldn’t misunderstand me. It takes a long time to spell out a 10 letter code. And of course, spelling “Armstrong” was a bit of a high point.

I made Garry sit and listen to this because he can hear now, so sooner or later, he is going to have to deal with this. He needs to learn the ropes.

I do speak clearly. I got a degree is in speech and drama and I used to be on the radio. Even relatively recently, I was on TV and radio. At no point in any TV or radio appearance did I have to spell out the words. I have a standard Bachelor of Arts. It’s not a valuable degree, but at least it means I speak clearly. I had to learn to speak clearly. It’s part of the degree program.

So, why is it that none of these people or their robots ever understand anything I say? Are they keyed to mumblers so that people who speak clearly are at a disadvantage?

Or are they just screwing with me?

Author: Marilyn Armstrong

Writer, photography, blogger. Previously, technical writer. I am retired and delighted to be so. May I live long and write frequently.

32 thoughts on “SPEAKING OF SMART PHONES … Marilyn Armstrong”

    1. This time there was no other way to do it. I could, in theory, have used one of the house phones, but I wasn’t sure the signal would reach the car, so it was a cell or nothing. At least we actually GOT the radio working … to promptly discover that there isn’t all that much worth listening to anyway. It still beats out the radio and since they refuse to let us use a CD player, it’s as good as we’ll get until I rip some music onto flash drives. It is funny. Making Garry participate was even funnier. The realization he has made that “OMG, I can talk on the phone again … there’s no more excuse for me not participating” was pretty funny too. There’s always a downside, isn’t there?

      Liked by 2 people

  1. It’s international. If I have to call England, it’s never a British National that I speak to. And Switzerland just transfer you to another country somewhere in Eastern Europe

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  2. I signed on to Sirius while on my trip out west this year.., which of course isn’t all that far. California then the Pacific Ocean. If, by some means, you are able to continue, you will eventually arrive in the far east. Essentially you go west to get to the east…, whoo boy! Columbus would have killed back in 1492 to know this.., he just had a hunch.

    This has nothing to do with signing onto Sirius except I barely made it, the day before my trip, by going through a similar dance as you. It was a 60 day free trial and I figured it’d be good while traveling saving me from hunting for broadcast stations every couple hundred miles. I let the 60 days go by and they’ve been after me since to sign up. The last offer was for $4.99/month for a year.., but you got a better deal at $3.99. I still didn’t bite. If I wait longer maybe they’ll offer me the $3.99 deal as well?

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    1. Probably right now. It was their “Christmas special” and I didn’t think, short of free, it was going to get any better. The radio is really awful these days. Long ads about Jesus (send money!) and endless advertisements for kitchen gadgets that last so long you can go through half the country before the ad cluster is over. We don’t drive all that much, but Garry really likes music in the car and I haven’t gotten around to ripping any on flash drives. Yet. I plan to. As soon as someone shows me how. The last thing I did was record ONTO CDs, but them days is over, I guess.

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    1. In just TWO DAYS. Technically, I didn’t have to use a mobile phone. I could have used the house phone if I were convinced the signal would reach the car. Any phone would do, but you have to be IN your car and that generally means mobile, unless you’ve got a hell of a strong wi-fi signal. We do, but it fluctuates!

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  3. I don’t know where you find the patience for these phone marathons to get things fixed. I can only suggest that the phone consultants are not listening properly because they are reading further ahead in the script so they know what to say to you next. As to why they promise to stay on the phone then hang up, your guess is as good as mine. I have to say that when I ring helplines I do usually get helped the first time I call. It is the amount of time hanging on the phone waiting for my turn that makes me crazy.

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    1. It depends on who you are calling. Blue Cross? INSTANT help and excellent quality, too. The hospital? Depends on if their phone lines are working (about half the time, they aren’t). Electric company? Depends who answers. Trash? Owner answer. Oil delivery? Owner answers. Both great. Lawn cleanup? Someone answers and never pass the message along, so generally, no one calls back. Ever.

      As I said, it depends. But these big corporations? Good freaking luck!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Kind of odd because I have always been able to work through Sirius on my computer. I’ve had to run down to the car to get the numbers from the radio, but not a problem. I switched my wife’s car over in October and lowered mine to the basic package at the same time. No smart phones needed.

    I do agree with your couple of posts, though, that society expects everyone to have smart phones. Funny thing, I rarely text, but do some. So my dad is picking me up at the airport and I try texting him when we are taxiing in, as 90% of the people in the plane are doing. I discovered he doesn’t have text, so I had to wait until we were in the terminal to call him. Oh well….

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    1. I don’t like texting. I think I was born with the wrong thumbs. There was supposed to be a way for them to activate the radio from the house involving someone going down and turning ON the radio and signaling me back that it had happened, but if I can’t text, Garry can’t use the cell at all — his hearing apparatus doesn’t hear it as sound. Something about signals. He’d need a special device to use the mobile unless he was using it on speaker. I’m assuming in the air, all sound is just sound. Anyway, it worked. I loved having Garry look at the sky to tell me we could see it and nothing (like our house? garage roof? tree limbs?) were in the way. That was a hoot.

      Also, we only have one mobile between us (much cheaper) … so short of shouting (and it’s a fair distance from driveway to living room … I don’t see how.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. The car salesman insisted on hooking my phone up with the radio when I bought my new car at the beginning of the year. He about had a coronary when I whipped out my ancient flip phone… I may as well have handed him that old 1912 phone you had in the image up there. But he hooked it up nevertheless… and now on the extremely rare occasions I get into the car with my phone turned on, the stereo screen will flash that it is connected… and it actually will ring in the even rarer circumstance that I should get a call. Anyway, I’d have never figured out or even cared to have my car be an extension of my cell phone had the salesman not done so for me. Oh, and my car has wifi that I don’t have a password for….. not that I really need it either, but I love the teasing concept…

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    1. I think our car sound thingie can do lots of things, but our sales guy was older than us — AND deafer than Garry was at the time, so he wasn’t connecting anything. But it has all these extra plugs for SD cares ane flash drives. EVERYTHING BUT A CD.

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  6. Ye Gods and little fishes! I know that routine well with AT&T. Hours spent with people speaking as rapidly as they could so that I constantly had to ask them to slow down,plus some technicians with an accent that seemed to cover every country at once. Hours of this. I need a bottle of red and six chocolate bars to recover. Technology is wonderful when it works. Getting it to work is hell on earth.

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    1. You’d think someone would have made a simple plan so that this stuff would actually do what it’s supposed to do without the 10 act play with naked dancers. I merely felt that Garry, who likes to pretend nothing is going on while I wrangle with these people and he watches TV, ignoring the whole thing … it was time for HIM to wake up and join the performance. Two steps left and kick, then three to the right and kick twice. Pass the bottle and does anyone have a strudel?

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  7. They aren’t screwing with you, they really DON’T understand. English? Not their first language, nor even second or third IMHO…I’m considered ‘racist’ and ‘bigoted’ because after a few minutes of trying to communicate with these people, I asked firmly for an “English as a first language” agent. And I get hung up on, but I persist and at last I might actually get someone who understands my language, which is English. Now, usually that party is from somewhere in the South and that presents its own set of issues, because understanding DIALECT is another obstacle to surmount. I’ve gone through the routine you describe with AT&T (who bought out DirecTV from Century Link). I haven’t had AT&T services and refuse to because they were the original ‘idiots on the phone’ when it came to ‘customer service’ (laughing out loud because THAT doesn’t exist any longer). Recently I had to deal with DirecTV and the moron on the phone kept insisting on getting my “AT&T information” of which there is none. I got Sirius too, but could access them from my home on my cell phone. And it links up every time I get in the car, which was disconcerting the first time, but now I’m all “meh. whatever” about it. One warning about that though: If someone happens to phone you while you’re in the car and the phone is on? The damned radio will answer it and blast it on speaker through the car. Well that’s how it works with mine any how. Scared the crap out of me the first time it happened too. Theoretically the caller can hear you through Sirius too, which makes the phone thing hands free, but still annoying. And $3.99? I got screwed because mine is $8.99 and I get no extras either, and don’t want ’em. Hmmmm. I may have to have a chat with those people once the year ends.

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    1. Well, for what it’s worth, the native English speaker didn’t understand anything I said and I couldn’t understand him either because he talked so FAST it was gibberish. The Spanish native speaker had an accent, but she at least understood what I said usually the first time. Or the second. The first guy took at least three tries.

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