Talking to Machines

robbyI would say that the odds of a call on our house phone being for me are about 30 to 1 … and that about half the calls are from telemarketers.   At least half the telemarketer calls are telemarketing for charities.   Then there are the customer service calls.  You know.  This is Joe Abegotz, President of Acura of Orange County.  I’m calling to thank you for you past business and ask you to rate our service at  The boss expects us to get all tens so please answer honestly.   That’s why I love caller ID … I can screen my calls before answering.   On few occasions that I do answer, I try to be polite if the caller is human.  If the call is for a charity we support, I may even promise to make a contribution.  If someone is selling, say, solar panels, I wait until they take a breath and say, I’m really not interested.   They are trained to plunge ahead in the face of such adversity, and depending on my mood, I’ll give them one or two more No thank yous, then I hang up.  Politeness has its limits.   Then there are those calls where I find myself Talking to Machines.  Unlike the early computer generated voices which sounded as if you were talking to Robby the Robot, modern computer voices can sound like real people and they sometimes fool me.  I offer a How are you today? or an I’m not really interested only to be ignored.  Eventually, the voice asks a question and says, Please answer yes or no.  Speak clearly.  Yep.  I’m Talking to Machines.

This morning I checked an incoming call and found it was from my Medicare Supplement provider, Healthnet, so I answered.  A pleasant female voice said, Good morning, Older.  I have some important information about your insurance that I want to share with you.  But first, I need to confirm some information to assure your privacy.  Is your last name (pause.  click) Eyes?  Answer yes or no.  Yep.  Machine.  Let’s call her CC (Cathy Computer).  After  a few minutes, CC was satisfied I was me and asked if she could ask me a few questions about my health.  Still hoping for the important information about my Medicare plan, I said, Yes.

CC: Many seniors have heart problems.  Have you ever been told you have a heart problem?  Please answer yes or no.
Older Eyes: No.
CC: It is good to hear you have a healthy heart.  Here are some resources about keeping your heart healthy (long list of phone number and websites during which I went back to playing Classic Words).  Many Americans have high blood pressure.  Do you consider your blood pressure under control?  Answer yes or no.
Older Eyes: Yes.
CC: I am glad to hear your blood pressure is under control.
Older Eyes:  You don’t sound glad.
CC:  Pardon?  I didn’t catch that.
Older Eyes:  Never mind.
CC: Pardon?  May we continue?  Answer yes or no.
Older Eyes: Yes.
CC: Has your doctor ever prescribed medication to control your blood pressure?  Answer yes or no.

Older Eyes: Yes
CC: Do you ever have trouble to take your medication regularly?  Answer yes or no.

Older Eyes:  Only occasionally (I said, trying to be scrupulously honest)
CC: Pardon?  Please answer yes or no.
Older Eyes: No (giving up on scrupulous)
CC:  If you do you should ask your doctor for ways to help you remember your medications.  Here are some resources on remembering to take your medication (another long list of phone numbers and websites, while I played Mole Word).  Many seniors have difficulty maintaining their ideal weight.   Are you satisfied with your weight?
Older Eyes: No
CC:  How fat are you?  Just kidding.  What she actually said was: Would you like to hear some suggestions for losing weight?  Please answer yes or no.
Older Eyes: No (really meaning, Not from a freaking computer!)

CC:  Here are some resources on the role of diet and exercise in weight loss (another long list of phone numbers and websites, while I played Minehunter). That completes the interview portion of this call.   I want to give youSALT1 some information on the importance of limiting salt intake for seniors.  Doctors recommend a little less than 1500 grams of salt a day.   Take a moment to fill a teaspoon half full with salt to see how little that is.
Older Eyes:  Can I do that later?  After dinner, maybe?
CC: Pardon?
Older Eyes:  You have a nice voice.  What kind of computer are you?  Not a Mac, I hope.
CC:  Pardon?  May I continue?
Older Eyes: Yes.
CC:  Would you like me to email you some recipes for a low salt diet?  Please answer yes or no.
Older Eyes: No.
CC:  If you ever need resources on diet and exercise, here are some resources  (long list of phone numbers and websites, while I went back to Classic Words).  Thank you for your time.
Older Eyes:  That’s it?

Silence.  Are you kidding me?  I wasted fifteen minutes of my morning to be interrogated by a computer and be told that too much salt isn’t good for me?  That’s the important information?   How much does this kind of nonsense cost us each year?  Seriously, Healthnet … and all of you insurance companies … save the money you spend on marketing nonsense like this and reduce our premiums.   Or use it to pay for Obamacare.   Stop wasting my time.  Many of us seniors may be retired but that doesn’t mean our time isn’t valuable.  And we certainly don’t want to spend what time we have left Talking to Machines.

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