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June 2019
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2005-03-15 Mozart entertains as I wait patiently to have my caller ID installed on phone

I called the telephone company last week. I wanted to have "Caller ID" installed on my phone - yes - in order to monitor who is calling me, so I will have the power, or courage, to decide whether or not to lift the receiver.


I think my decision had been made concrete the previous weekend, when my accountant phoned me, five minutes before the dénouement in the "Coronation Street" omnibus.


After two rings to the telephone company, a well-spoken man answered, welcomed me to his corporation, asking me to "please select from the following options". Sadly, none of his five options covered my enquiry. This polite man, who had responded so promptly offered me the chance to hear his options again, which I accepted, but on the second hearing they seemed even less relevant.

I chose one anyway, for the hell of it - `Service Enquiry' - for which I was thanked. The unnaturally courteous gentleman proceeded to ask me for my account number. I obliged, and was thanked again. He then assured me he would transfer me to an operator. After a minute or two of a much-loved Mozart symphony, the by now rather elusive man returned, telling me how important my call was to him and that someone would be with me shortly. More Mozart. At this stage, the cynic within me had conjured up a vision of my operator on a fag break, filing her nails, or having a text argument with her cheating boyfriend.


So, by the time the gentleman returned to remind me how important my call was to him, and to let me know that his company was particularly busy that day, I called to him - "Yes, I know my call is important to you, but on a scale of 1 to 10 Mr Smarmy, how do you rate my enquiry?" The frantic strings in the Mozart had got me all fired up. But I had clearly struck a chord with him, as he completely ignored  me, and disappeared once again into the telecommunicational abyss. We had by now moved into the slow movement of the Mozart, back into the major key, and so my brief outburst was soon soothed away. After 16 minutes on hold, an operator spoke to me.


I was so shocked I ignored her at first, but soon remembered why I had called. She said  she would set up "Caller ID" for me. "Right, it's done", she proclaimed triumphantly, after only a matter of seconds, "Can I help you with anything else at all Mr Nielsen (sic)?" "NELSON", I replied, in my best `Hyacinth Bucket'-tones. "Nelson, em, no, thanks." And with that she was gone, to once again attend to her broken relationship, or more importantly, her broken nail. We have become so advanced, so European, so American, so global - haven't we? We shop at retail parks, instead of shopping centres. We deal in Euros and cents - can we even remember the pound/punt at this stage, or indeed the shilling and farthing? On the way home, some of us (not me incidentally) pick up fast-food at a `drive-thru'. Our road signs have changed from mph to kph. Where once we drove at 40mph, now 60kph(37mph) means we have been cheated out of 3mph. But we are of course grateful on the other hand for the extra 2mph that we get in the 100kph zones (62mph).


And yet, despite no traffic on railtracks, it is still mysteriously faster to drive from Dublin to Sligo than it is to take the trainThe buffet-car food on offer is certainly not very 21st. century, and neither is the minimal thrice-daily service. Surely five or six a day is more realistic, to include one later in the evening? At airports, many of us check in with E-tickets, and yet, the queues seem only to get longer, and the customer-service ruder. Yes, we have come a long way since pushing the A-button to connect, and B for refund. But a lot of the supposed advances seem to have been at the expense of speed, service and quality. As we become part of Europe, and the world, and as we are voted "the most desirable place to live" by "The Economist", let's make sure we don't sacrifice some of the more important components of the service industries.