Volume 74, Number 44 | March 09 - 15, 2005

Talking Point

Voice-mail hell

By Andrei Codrescu

Credit is the devil. This hardly needs explaining to anyone who’s been in voice-mail hell with zombies from credit card companies, or gnashed their teeth to a fine powder seeing the rate increases on the monthly electrical, gas, water, and telephone bills. The robo-managers who run these blood-sucking businesses are hidden behind deep firewalls of zombies roped inside cages in foreign countries. There is no point in screaming at the phone drones even if you reach any because they are only programmed for enough English to pass you on to the next obstruction. If they detect anger they’ll send you to a place where the walls are white and there will be nothing to read for 8,000 years except the small print on credit card applications, and the muzak will be ‘70s elevator-style. “Listen,” I said to a non-comprehending link in the chain on the other side of the receiver, “If my ancestors could have seen me holding this pitiful plastic to my ear half my life, they would have fallen on their swords and spawned no more. Who are you? Who owns you?” Questions dropped into the void. My prideful soul used to loom large but is now no bigger than a back button at the top of a screen, a click away from perdition at the hands of an underpaid robot. As far back as the 20th century it was still possible to find out the names and even hope to see the faces behind these operations, but now the corporate octopus has fully downloaded itself into a myriad of nano-machines controlled from sail boats in the Caribbean, registered to a Mr. H.C. Smith, chartered in Panama. There is no exit, like Sartre said, but there is a solution: unplug all the wires, liquidate your assets, and start living at the movies. That’s what I’ll do as soon as they release me from hold at Capital One where I’m trying to recover my assets and settle a Capital One charge. A Capital One charge is serious, some people like me are put on hold forever, but some are just terminated via their com device. I’m lucky, I guess. I would like to spew more gall while I’m chained here like a poor man’s Prometheus, but nobody can hear me from this height and my feelings are deploying even as the vultures make off with my liver. One last thing: I’d like to outsource this hold if I may. Anyone willing to wait here while I go online to find my ancestors?

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