The Madwoman's Journal
Copyright 1998 New Moon
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  Prev 16 September 98

  I was just cleaning up a bit. There are now three empty Ben & Jerry's containers in the trash. Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough. Hmmm. I hadn't realized. But, I seem to remember the Tao te Ching saying, "If you want to get rid of something, you must first allow it to flourish." The B&J habit is certainly flourishing-- along with the trash-- at this rate, it should be gone in no time. Let's see, what was the rest of that chapterů here we are: Chapter 36: "If you want to shrink something, you must first allow it to expand--" Expand? "This is called the subtle perception of the way things are. The soft overcomes the hard. The slow overcomes the fast... Just show people the results." The results? Let the B&J flourish, and-- the fat overcomes the thin, that's the way things are-- and I don't want to see the results!

Ratballz. No more B&J. Not for a while, anyway...

Yesterday, I finally called my mortgage holder. I recently became eligible to drop the private mortgage insurance the original lender required, but I put off calling-- it said on the statement that I must call, not write-- about getting it discontinued because NationsBank has a nearly impenetrable automated telephone system. I hate automated telephone systems-- so much so, that this time even the thought of saving $40 a month just barely tipped the balance in favor of making the attempt-- but, what the heck? There are ways around automated menus. I dialed the 800 number.

And I got caught in the system. Looped. Three times, no way out, not on hold, nothing. Even punching the zero key during various menu recitations didn't work, it just made the menus repeat. And I couldn't get into the "please hold for the next available service representative" queue, no matter what "track" I followed-- even lying and saying I didn't have a touchtone phone didn't work. I kept getting looped, and shut out. But then I had an Idea. I dialed in for the fourth time and selected the "Customer Service" track. When I was asked to "Please enter your ten digit account number followed by the pound sign," I just punched the # key. I got an "invalid number" message, and looped back to the "Please enter" message. I punched the # key again. Looped, punched # again-- Lo! I got "Please hold for the next available service representative." Success!

I was on hold for the next twenty minutes, but I didn't mind much. I had beaten the automated system, and I got to listen to some pretty good jazz while I waited. When the representative finally came on the line, I told her why I had called, she told me what I had to do to discontinue the insurance: write to them, for crying out loud! I took down the address, and was off the line in 30 seconds.

I figure the reason hitting the # key worked was that the system is programmed-- I'm an old programmer-- to treat a set number (3) of "invalid data" messages as a possible system hardware problem requiring manual investigation, which results in the "offending call" being placed in the "live" queue. I could be wrong. But it worked. This time. I'm certainly not going to try it again to test my theory. In fact, I hope I never have to call these guys again.

But I have to admit they're good... very, very good.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a letter to write.




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