This call may be recorded
For the record, I like foreigners. But it’s been forty-five minutes now. I certainly hope they are recording this call for training purposes. But more likely the HR department is just saving it to replay later over drinks.
Dominic is polite. He peppers our conversation with thank-yous and repeatedly calls me Mr. Andrew. At the same time, he is maddeningly methodical. Evidently he has a script from which he is not allowed to deviate. I watch mold growing on an orange as Dominic asks me for my personal details – address, phone number, social security number, distinguishing marks, mother’s maiden name. These are the same pieces of information I gave to Candy (who also called me Mr. Andrew) an hour ago, but no matter.
On a pad of paper, I begin to doodle the rings of hell. Tofu, middle school dances, banjo jamborees, customer service calls. It seems I have officially arrived in the middle of the Great Downstairs.
Dominic is explaining, I’m sorry, Mr. Andrew, but your modem is not valid with our service. But it was yesterday, I protest. Before the regularly scheduled maintenance outage. When your colleague Dianne told me everything would be back up in twenty minutes. Dominic appears not to know of Dianne. I cannot activate your modem, he says – it is not possible with our service.
I’d like to speak to a supervisor, I say. Thank you, Mr. Andrew – I will transfer you now. And then, without a trace of irony, Is there anything else I can help you with?
Dominic’s supervisor, Brian, is apparently locked in a windowless room full of hamsters typing the collected works of Kafka. Over the background din, he takes me to the top of the script and starts over. I make a pot of coffee and settle in, punctuating my responses with free-throw attempts across the kitchen with a wad of paper towel. I make eight in a row, including one tricky bank shot off the dishwasher. Finally, I can’t take it anymore, I cut into a question about serial numbers and ask, are you in America?
No, he replies, Colombia. Well, I’d like to speak to someone in America, I say, a little too loudly. Brian sounds wounded – I’m sure I can resolve your problems Mr. Andrew. No you can’t I say. It has become evident that Brian is not high enough on the ladder of power to do anything more than increase my stomach acid levels. With dismay, I realize I have become that guy – the one who says foreigners are no use and only America can help. But by now I don’t even care. I want an American, dammit.
After an awkward, pause, Brian tells me he will transfer my call.
Suddenly, I’m talking to someone in America. His name is Keith and he has a southern accent. I fall into his arms. Oh, Keith, I’m so glad to hear your voice. Keith is everything I have ever dreamed of. He is kind, efficient, and evidently has a computer that actually does something beyond twenty questions. After a minute’s work, he cheerfully informs me that my modem won’t populate the server farm interface on the interconnected metanetwork of things, but that he has a check box that he can click and everything should be just fine. He extends one godlike index finger, and my computer springs to life. Glory be, I can once again buy printer ink and watch the conclusion of House of Cards, season four.
After four hours of frustration, I want to hug this guy. No problem, he drawls – next time, call me directly. But then quickly hangs up before I can get his extension.
If I want to talk to Keith again, I’ve got to go back through Candy, Dominic and Brian. I wonder if they hate foreigners. I wonder if they are as frustrated as I am?
For Michiana Chronicles, I’m Andrew