Clearly, this will date me, but I can remember a time when a real, live human being said “number, please,” whenever I picked up the phone in my family’s house to call someone.

It’s true. I’m not making this up.

The operator – as she was called – said “number, please” and I’d give her the three-digit number I wanted to call. Then she’d connect me.

That was way back in the early ‘60s, well before push button phones made the dialing process faster and easier on manicured nails.

Later, our phone numbers expanded to seven-digits, unless we were calling long distance and had to add the three-digit area code.

Back in the day, if my mother wanted to order something from the Sears catalog, she would look up the local number for the store, dial it and tell the living, breathing person who answered the order number and any other information needed to place the order.

When it came in, one of my parents would drive by the Sears store in Grenada and pick up the package.

My, how things have changed. And regarding much of those changes, I am not complaining. Technology, when it works, usually helps make our lives easier.

However, recent issues with the internet and television at my house forced me to have to call my carrier.

Of course, this is not a local call. And the voice that answers is not a human being. It’s a recorded message that begins asking questions.

“I see you are calling from (says my cell number); is this the number you are calling from?”

Really?

“Uh, yes.”

“Are you calling about an issue with your bill or your service?”

“My service.”

“OK. Is the issue with your television or your internet?”

“Both.”

“I’m sorry. Is the issue with your television or your internet?”

After I’ve told the robotic voice four times my issue is with both TV and internet, she finally gives up on me. Apparently, “both” is not among acceptable responses in her limited lexicon.

“Please hold for an agent.”

Ah, that’s the ticket. But first I have to offer up the final four figures of my Social Security number. I’m hesitant to do this, but I’ve been going back and forth with this mechanical monotone for nearly 17 minutes, and I’ve yet to come close to any semblance of technical support.

A real human being finally comes on the line and I nearly burst into tears of joy.

“I’ve been waiting so long to talk to you,” I say.

I had to call that 800 number two more times before the TV and internet services were restored.

But I learned the secret. The password is now mine.

The moment a robo voice answers and commences with the questions, I’ll just shout out the magic word:

“Agent.”

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