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“Say something,” it said, “Say anything.”

     I’m as good as you are at working my way through the jungle of connections on those automated telephone trees and I do a danged good job of hanging up on computerized voices selling investment property, but today…

     I’m hanging out in the office, eager to tackle the number I dragged from the Schwib guy. You know, the one in India that answers the phones. After an hour of schmoozing, pleading and outright indignation, I got him to give me the number for the local Schwib office. Ah! Finally I would have a human contact - in my own area code - to discuss investment options with.

     Part of my job is throwing money around to see how much interest I can drum up without losing my principles – oh! I mean without losing any of the principal. Today I had a rather large investment to make and I wanted to talk to someone who cared.

     I set a blank notepad beside the phone, sharpened my pen and dialed – well, pressed I guess you’d have to say - the numbers. I was a little surprised that the number began with eight hundred, but the India guy had assured me this would ring in the office up the freeway, so I waited patiently until the ringing stopped.

     A warm and friendly voice came on the line to greet me. For a minute I thought it was human, but then it spoke again.

     “Say something,” it said. “Say anything.”

     I had no idea what to say. The least it could do is ask me a question. I can do answers.

     “Don’t be afraid to interrupt me,” it continued. “You can interrupt me at any time. Just say what you want.”

     Well, what I want are lots of things.  I could use a vacation right about now. How about a Hummer? What can you give me?

     Actually, I didn’t say anything. My mind went blank. What are you’re supposed to say to an automated voice? I was expecting him – I mean, it - to give me choices, like “press one for stock quotes,” or “press two for account balances,” that kind of stuff.

     It apparently sensed my concern, because it spoke very patiently and proceeded to give me instructions.  Not for pressing buttons, but for what to say to an automated voice.

     “Like say, ‘I want a quote’ or say, ‘I have a question about my account balance’ or say…”

     “I want a quote,” I said real quick. Which wasn’t exactly the truth. I just said that to let it know I was very comfortable talking to an “it.”

     Trouble is, now it would ask me what I wanted a quote on and I’d have to think of a stock and listen to a quote I didn’t want. I considered pressing #*!&#?! for “Please! Get me a human!”

     While I was engaged in these deep philosophical considerations, the voice continued to suggest other things I might want to say - but didn’t.

     I was feeling dumber and dumber. Why did I not know what to say to this automated voice?

     In sheer frustration, I held the phone as far away from my face as I could reach and shouted, “I just want to talk to a representative!!!” I flung the phone down and reached for -

     Wait a minute… It’s still talking to me.

     “Okay. Please hold while I connect you to an operator.”

     She came on the line with amazing speed and she was in Denver, Colorado, but she spoke English with a refreshingly human twang and she gave me the number for the local Schwib office and since it doesn’t start with eight-hundred, I plan to dial it tomorrow and see what happens.

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