Today's matchup: Robot Lady vs. Kathy, the Mad Southern Belle

This is not going to be a politically correct column. In fact, I am just going to gripe.

Let's talk about information for a moment, shall we? Remember when you could call a number and obtain information about a phone number or maybe the address of a business? Well, you can't really do that anymore.

I guess those in charge of dispensing information these days just assume that everybody has a computer strapped to them or one of those GPS systems. We Clampetts have neither.

Saturday, we were driving to Round Rock and we needed the closest Kinkos in the area. We had to get 3 copies of a book bound. I had looked it up on the computer before we left and found one right at La Frontera, which was perfect. So I called the 800 number.

Now what do you want when you call for information? Information. That's right. Instead I got the automated Robot-Lady.

I muttered "#@$% Robot- Lady" under my breath. I knew this would not be pretty.

Here's what I want, the exact location of the store and the hours to make sure they are open on Saturday. Well, Robot- Lady had other ideas.

"Welcome to FedEx. If you would like to schedule a pick up say 'Pick Up' or press 1. If you would like to track a package, say 'track package or press 2."

And blah-blah for three other options, none of which I wanted. There wasn't one for Kinkos.

So I said "Location." But Robot-Lady said "I'm sorry, I didn't get that."

So I said it slower "Low-kayshun." Kennedy pipes up from the back seat, "I don't think the Robot speaks hick," never looking up from her book.

Robot says, "Alright do you want a FedEx return or a pick up location?"

So I said, "Well neither, I want Kinkos."

"I'm sorry, I didn't get that. Say Returns or Pickup."

"Fine. Returns." I made sure and said "Returns" slowly. By this time, I am fuming because we are nearly to Round Rock.

"For the returns location closest to you, give the zip code of the closest or the latest time you are wanting."

"Huh? I want Kinkos!!" So I just start pressing zero, over and over.

"I'm sorry, I didn't get that. If you'd like to speak with an operator, press Zero." I already pressed zero ten times. But okay, whatever will get me to a real live human being. Now we're cooking with gas.

Well guess what? The humor gods were out in full force because the real live human being had such a thick foreign accent, I couldn't understand one word he said. Now starting right here, if this is offensive to you, then stop reading. I already warned you so kiss my grits.

I just start talking to the poor guy. Apparently he didn't speak hick either.

"We are going to Round Rock and I need the Kinkos location that is right by La Frontera. I need to know exactly where it is located and if they are open on Saturday."

You know what I am wanting to know. Is it located by Sam's and Lowe's or by Barnes & Noble? Is it in a strip across 45 from La Frontera, where the heck is it?

You can't get that kind of information anymore. All they had was an 800 number that goes directly to Robot-Lady, then to the far ends of the earth.

"Oh yes, open on Saturday. Yes."

Unbelievable. Okay, call me stupid but wouldn't it be kind of important when you are dispensing information about a business, for people who are calling for information, to be able to actually understand the information when it is given?

I mean, wouldn't that be, like the most important feature of the information-giving? I'd say it should be in the top 5, for sure.

Okay, so now we are lost. Can't find Kinkos. Husband is not about to stop and ask directions, so I beg him to stop, faking a bathroom break and I go into a convenience store. Problem is the clerk and I couldn't understand each other.

So I am relaying my frustration to my loving family and daughter Kennedy says, "Mom, if an automated system couldn't understand you, what makes you think someone from another country can understand you? You taw-lk lak thi-us," making me sound like Paula Deen.

I said "Okay Kennedy, you're right but where am I? I'm in Texas. I live here. I need information about a business right here in Round Rock, Texas where at least half of the people sound just like me.

Why should I have to speak to someone I can't understand or a #$%& robot?" By the way, the language of this tirade has been changed to protect the innocent.

Then I had a wonder f ully, evil thought. Say there's some gentleman in a foreign country. He decides to call and obtain information about a business- in that country. And guess who answers the phone when he calls for information.

Little Ol' Me.

"Hey Sugar Plum, what can I do for you today? Hang on just one little sec, I've got my new little pocket mirror open and, I just got this new Mango Plum lipstick from Avon, and I am just not too sure about it. So how can I help you today?"

First of all, he's mad because he has to talk to a woman. Maybe women aren't allowed to speak on the phone in that country. Second, he is speaking his native language, because that's where he is.

"Now Sweetie Pie, I can't understand a word you're saying. Oh dad-gum-it! Hang on a minute. Now where is that toothpick, I know it's somewhere on my desk, aw, there it is. There now, all better. Okay can you please (smack, smack) with sugar on top, repeat your little ol' question?"

He repeats the question, but he's still speaking his native language. Now angrily.

"Now darlin', (smack, smack) I can't understand one word (smack, smack) you're sayin'. And Hon, (smack, smack) speakin' louder and louder ain't makin' you come in one bit clearer.

(Smack!) There, got it! What in the world? I don't remember eatin' that!"

There's a rustling on the phone and another person gets on the line and asks, in understandable but broken English, with a side of thick foreign accent, if there is anyone else they might could speak with.

"Well hi there Sug! I understood you loud and clear. Bless your heart, I'm the only one here right now. Margie May is off on maternity leave and Virgil Lee is at the all-you-can-eat fried catfish buffet, 'cuz it's Friday and you know if it says all-you-caneat, he's gonna stay there til' they kick him out, so there's no tellin' when he'll be back."

Now wouldn't that go over really well? We'd probably have war declared on us over it.

Makes me long for the old days when you could call Sara on Andy Griffith. Sure she was nosey but she knew the answer to your question.

Or when you'd stop and ask for directions and they went something like this: "Turn right on Main Street at the Carpenter's old house, then go about a mile. Remember when that dead skunk was out in the road for about a week cuz nobody'd pick it up, well right in front of that spot, take a left. Then you'll see that big rock that Bubba smashed his pickup into two years ago, it's right past there. And how's your Mama doing?"

Ahhhhh. Not a robot in sight.

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2009-09-10 digital edition

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