31 August 2007

reason no. 247

why I cannot move back to the US: customer 'service' and the blood pressure. I no longer have any defenses when it comes to dealing with those underpaid, overworked, hassled and I'm sure otherwise lovely people one speaks to on the phone when calling, well, anywhere in the US. Leaving aside entirely the computers one has to 'talk to'. (there should be another verb for this) I tried to ring S at his fancy-shmancy corporate chain hotel in Chicago and got a computer-generated (female of course) voice that supposedly directed me to the guest directory but then didn't. Had to press 0 for the operator (always try 0, of course) and then finally (through a female human) got connected.

Today I dealt with our lovely insurance company here in the UK, which was sort of fine (they've messed something up, we need to renew, they sent a letter on the 22nd with a 'if you don't respond in 10 days you're no longer insured' notice that I received today, on the 31st). But my blood pressure was unbelievably high. I gathered all of the paperwork around me like some sort of stress barricade, set up my gunmen, ran reconnaissance through the depths of the records, put on my game face, and rang them. It was okay. But I could not do it in the US. I would retreat to my normal fetal, under-bed position in which I convinced myself that (a) we didn't really need a car or house and (b) even if we did, who needs insurance anyway? Better to retreat from the world than talk to someone who will be mean to you on the phone.

Perhaps I sound like a baby. I should just deal with this fallout of late capitalist life--because, hey, I'm not starving, and hey, the person/institution/company doesn't actually have my life in their hands. Or at least only in the abstract--in the accumulation of heart rate and uninsured lifestyle that many of my friends and family live in or have lived in for multiple months/years/on-going periods of their lives. So I guess I do think it's important.

One of the ways I do convince myself to pick up the phone (both here and in the US) is by reminding myself what a crap job the folks on the other end of the phone have, dealing with angry people who have just received anonymous letters that scare them shitless and then make them mad. And then I think how much time and love and space and thinking could be re-routed--time now spent on the phone to Social Security, Medicare, hospitals, HMOs, insurance companies, telephone companies, broadband services, credit report agencies.

How much art, music, genius inventions, great TV, smart solutions to seemingly intractable problems--how much have we lost of that to the barricades of paperwork, lists of anonymous-yet-named customer 'service' people (Ashley, Sandy, Carrie, Andrew), and blood pressure?

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