Thursday, January 7, 2010

How not to be paranoid

I have discovered the perfect book to read, and not to read, in the middle of the night. Customer Service by Benoît Duteutrte, translated from the French. (Have I mentioned my craven Francophilia?)
CSB was awake with a nasty charley horse, and then I was as well. He wandered the house trying to walk off the charley horse, when it became clear that I was not going back to sleep any time soon I picked up this novella I bought a while back (largely on the basis of its cover and because I like the idea of novellas.) There is no hint (either on the cover or in the title) that it will compound and enhance your insomnia with paranoid dread.
At the beginning the narrator loses his new cell phone in a taxi, and when he goes to get the service cancelled and buy a new phone, he learns that he must pay the remaining 11 months of the service contract, in addition to the contract for his new phone. Things get worse. His Internet server demands a password and then PASSWORD INCORRECT flashes on the screen. His credit card is rejected while he is traveling. And he spends hours and hours on the phone, pressing numbers.But it doesn’t matter because all number sequences arrive at the same place: with a final recorded voice telling him that whatever is troubling him is the way it is meant to be, that it is all his fault, and there is nothing to be done. Unless of course he can reach Customer Service. Customer Service is of course a myth, a Minotaur at the end of the labyrinth that can only devour you if you are foolish enough to find your way there.
I kept reading.
When I was finished with the novella (in the pink early light) I began to obsess about my ongoing struggle with Chase bank to remove the $9.95 fee that gets deducted from my checking account monthly. This struggle began over a year ago when ‘Customer Service” at the bank told me that the fee was not their doing but was put there by Quicken. I cancelled my Quicken Bill Paying service over a year ago and yet the deduction continues, unabated and unrepentant. When I call Quicken they tell that I did indeed indeed cancel my service over a year ago but this fee is probably put there by Quicken dot com, which is a different entity from Quicken. (huh?) It is, however, impossible to reach either by telephone or email.

Where is Kafka when we need him?
How he would have loved the eternal forking of the automated telephone answering service:
Press 1 to continue in English; Press 2 for American Sign Language; Press 3 for any other language.
Press 1 if you are a person; press 2 if you are a business; press 3 if you are a monkey who has learned to press buttons.
Press 1 if this is a technical problem; press 2 for billing questions; press 3 if you don’t know what your problem is.
Press 1 if you are sedated; press 2 if you have drunk any alcohol in the past hour; press 3 if you have any lethal weapons in the room.
Thank you for calling our Customer Service. For additional help go to and choose the Help Tab on the Menu Bar. Have a nice day.

Oh, and Happy Gnu Year.


Mickey and Flea said...

There are no numbers for cats to press. Nor, may we add, for drunken cats or dogs!

marion said...

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