Forget the X-Files...this is the real thing.
Recently, I called Maurice Saatchi’s favourite airline and instead of
the familiar ‘You are held in a queueing system, blah blah,’ an alien
voice asked me to choose from numbered categories and press digits - it
was like one of those career suitability tests we used to have at
Shortly after this incident I phoned a cinema to buy tickets for the
latest blockbuster, only to find the transaction was performed without
the aid of a human being. The voice, sounding like a cross between a
Stepford wife and a dalek, took me through the categories available -
film choice, time, date and credit-card details.
The worst thing was that I did all the work - fumbling to key the
correct digits into the phone with the constant fear that I might end up
with the wrong tickets and have to sit through a recently restored five-
hour Kamkatchan epic.
By the end of the ordeal I felt empty. In a kind of Larkin-esque,
Titfield Thunderbolt sort of way, I mourned another loss of humanity.
Lumme, for a moment I thought that Bob Hoskins had actually got his
message through to me. I missed the familiar chaos of the box office
telephonist fumbling through paperwork for a pen, the sound of other
punters phoning through, even the school ma’am-ish reminder to bring my
credit card to collect the tickets.
Whether it’s aliens or not, another job is swallowed into the technical
morass. Isn’t replacing a few thousand telephonists with a cold
electronic voice nearly as pointless as producing a crap remake of an
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Road, London W6 7JP