DIARY: I’m only a punter but...

Forget the X-Files...this is the real thing.

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

old film?

Fancy a rant? Send your 300 words to the Diary Editor, 174 Hammer-smith

Road, London W6 7JP


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