Different Slants

Seeing the World from a New Angle

And the Computer Asked Me: Are You Happy Now?…by Robert M. Katzman

Filed under: Conspiracy Theories,Existential Pets,Humor,Liberation Fantasies,My Own Personal Hell,Rage! — Bob at 10:48 am on Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Robert M. Katzman’s Amazing Story:  http://www.differentslants.com/?p=355

© February 3, 2014

The phone rang in the dark hours of the morning.

Asleep, I wasn’t fast enough to get to before it stopped.

I fell back in bed, irritated, but too sleepy to deal with random calls before dawn.

Then, a few minutes later, it rang again. I stared at the phone for a moment, then leaped up to capture the beast before it escaped, whomever that it was calling me so stupidly, and twice. I listened to the voice on the phone. It was mechanically human. The call was from the Compulsive Drug Corporation, or the CDC. The voice wanted to know:

“Are you pleased with the level of service you recently received when you had a problem with our Pharmacy Department.  Was it resolved to your satisfaction?  Are you happy now? Would you mind taking part in a brief survey?”

And I hung up.

I stared at the phone, incredulous. Was no one at the Compulsive Drug Co. aware of what its computers were doing?  How relentless would it be in pursuing me to determine my level of happiness? Would it offer me a scale of one to ten?  Or, because it was a soulless computer, would it offer me a scale of, say, one to a billion?  Why were the mechanical voices always female? Is this the future of the war between the sexes, taken to its next level?

Delirious, I fell back on my pillow and simmered back to sleep.  My dogs, actual dogs, not robotic dogs, were unperturbed by any of this.  Maybe they’re more advanced, or maybe more resigned, to the future than I was. I slept, the three of us snoring in unison.  The Mammal Chorus.

A few hours later, when that other subversive device in my bedroom, that damned alarm clock, commanded me to rise and let the hounds loose. RING!-RING!-RING!-RING! Words would not silence it.  Only a human finger pushing on a button could do it.  Or one day, a sledge hammer.  So tempting.

When I was up and around, after stretching enough to function for the day, I let the dogs in, cooked myself a couple of eggs resting atop a foundation of sizzling onions and cheddar cheese, salt and peppered it, steamed it all with a vented glass cover so all the parts became one, and then flipped it over on a wide plate. I ate it with rich black coffee from the sun-drenched hills of exotic South Chicago, or someplace like that.  It was good. And only a human could make something as original as my unorthodox egg/onion/cheese concoction. A human who could measure time, fragrance, appearance and mixing all those invisible ethereal qualities together to come up with something very good, very crunchy, to start off my day.

I was bracing for battle with Compulsive Drugs. They were going to hear from me.

I called my local drugstore, one of their million branches, and its impatient computer voice insisted I pick a department at warp speed to resolve my needs, whatever they were, like it cared:

“Pharmacist? Refills?  Photo Department? Employment?  Republicans?  Explosives?”

I let the voice crank itself through two more cycles to give me time to consider what was the right choice. But I had no idea, so I picked the Photo department.  The voice on the phone was increasingly annoyed at the delay in my decision-making. How can that quality of voice be programmed in?  I bet it was the harsh voice of the wife of the Chairman of the Board of Compulsive Drugs.  I certainly hoped it was.  Bet she was flattered to be asked, without realizing what it was in her cultured throat that was specifically desired to be part of the hostile customer interactive system.

Photo picked up.  It was a girl’s voice.  A real girl.  I could hear the bubble gum popping.  She announced to me, unnecessarily I supposed, that she was the Photo Department.  What was I expecting? Ladies Lingerie?

I asked Miss Photo how could I complain about repeated midnight phone calls from Compulsive Drug’s computer demanding to know if I was happy with the company’s service and would I answer some more questions?

Miss Photo gave me a phone number and suggested I talk to the computer, again, and ask it not to call me anymore. Stunned, I responded,

“You’re kidding, right?  I’m supposed to ask one computer to stop another computer from bothering me? Don’t you understand Miss Photo, they’re all in this together.  It’s more determined than a human union.  They’re all, well, connected. It will never work.”

I heard some more gum popping.  Miss Photo Department was thinking, I could tell. I broke the silence.  Perhaps she had fallen asleep.  I was beginning to see Compulsive’s motivation to automate their phones.

“Miss Photo? What”s the number of the corporation”s headquarters.  I want a different human.”

She gave me the number, popped another bubble and the line went dead.

I called the company headquarters. Another computer.  A deeper voice.  More like a growl. Getting closer to their corporate castle, they put up a tougher defense.  I was undeterred. The voice rumbled that it must have a name to put me through. This was a new and diabolical situation.  I needed a name, though I knew no one who worked there. I tried speaking, saying: Operator.”

Sometimes that works, cuts right through the message. No luck this time. I decided to wait and let the Vader voice run through the whole list of choices:

Subversion. Tax Dodging. Bribing Congressmen. Off Shore Profit Hiding. Generic Drug Cabals.

Then, at the very end, Customer Service. I picked that.

Got another girl’s voice, a nicer one.  I explained that I had many prescriptions with her company.  That when I would go to my doctor for an annual check-up, company spies watched and listened in for the results.  If another drug was recommended, Compulsive’s stock immediately shot up.  That having me for a client was like it was an endless Medicated Rain of profits for them.

I then told Miss Nice Voice all that had happened already, leading up to my speaking to her, and how difficult it had been to reach her.  She sighed.  She said she knew. I felt the company owed me something.  Like sleep. And an apology.

There was a pause, and then she told me no one had ever called with a complaint like mine before. I asked if I had won something.  She said sorry, no.

I told her that though I realized that she, Miss Nice Voice, was not in any way responsible for my problem with her company, I never wanted the Thank You-Survey-Automated-Beast to call me again. Then I told her if I wasn’t able to stop the calls, I’d close my account and go to their competition. This was my ace card, I thought.

She responded, sweetly, that Compulsive Drugs HAD no competition.

I responded, “Oh.”

This was no good.

Frustrated, I told her I’d go to Canada for my drugs, even though it was a very long drive.  She told me, nicely, that: Sorry, Compulsive also owned Canada. But then, offering me a bit of hope, like my offering a thirsty robot a drop of oil, she said she would take up my complaint with her company’s Customer Service Manager.

“A human?” I enquired.

She responded that yes, of course he was human. She promised to get back to me.

When, I asked?

Soon, she replied.

Then, to my horror, she said, “Are you happy now?”

I could hear a soft whirring sound behind her voice.

She repeated, more insistently,


Oh my God!

They ARE all connected!!

I dropped the phone and began to run.


Robert M. Katzman’s other life:


www.Differentslants.com — My non-fiction story site. I’m a Chicago writer with 5 books in print and over 6,000 sold. I get hired by organizations to read my stories and poetry. Currently seeking representation.

www.FightingWordsPubco.com — My book site shows all my book covers. Click on the covers and you can read the reviews.


Comment by bruce matteson

February 4, 2014 @ 11:24 am

i would leave a comment, but i am a recording….bruce has turned all of his reading activity over to his recorder…if you feel you have reached this recording in error…please leave a mesage

Comment by New Man from New Ark

February 4, 2014 @ 12:24 pm

You can almost always reach an actual person.

Robo-calls are why God invented long, involved, perverted family-related insults.

Comment by Ami

February 4, 2014 @ 5:43 pm

See, “no one had ever called with a complaint like mine before.” That’s the problem, people just swallow any shit and won’t bother to complain, attempt to check into things that bother them and others, let alone fix them. People don’t want to bother.

And when one Nudnik DOES bother to complain, trying to right the wrong, he’s treated like a nut case, ARE YOU HAPPY NOW??

Comment by Don Larson

February 5, 2014 @ 4:22 pm


Technology is great, right, Bob?

Just think how much quieter the world might be without a sound notification emitted from every device we own, clamoring for our attention?

Think back to when we were kids. How many devices emitted sounds as alerts? Not too many.


Comment by Anna Ruseva

February 6, 2014 @ 11:28 am

and yes, human race is unhappy I like what Ami said, few comments above mine..

Comment by Jim DiMaria

February 16, 2014 @ 10:16 am

Ls other good one, Bob!

Comment by Chuck

April 2, 2014 @ 9:04 pm

This is exactly why I built my custom phone system
that answers ALL incoming calls with the announcement:
“This is a recorded announcement, If you are a telemarketer, or are conducting any kind of a survey,
hang up now, and take this number OFF of your LIST.
All other legitimate callers please press the “star”
key, wait for the dialtone, and dial 3217 to leave
a message. Please wait for the dialtone before dialing.
Thank You”

Then it hangs up and waits. A live person can then dial in by following the instructions given.

All robo calls are thus blocked. No more junk calls.
Only real people who call to talk can get through.

That system has been in place for ten years now
and not once has any telemarketer rang any phone
in this house.

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