thAgent.” I said into the phone as clearly as possible. I was losing my cool.

The voice on the other end didn’t seem to care. She would never lose her cool. She wouldn’t get angry no matter how much I berated her. Knowing this just made me madder. “I’m sorry I seem to be having so much trouble understanding you. Please say the —”

“AGENT!” I hollered, cutting her off. This only made it worse.

“I’m sorry,” she said, her voice full of regret. “I still didn’t get that. Please say the —”

I hung up.

Hanging up on someone, even a computer, used to be so much more satisfying back in the day. Back when you could slam the earpiece into its cradle. And if you were really mad, the number tones sounded a reverberating jangle. There was an echo, an exclamation point to your anger. Now we’re stuck with clicking closed a cell phone – if you have a flip top. Otherwise, you can mash your thumb on the ‘end’ key. How satisfying is that? It doesn’t allow for much self-expression.

The call I had disconnected was my fifth attempt to try to talk to an actual human at the cable company. It’s very hard to get through to an actual human. Apparently, there’s only a few of them sitting around like royalty, waiting to talk to those of us patient or tricky enough to make it past their automated lackeys.

I thought I knew the secret. A rep sympathetic to the problem of my voice and a voice response system once told me to always respond “Agent” no matter the question. The reason for my call? Agent. My telephone number, beginning with the area code first? Agent. The extension number of the party I wish to speak to? The answer is always “Agent.” Don’t even start playing their game. Don’t press 1 for English. Don’t enter your account number or zip code. Give them nothing.Turns out, I could repeat “Agent” till my blood boiled over — it didn’t work. I’ve also tried playing deaf, dumb and mute. I just hang on the line in silence, hoping my inability to communicate at all will get me through to a live person. That usually doesn’t work either.

Lately, my favorite television ad is for Discover Card. In various versions, people call Discover Card reps very similar to themselves. “We treat you like you’d treat you,” they promise. Now I don’t have a Discover card, but they say you’ll get right to a live person when you call. Smart advertising. Even if it is a lie.

So next time you’re losing your cool with an automated voice or you’ve been the next caller for twenty minutes — think of me and try to laugh. I guarantee I’m having a harder time than you. If all else fails, just keep hitting 0. Or click your phone closed.

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