Excerpt from her best selling book Talk to the Hand. Ms. Truss is a columnist forTimes (London) and the author of numerous radio comedy dramas. She lives in Brighton, England.

By Lynne Truss

Say a replacement credit card arrives in the post.


“Oh, that’s nice,” you say, innocently. “I’ll just sign it on the back, scissor the old one, and away I go!” But close inspection reveals that you must phone up first to get it authorised. “Okey-dokey!” you cry. You dial a long number and follow instructions to reach the card-authorisation department (press one, press one, press two), then are asked to input the card number (sixteen digits) then the card expiry date (four digits) then your date of birth (six digits), then your phone number (eleven digits), then told to wait.

Naturally, your initial okey-dokeyness has started to wane a bit by this time. You start to wonder whether the card will actually expire before this process is complete. “Please enter card number,” comes the instruction. “What? Again?” you ask. But, listening to the menu, there is no button assigned to this reaction (“For What? Again? press four”), so off you go again with the sixteen digits and the four digits and then the six digits and the eleven digits, and then you hear the clipped, recorded message, “Sorry. We are unable to process your inquiry. Please call back at another time,” and the line goes dead. Unable to believe your ears, you stare at the receiver in your shaking hand. It is at this point, in my experience, that a small cat always comes up behind you and emits a quiet “Meow” and makes you actually scream and jump up and down with agitation and rage.


But such is modern life. Armies of underpaid call-centre workers have now been recruited and trained, not to help us, but to assure us, ever so politely, that the system simply does not allow us to have what we want, and no, you cannot speak to a supervisor because the system isn’t organised that way. We are all slaves to the system, madam; that’s just the way it is.

About this entry