Two very minor and rather trivial incidents close to home this week have made me really think about decent and civil human responses and compassionate interactions.
Incident 1: On Tuesday, I sat with my dad and listened to him argue with the local newspaper delivery service line as to why he hadn't received his home delivery for the past several days. Now before you all start ragging on me with comments about "how very 20th Century it is of him" to still receive a home delivered paper, understand that some habits are difficult to discard after a lifetime of application. He likes his newspaper. He likes to sit outside and read it with his coffee. He appreciates the flyers and he likes the tactile nature of the act. I get it. I am exactly the same way minus the coffee. No matter how many sources I read online, I still enjoy the local morning paper. I feel as though I am, in some small manner, helping to keep the industry afloat with my subscriptions. I know it isn't true, but I don't mind the fantasy for twenty minutes every morning.
But...back to Dad.
After over an hour of haggling, three or more disconnections, transfers to supervisors, angry epithets hurled at probably distant phone bank operators, promises made and promise broken, my dad was no further ahead than when he started. He still did not have his daily newspaper, did not at that time yet secure a promise to credit the missing periodical, and was thoroughly frustrated by a repeated script-based response to his problem. He never did receive his paper that day, even though it was promised to him several times, and in the end received two papers the following day as if yesterday's news somehow matter to him at all. The last I heard, he was still working on getting the credit.
Incident 2: Regular readers of this space are probably sick and tired of my constant complaints about cable companies. Our miserable experience dealing with three separate telecoms trying to facilitate our move during the summer has enough material for several folk songs. These companies have you by the short and curlies and take absolutely no responsibility for any foul that may occur. As conglomerates, they are amongst the worst that big business has to offer as they have totally diversified their customer service departments so that nobody can contact anybody about any problem ever. Try getting a direct phone number for a supervisor. Go on, try! I dare you. It just cannot happen in their world.
Today, we awoke in The Southern Home to discover that after two weeks of smooth sailing, our cable company which shall remain nameless, (hint: It rhymes with Momfast) had decided to switch off our cable and internet access for no apparent reason. After several online chats, two separate phone calls, and a prayer to the Spiritual Deity, The Husband managed to get our internet access back online. Our TVs are another story. He has spoken with no fewer than four separate customer "service" representatives and has had two separate online chats, and the only thing that he has been able to discern is that somebody at MomFast decided to put our account on a vacation hold beginning today and ending tomorrow. When the absurdity of the situation was pointed out to the fine idiot-savants working at MomFast, they openly acknowledge that yes indeed, the interruption in service was indeed their error, but they have no idea how such a thing could have occurred and that we would have to...wait for it...wait 24 hours for the service to resume. It took them all of 3 seconds to disconnect the fucking thing, but apparently, it takes longer to flip the switch on than it does for them to flip it off. (Sidenote. I've been flipping them off all day.) The Husband has tried to be polite and civil in dealing with a wholly impolite and uncivil customer service experience, but I think the moment that sent him careening over the edge was this short exchange this afternoon.
The Husband: "I have been trying all morning to get somebody in authority to talk to me, can you please connect me with a supervisor."
MomFast Zombie: "I'm sorry, but there isn't anybody else for you to talk to. I can escalate the situation for you."
The Husband: "You mean to tell me that this has been your non-escalation mode? Are you seriously telling me that there isn't a supervisor with whom I can speak?"
MomFast Zombie: "Well those people are very busy and have no time to talk through this matter."
The Husband: (Now beet red with rage and the decibel level in his voice at about a 9 1/2) "Busy!! Are you kidding me? (I kind of wish I could put cuss words in here, but to his credit, he didn't swear.) I have spent over three hours already dealing with this garbage. I have taken time off of MY work to deal with your mistake, and you're telling me that they're too busy? Their job is to service ME!"
He was transferred to a MomFast Zombie in Atlanta (we are in South Florida) who told him that the TVs would be on as of 3:00pm this afternoon. They weren't and still aren't. He is presently back on the phone again trying to solve the problem. I am not overly optimistic that anything is forthcoming.
The overtaking of our society by massive corporations hasn't just made us a more robotic society, it has removed the compassionate human element from our daily interactions. There was a time that if you had a problem with a service or a company, complaints would be dealt with by experienced personnel who understood not only what their companies actually do, but that you the customer are paying their salaries and contributing to their profits. Today's drones working in "customer service" are merely phone answering script readers designed to get you off their backs as soon as possible. You the customer simply don't factor into their bottom lines. Solving your problems isn't high on their priority list, so inevitably insulting the consumer, whether intentionally or unintentionally, becomes a natural part of their person to person interactions.
I have been trying to get a better handle on exactly why people are so very angry these days. I have seen folks argue over parking spots, yell at each other in line at the grocery store, and almost come to blows simply because they were on the same path and bumped into each other. I get that there is a myriad of social conditions and factors at play and that every situation is different depending on the circumstances and the people involved, but it cannot easily be dismissed that the lack of care we take with one another has led us to the precipice. We have allowed a denigration of common civility and an inherent lack of understanding that everybody is here for a common purpose to dominate our everyday intercourse. Thus, it becomes perfectly acceptable for our leaders to spew hate from a public pulpit and for total strangers to call me nasty names like "libtard", "leftist hag", or even worse on social media when all we really have is a simple difference of opinion.
Our TV situation will eventually be fixed and I am certain that my dad will solve his newspaper issue, but I am not so sure that we will ever be able to return to a time when civility was a natural part of our discourse and that differences could be settled with a handshake and an understanding nod. I'm sorry about that. I miss it.