I recently lived through one of the most frustrating days I’ve had in a long while.

Care to take a guess as to the cause?

I’ll bet you got it right.

So called “modern technology”.

When it comes to the new way of doing business I’d love to shout  “I quit!” and throw in the towel. I want to go back to simpler times, but, guess what? I can’t and neither can you.

There is no “simple” to return to.

Those days are gone.  We all have no choice but to join the computer age.

During the last half of my career as a police officer in Colorado my department became computerized. The biggest change for the street cops was that we got laptop computers installed in our patrol cars. We used them to check license plates, locate outstanding warrants and for several other functions including writing reports.

I tried to ignore mine hoping it would disappear.

One year a young officer got fired for punching his fist through his laptop’s screen. He was not one of my favorite people; in fact, I didn’t like him. He was arrogant and hotheaded. But I understand exactly, precisely, without doubt WHY he assaulted the computer.

Everybody has had that experience when, at the worst possible moment, the computer freezes. Or goes black. Or white. Or just refuses to do what you, the  mortal, commands it to do.

One morning I attempted to check my bank statement online. I’d recently moved from Charleston back to Georgia and had not switched to a local bank yet.  I’ve banked online dozens of times with no problem.

Not today.

I tried to log in using the same account number and password that I’d used every time.


I got “log in error”. Okay, I thought maybe I’d used the wrong password even though I KNEW that I hadn’t. Second attempt, same result. “Log in error”. Five total attempts, same result.

Okay, a simple phone call should be sufficient, right?


I dialed the number for the “convenient” automated teller and spent most of the next hour being routed from one computer generated voice to another. I heard the same instructions over and over in the same dreary monotone to the point where I was certain that I had left Dixie and entered the Twilight Zone.

” Press 1 for English, 2 for Spanish”.

That alone put me in a more foul mood.

” Press 3 for account information”.

” Press 4 for loan information”.

” Press 5 if you’ve ever wanted to punch a computer screen or cuss out a recorded voice”.

I found myself screaming into the Alltel.

“I demand to speak to flesh and blood!”

“Press 1 for English”

” I HAVE pressed 1 at least ten times!” I shouted.

My dogs heard the ruckus and sprinted for the woods.

I was scaring myself remembering that this kind of stress was not conducive to my new lifestyle.

At about the 45 minute mark I found myself actually choking my cell phone. Did you know that squeezing an inanimate object while fantasizing that it’s actually the automated voice’s throat really does make you feel a modicum better?

Let me add that I am normally not near patient enough to remain on the phone that long speaking to phantoms. The old me would have hung up after ten minutes but, have you ever tried to hang up a cellular phone? Where exactly do you hang it? I HAVE flung mine on more than one occasion.

I might have done the same thing today except that I was facing a matter of monetary urgency.

Somehow, after about an hour, I pushed the magic button and heard a real female voice, sweet sounding and friendly.

I was so happy I nearly wept. Well, not really, but Jesus wept so it would have been okay if I had.

But I really didn’t.

As it turned out the lady who I was so fortunate to connect with was about as helpful as all the bits and bytes and whatever other computer fragments combined to aggrieve me for the first hour.

I hung up, well, I closed the flip phone, more frustrated than I had been before Miss Pleasant Voice got my hopes up.

Two more calls and three hours later I finally found a lady who was accommodating AND competent.

Problem solved, but I think that I could have used a hammer and chisel, etched my request onto a stone tablet, loaded it on a mule and ridden to Charleston in less time than it took being aided by digital innovation.

Modern technology! Who needs it?

Press one if you agree.

Don Lively is a columnist for the Waynesboro (GA) True Citizen and a freelance writer.  Email Don at [email protected].

Don Lively

Don Lively

Don Lively is a retired police officer and freelance writer. He lives in Shell Bluff, Georgia.

  1. Keith Graham

    Is the problem really “modern technology” — which actually can be very useful and time saving, especially for simple issues — or an overall decline of real customer service (and a decline in the appreciation of its ultimate importance) by the companies employing the technology?

  2. Will Cantrell

    Don, I really enjoyed your piece. Well done. I am sorry for your troubles but am glad to know that it’s not just me. (As selfish as it is, “…misery really does LOVE company”.) Hell, I was beginning to think that I was the only one whose computer was “out to get me”. From time to time, my computer , via the screen, licks its tongue out at me. My computer also knows, to the penny, how little money I have in the bank and goes on the fritz at the exact moment when I can least afford it. Welcome to thew club …and you have my condolences.

  3. The electron is an unreliable particle. We are going to regret letting it run our lives. Anything that acts up when the environment is too moist, too hot, too dusty or electrically charged can’t be trusted.

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