Wednesday, 11 December 2013

The Letter

I'm going to repeat my first ever blog.  I ran into this guy a couple of days ago (his name is Marty) and I remember this. He remembered me. 

Sorry, guys, new one next week, but enjoy this.

I was sitting in a coffee shop the other day and was just about to put pen to paper, when the pimply teenage waiter arrived at my table and asked the question. Not the question I was expecting, mind you. I was expecting something along the lines of "Can I get you a coffee?"

But instead, he asked "What are you writing?"

It really was quite a simple question and confident I knew the answer without thinking music or phoning a friend, I responded simply – "A letter."

He stared at me blankly. Clearly I hadn’t provided all the necessary information.

"You know. A letter! Words on paper. When I was a kid, this is how we used to communicate. OH. MY. GOD. Did I just use the expression "When I was a kid"? What next? Was I going to start banging on about how things were better in my day, and then complain about this noise they call music? "Sorry, mate, you know letters, right? Envelopes? Stamps? Any of this ringing a bell?"

"Oh yeah," he replied. "I know stamps. Look at all the ones I got at the club last night, the DJ was awesome!"

"You might call that music," I said, trying desperately to catch the inevitable words before they tumbled out of my mouth, "I call it noise."

Damn.

"But I don’t mean those stamps," I said, moving on before I started suggesting all the world’s problems could be solved by a good dose of national service. "I mean the ones with the Queen’s picture on them, and you lick her back!"

"Why would you want to lick her back?" He asked.

"Do you know, it’s a little-known fact," I said warming to the topic, "that every time you lick the back of a stamp with the Queen’s picture on it, the real Queen feels it."

He paused for a moment as if actually considering it, and then said "Nah … don’t be stupid. And anyway, I know what a letter is. I just wanted to know why you were writing one."

Why? The thought had never occurred to me. He seemed to sense I needed mor information and continued – "I mean, why would you write a letter when you could just send an email?"

"Well you can’t avoid paying your bills by telling someone the cheque is in the email, can you?" I joked.

He didn’t laugh and the thought suddenly struck me, why was I writing a letter? I mean, no one writes letters any more. Even the kid we sponsor in some hick country has an email address and a Facebook page. What was so special about a letter?

"Why?" I said half wondering what the next thing to come out of mouth would be, "let me count the reasons why. For starters, a love email will never be as romantic as a love letter, will it?"

He thought about this for a moment, nodded and said "What if you put some emoticons at the end? A smiley face or I could show you how to do a love heart with an arrow and a 3."

I felt like I was losing him.

"Well what about this then – if you get stuck on a desert island, it’s going to be hard to stick an email in a bottle."

"Unless you’re on Fiji" he countered "I went there with the boys at Christmas and they had a business centre with a printer and everything."

"OK then" I thought desperately, hoping I had another point, "what about spam? I have so many offers in my email for cheap Viagra, I could get the Tower of Pisa to stand up straight."

"There’s a tower somewhere made out of pizza?" he asked with amazement, and then just as suddenly seemed to pull himself back together. "Ok, I get why it’s better than email, but why then don’t you just use your phone?"

"OK mate" I said "letters are so much better than a phone. A letter won’t wake you up on a Sunday morning when you have a hangover, a letter won’t disturb you by going off in a movie, you can still understand a letter if you read it in bright sunlight, and it’s really hard to send a drunken smart arse letter to your mates in the middle of the night.

He laughed and I knew I had him I just knew we had found the same wavelength finally, so I motioned him closer and said "Do you want to know the real reason I am writing a letter?"

He nodded.

"The truth is I’m writing it to keep a tradition alive. You see, my most prized possession in the world is a letter written to me by my mum just before she died."

"Wow" he said "do you still have it?"

Of course and I read it often.

"Cool story, love," he said. "I’ll let you get back to it, but before I do, can I ask you something?"

"Sure" I said, suddenly sentimental.

"Can I get you a coffee?"

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Telstra ... I love you!!!

I'm angry, and at the top of my 'why' list at the moment is the appalling level of service offered by Telstra (our biggest telco, for you non Aussies).

Seriously folks, I knew  I had to do something about my phone when a friend called me from the Serengeti recently and the line dropped out at MY end.

According to the adverts, Telstra is meant to have 98% coverage in this country.  If this is true, the other 2% must be between my lounge room and the kitchen.  So recently, I finally bit the bullet, climbed into the cupboard under the sink where the reception is pretty clear, and gave Telstra a call.  An hour and a half later, I was still on hold.

An hour and a half! Don't these organisations realise that most people have better things to do with their time than be kept on hold?  I mean, I don't, but I'm sure people with real jobs do.

And while we're on the topic, let's talk about the 'hold' music.  The music they play is ridiculous. I could understand if it was 'Ring Ring' or better still 'Hanging On The Telephone' but all you hear, over and over again, is that bloody 'I Am Australian' song. After about the 18th time hearing 'We are one, but we are many' you can't help but have some very, very un-Australian thoughts.

Even worse is when the interrupt the endless repeats of  'I am Australian' to remind you about their 'fantastic products and services'.  Really?  Are any of these products and services related to actually answered the telephone?  Because that WOULD be fantastic.

If you're going to keep me hanging on for so long, keep me up to date with Brad and Angelina or the Kardashians. Even Rob Patt  and Kirsten Stewart (are they on again or off again? I have trouble keeping up.)  Hey, since we have plenty of time, explain what's been happening on Big Brother.

Isn't there something wrong with our society when the only time you get to speak to a representative from your phone company , is when they call you in the middle of dinner from India?  "Yes actually I would like to talk to you about my long distance service provider, thanks for asking.  And I have a couple of other issues too.  Hang on, I'll go get my list'.

Of course, the non-stop fun doesn't stop when you finally get through.  First you get the option menu, which for some reason, never seems to contain the option you need.  Then there's the computerised speech recognition software, that sounds like it was programmed by the Swedish Chef from he Muppets.

Actually while we're on the topic of computerised voices, what the hell is it with Telstra and their misleadingly named Directory Assistance Service?

First they changed the number from the very simple 013, to something that even Rainman has to write on the back of his hand.  The only way to be connected these days it seams, is to enter pi to 20 decimal places.

But that's not even the worst of the 'new service'.  No, I'm talking about the new and improved (cough, cough) computerised voice recognition.  My God, voice recognition is as misleading a name as Australia's Funniest Home Videos TV program.

Just who is the mental giant who took a perfectly good system - where you spoke to a real, live person, who would tell you the number you wanted - and replace it with a computer.  At the very least, is it to much to ask for a  system that actually works better, rather than one which replaces people's jobs with a machine, that makes a simple phone call more difficult than conversing with a drunk and dyslexic Alf from Home and Away.

Seriously, have you tried this craputer?  You request something simple like "Qantas" and the technology translates it into "Purple Monkey Dishwasher Service".  Errr no, I didn't ask for that, but by now I'm feeling like I'm on acid.  Recently I asked for the number of Singapore Airlines, and it replied "Do you mean Frankston Homosexual Midget Waxing Service". Ummmm, no I didn't, but on second thoughts, put me through!

While it's novel to experience what it might be like to talk to Ozzy Osborne, I have become so frustrated with this lack of service, this morning I tried to be clever and head it off at the pass. As soon as the message kicked it, I screamed 'Operator', but the bloody computer simply replied "I'm sorry, I did not understand your request. Please hold for an operator."

I rest my case, your honour.

Forget the citizenship test, when new immigrants arrive in our country, just give them a pre-paid mobile phone and if they can negotiate the security questions at Telstra, they're in, and deservedly so.

I digress ...

After being on hold for so long, I finally got through, and after giving my address, birth date, family tree, star sign, mother's maiden name, best friend's nickname, Snoop Dogg's real name, shoe size, but size, five favourite films, secret ingredient in my nan's lasagne and DNA sample, I finally got through to the department I was looking for.

This is when I began to think I'd licked a Chinaman, or whatever it is you do with Chinamen,  (Kicked, right KICKED!) because the lovely lady at Telstra - and I swear on the complete box set of Home and Away - said to me : "We can't help you with that, we don't really deal with phones anymore".

Okey and/or dokey, let's go through that one, one more time, so even the speech recognition software can understand it : We ... don't ... really ... deal ... with ... phones ... anymore!

Ummmm but aren't you Telstra? Isn't that what the 'Tel' bit in your name stands for? Or are you just 'Stra' now?

I was so stunned I even contemplated ringing Consumer Affairs, but with the day I was having, I was worried I'd spend 3 hours on hold only to be told that they no longer dealt with consumer complaints.