Fun With Phones – Not

Is it snowing where you live? No snow here, but it’s cold enough to dispense a few flakes if the weather had a mind to. I’ve always enjoyed snow, and it was always fun to have a blanket of white out at Grandma’s Ranch. Sometimes I still miss it. The snow and the ranch.

In my continuing attempts to master different aspects of Canva, the site for graphic creations, I made this meme today using an image of a snow day some years ago.


Raise your hand if you’re like me and can easily get lost – and then frustrated – with automated phone systems.

Whew! Glad I’m not alone.

Gone are the days of calling an office and getting a real person to answer a question, or connect you to the person with whom you need to communicate. Instead, we’re offered a computer-generated set of instructions that lead us through a maze of options. Those instructions, and our response to them, don’t always work to the advantage of the caller – and maybe not to the advantage of the callee. How many negative reviews has a business received because of poor communications?

There are many reasons why businesses, pharmacies, and medical facilities use automated systems, the number one reason being labor costs. I get that. Most of the time, a caller can get the information they need: hours of business, directions, and ways to purchase merchandise or pay bills – all without the need to have a real person getting paid to dispense that information.

In a perfect world, that would all work, well, perfectly.

Sadly, there’s a huge variance in the ease and effectiveness of the different systems, and I didn’t realize there were so many systems until I did some research before starting this post. If you’re interested in learning more, you can read this article by Corey McGraw in the Fit Small Business newsletter: 6 Best Auto-attendant Phone Systems for 2022.

After doing more rabbit-hole hopping on Google, I discovered that there can also be differences between systems used by businesses and those used by doctor’s offices and hospitals, which are Automated Voice Response Systems (commonly abbreviated to AVRS). Some use the same technology as those mentioned in the McGraw article, but with different functions suited to a medical practice.

Those systems work fine when the caller is offered a selection, such as “Press 1 for…” and that takes them to the right place, the right person, in the list of options. But sometimes the options are rattled off so quickly, one can’t discern the number they need to press. Or the volume is so low, the speaker could be whispering a trade secret.

Or, when there seems to be a glitch in the process. As in the case of my most recent call to a doctor’s office. When I was prompted to leave a message – hoping I’d actually been forwarded to the right person – there wasn’t a beep to signify it was time to start my message. Just a bit of static, then nothing. A silent void.

Now, almost 48-hours after that frustrating experience, I still don’t know if my message ever got through to where it needed to go. Do I call back to inquire? Not today. I’m fresh out of patience.

On the bright side, there are some automated systems that work well, such as calling a pharmacy to renew a prescription. The option to “speak” a request instead of having to type the RX number or press as number for every yes or no response to a question makes that phone experience less likely to blow one’s blood pressure off the charts.

What do you think of the phone systems? Do you wish we could talk to a real person straight away when phoning our doctors? How do you navigate challenging systems?


As I wrote this blog post, it made me think of a friend who once destroyed his phone because he was frustrated. I couldn’t help but wonder how many phones he’d go through in this modern era. His story is part of my humorous memoir, A Dead Tomato Plant and a Paycheck. Enjoy the excerpt.

In all honesty, most of us will have to admit to being overcome with childish fits of temper at one time or another in our lives. Whether that happens frequently, occasionally or twice a day, we all have given in to the urge to throw something across the room and watch it smash into a million pieces. (We mothers have to be most careful when the impulse is to throw one of our kids).

Although we all fall prey to this type of behavior, it really takes a big person to admit it, and that being the case, I’m going to tell you what this friend of ours did once. This friend, who shall remain nameless, got mad at his telephone one day. He was so mad that just slamming the receiver back in place was not enough to satisfy him, so he ripped it off the wall.

That still didn’t ease his frustration, so he threw it down on the floor and jumped on it once or twice.

Then he kicked it around the floor a bit, kind of stirring up all the little pieces. Then he picked up all those little pieces, put them in a brown paper bag, and went to the nearest payphone to call the phone company. (Keep in mind this was before anyone had ever thought of a cell phone.)

He told the girl in the service department that there was something wrong with his phone, and she said she would have someone check the lines and they would get back to him.

“‘You don’t understand,” my friend said. “There’s no trouble on the lines. My telephone is broken.”

“Sir, do you mean the instrument itself is broken?”

“Yes, Ma’am, that’s exactly what I mean.”

“What is it that’s broken on your telephone?”

“Well, you could say the whole thing is broken. In fact, you might want to send out a totally new unit.”

“Oh. Okay. I’ll have a technician come to your home.”

At that point, I would’ve skipped town and let someone else greet the repairman, but this friend is given to great shows of bravery, as well as terrific temper tantrums. He acted as if it were nothing out of the ordinary to hand a telephone repairman a bag of junk that used to be a telephone and tell him that a Mack truck ran over it.

If I had been the repairman, I might not have been able to resist asking how the wall fared.

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