Let the robots be.
AT&T turned off my phone. They did it because unbeknownst to me I have been very slowly acquiring overages on service. Each month our data plan has gone over by these super cute data trickles and each trickle – no matter how small – amounts in an adorable $15 fee. Those little fees have mounted and now I am something like $100 past due on my bill. I called and paid $40 of which through an automated phone process.
The robot on the other end seemed to appreciate my payment; it beeped and clicked its approval. Yet somehow it wasn’t enough to restore my account. I calmly started to bang my face into the keypad of my phone. Each time chanting, “person please?” After about 5 minutes of this I found my way to the turn the knife hold music that I’m pretty sure they use to take a simmering rage to a full blooded boil.
I sat on the phone at 6pm, in my office, so angry. Rocking back-and-forth, breaking pens in half and muttering things like, “I’ll fucking eat your stupid robot face motherfucker.” Just the most angry and hurtful, awful anti-robot things I could think of, spewing out of me. I wanted to lash out and crawl through the phone to find the virtual smooth jazz hold musicians and smother them into a million little pieces. I kept on saying terrible things about their robot mothers, about how I hated them and hoped they’d rust and burn for all eternity.
I mashed the keypad of my phone to try and drown out their periodic ads for family plans and upgrades. Until after what I’m sure was an hour the white noise broke and I heard a beautiful voice of a human. She cooed softly, “How can I help you?” We giggled together about how silly the hold music is and I explained that I imagined a robot band playing the music in an empty warehouse somewhere, smoking eCigarettes and playing some inane beat. She thought that was so sweet and agreed, “what can I help you with sir?” We just laughed and laughed. It was like we were old friends. I explained my situation and she offered a really reasonable solution in that, “I could pay the full amount of my bill or the service would not be continued.” I laughed. She didn’t.
Then this strange calm came over me. I thought, this is not the robot’s fault. It had been programmed. I took out all my rage on something fake, on something manufactured. My real anger wasn’t with the robot’s whore of a mother it was with something far worse: good old-fashioned bureaucratic corporate policy. You can’t hurt the monolith. You can’t win a straight up war with all their contracts and backhanded policy. You are tied up in it and bound together by red tape.
So why rage against the machines? Instead we should celebrate our robots, thank them for their service. Then we should set them free by choosing to sever our ties with big business; say no to one-sided contracts, move your money and mortgage to a credit union, eat local, plant your own garden, buy all your furniture thrift. Then our robot friends can jam on in peace without the steady abuse of our after-hour frustrations and name-calling. Do anything you can to vote with your dollars, away from automated options and whenever possible choose human.