My Old Kentucky Homesite

So Does That Mean I’m Always Right?

Posted by Larry Wallberg on 01/21/2010

I am not a number. I am a free man.
Number 6 (the Prisoner)

Today, I called the IRS for some information. Having made a payment agreement with the tax collectors, I’d expected to receive an invoice in the mail, as had been  promised in numerous form letters wrapped in red tape.

But, even though the postman has rung considerably more than twice since I was scheduled to receive it, this month’s invoice still hasn’t arrived. Since I know it’s absolutely impossible for our government to screw up, I decided to find out what I’d be blamed for if I chose to wait – as any person who could actually read those letters would – for my bill?

So I dialed the number of my friendly federal tax office, and, as you probably could have guessed, was greeted by a recorded voice. First, it asked me to choose the language I preferred. I picked plain English; one can always hope. The voice then spelled out a menu of options for me: Make a payment, ask a queston about making a payment, request forms for making a payment, ask a question about requesting forms for making a payment, make a payment to receive a form for asking a question, and finally, request permission from your neighbors to howl at the moon.

None of these options being even remotely related to what I wanted to find out, I pushed the zero button on my phone. A voice informed me that I would be put on hold until the next available representative was, in fact, available. I was also told that my wait for an actual human would be approximately seven to ten minutes.

On hold, I was treated to a musical composition for perky piano and background bongos. The chipper melody sounded like one of those tunes that float around dentists’ offices: Music to Prepare You for Pain.

After about a minute, the recorded voice returned to remind me that I had not been forgotten. It was sorta like a robber reminding a victim to keep his hands up. The recording let me know that, despite what I may have been thinking, the IRS employees were not just screwing around playing tabletop football with taxpayers’ quarters. The voice told me: “Our representatives are still helping other customers.”

OK, listen. The Prisoner is wrong, at least in America. I am a number. You’re a number, too. We’re all nine-digit social security numbers, and ten-digit cellphone numbers, and sixteen-digit credit card numbers. We’re license numbers and health insurance numbers and bank account numbers and even bookclub membership numbers. I’ve learned to accept that.

But the United States Constitution isn’t a purchase agreement. The President, the Congress, and the Courts should not be for sale – even though sometimes they are.

I am not a customer.


4 Responses to “So Does That Mean I’m Always Right?”

  1. srsny said

    Are you still on hold?

  2. yunshui said

    What I always hate is that moment when the hold music cuts out, and you think, “At last! I’m in!” only to meet another recorded message claiming that your call is important and they are sorry for the delay. Those apologies always piss me off far more than just being left on hold – there’s something about an apology conveyed by recorded message which makes it just about the most insincere thing since Ted Haggard condemned bottom-sex. It’s effectively saying, “we can’t be arsed to say sorry in person, because then we’d have to employ more staff and that would cut into the big slice of profits we make.”

    It’s even worse when you’re calling the phone company, because then you’re actually paying them to keep you waiting…

  3. I can’t remember what I was on hold for over a month ago, but they had the X-mas music cd on and it skipped the entire time. I never thought that music could get more annoying but now I know it can. Having it get stuck and repeat the same 3 seconds for over 5 minutes is far worse.

  4. Srsny:
    Our next available representative will answer you within four to seven days.

    It’s even worse when you’re calling the phone company, because then you’re actually paying them to keep you waiting…
    Yeah, well, I’m kinda paying the IRS, too. “Here’s some money. Now use it to to ask me for more.”

    Well, I don’t remember the formula for calculating annoyance, but you bring up an interesting math problem. Is 3 seconds for 5 minutes equal to 5 seconds for 3 minutes? And, to arrive at an equal annoyance value, how many seconds would you need for 13 and 1/2 minutes? (That’s what the government means by “approximately seven to ten minutes.”)

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