The Voice continued, "Press 1 to check on the status of your wish list. Press 2 for an authorization number in order to return a malfunctioning item from last year. Press 3 for information on items in our Wish List catalog. Press 4 to submit a Wish List."
I pressed 4. The Voice replied, "Press 1 for sleds and other sports equipment. Press 2 for toys with battery not included. Press 3 for TiVos, iPods, and other gadgets that you can't live without once you have them. Press 4 for exercise equipment that you buy and use only once. Press . . . . Press . . . . Press 99 for items that will improve your productivity."
"What's wrong with this picture?" I asked myself and pressed 99. "All lines are busy," the Voice said. "Please hold for the next available Wish List order taker. Don't hang up, or you'll lose your place in line."
I guess I shouldn't have been surprised that the Wish List order taker was also an automated voice; it's so rare to get an actual person anymore. The Voice asked for my account number and chimney size. After I provided this information, it continued, "For each item on your wish list, please press the item number."
|"What's wrong with this picture?" I asked myself and pressed 99. "All lines are busy," the Voice said
My list had only three items on it. I entered my first item: 370241. This was for a real-time speech editor for use when I'm giving a presentation. Whenever I flub, goof, or include too many ums or ya knows, this speech editor would let me revise my words on the fly, and the audience would hear only the perfected version.
But the Voice responded, "Sorry. Not in stock. Try again next year. Press Y to enter another item, M to return to the main menu, or E to end this call."
I pressed Y and entered my second item: 479203. This was for an intelligent word processor. Software that checks spelling, style and grammar is fine for people who have problems with spelling, style and grammar, but what I really need is software that'll make sure I make sense. (Would you believe I once published my phone number wrong because my word processor was too stupid to catch my typo? For more on the art of shifting the blame to innocent productivity tools, call me. No guarantee, though, that the phone number below is mine.)
Being intelligent, this word processor would know that when I'm feeling sensitive, it should be diplomatic when critiquing my writing, as in "Now, that's a brilliant idea. You could make it even more powerful with the following change." But when I'm in a stubborn mood, it would switch into a less subtle tone, such as, "You idiot, that's incomprehensible. Give readers a break!"
But the Voice responded, "Sorry. Not in stock. Try again next year. Press Y to . . . ."
I pressed Y and entered my third item: 946825. This is what I wanted the most: a system for downloading my thoughts directly into my computer. Too many great ideas come and go as I'm drifting off to sleep. By the time I awake, they're gone forever.
Once, during my keep-a-pad-near-my-bed stage, I scratched out a momentous idea, which turned out the next morning to say, "w4d-c etur2sx izr@vts!" What better proof of need for a system that goes directly from the point of origin to electronic form. Of course, I'd also like to download my dreams but not till the password protection has been tightened up.
Anyway, the Voice responded, "Sorry. Not in stock. Try again next year. Press . . . ."
"What do you have in stock?" I screamed into the phone. Immediately, the Voice responded, "Press 1 for sleds and assorted sports equipment. Press 2 for toys with . . . ." Which is why I own three dozen sleds and frequently write gobbledygook."