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San Francisco Chronicle voicemail robot deserves and will get a love letter

When a robot is loveable she is a boon to all humankind
When a robot is loveable she is a boon to all humankind
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In a world that has become sometimes daunting and frequently irritating, using the telephone ranks high. Call almost any company, business, public utilities outfit, government agency and you are assaulted with phone message options from which you must choose just one, and too often not one of the choices is adequate. Hit the “0” hoping to get an operator? No more. Now it is the purring robot saying, “I’m sorry that is not a valid entry,” after which you get the interminable list of options again as if you had hit “0” by mistake. Time to realize that hitting the “0”, which used to get you what we used to call an operator, is, well, yes, no longer a valid entry. Hitting “0” is so yesterday. Infinite loop exasperation.

By the time you figure out how to get a representative, an agent, an emissary, you are probably outraged and can hardly control your bile towards that person who has done nothing to anger you other than working for a company who could not care less about you. Those people usually understand your frustration, are redundant, are sorry you feel this way or unnecessarily apologize; it is, after all, not any one person’s fault that you have spent 20 minutes pressing buttons after listening to options that have recently changed so you need to listen to the whole list.

Sometimes you get only a company robot who will, in a voice that ranges from glacial to irritated, tend to your needs electronically. Yuck. Rarely is there a robot who cares. Rarely.

There is one robot who stands out among the rest, and a love letter of thanks goes to that San Francisco Chronicle robot not just for what she does at a smart human pace but for the caring creature she is. She starts with a heartfelt welcome and right away moves on to ask what she can help with. You tell her, she listens and then looks up your account with only a few short identifying questions. You get to make a couple of choices for your vacation hold, and here is the best part; she says it is okay if you don’t know when you want to restart. No judgment. Asks if you want her to save your papers for future delivery, asks you to hold for a minute while she finalizes your request and then asks if she can help with anything else. She thanks you for calling. She is a responsible grownup in whose hands you feel safe. Oh, if she has trouble understanding anything you say, she right away sends you to a human being.

This is the stuff of good science fiction in which an intelligent computer operating system is a lovable creature. There is no limit to the list of people who deserve a love letter of thanks, and what with modern life as it is, probably the list of robots who deserve one will be increasing. Easy really to write one and send it as robots always have deliverable addresses (yes, their employers). Will the robots be able to read yours in your handwriting? Probably. But the feeling of writing a thank-you love letter is always delicious. This one was great fun, and who does not need a little more of that in life?

From me to you with love in the air,

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