Non-Communicative English

Falling through the universe at the speed of life

By David Glenn Cox

Pavloff is sitting in a bar when the phone rings and he says to himself, “Shit! I forgot to feed the dog.” The man trained to serve the machine rather than the other way round. I recently endured I.D. Me an online gulag for the unemployed. Its laudable goal is to eliminate fraud which we all encourage, but it is Orwellian technology gone wild. Somewhere computer nerds and software salesmen smoked a big fat doobie and dreamed big dreams of a computer program that will do everything for everybody. It will be great! It will change the world! It will change everything, if only we can get it to work.

“Your online hold time is greater than 5 hours.” The state’s unemployment website said it should take me about 15 minutes, and it took 14 hours. Here’s why. The program does not work…period. In a perfect world in a computer lab somewhere, I’m sure it works every time. But do you know why there was a 14-hour bottleneck? The damn thing doesn’t work. The idea is to fill out a form and provide identification to the computer to prove who you are. Simple right? Click, click take a picture of the front and back of my driver’s license. Two inches by three and a half inches. Then my Social Security card (still attached to the card) five inches by eight and a half inches and my birth certificate, nine inches by eleven and a half inches. All in different fonts and types and all with different backgrounds.

Now just to make it interesting, all edges of the documents in question must be visible in the photograph, or it is try it again dumbass. After various attempts at phone photography and revising the various messages of “too light, too dark or illegible.” I spent several hours outside of the wait time turning on and off the lights in my apartment trying to appease the computer lighting gods. Then we moved on to the facial recognition software. “We are going to text you a code and that code will take you to a link where your phone will take a selfie of you.” But not a selfie, selfie.  Way too easy! That’s insanity! This is facial recognition software and looks a lot like Jerry Garcia’s bad acid trip. A multicolored shroud of Turin photo. “Image is too close! Image is too far away! Image is either too light or too dark…please hold.”

Remember, you don’t know what is coming. They tell you to take a selfie and there is this distorted grotesque image on the phone, is this what it is supposed to do? Is my phone broken? As ten o’clock in the morning became nine o’clock at night, I thought to myself. “I could load up the car and drive an hour and stand in line for two more hours. Show my documents to a human being and still be hours ahead of the game. The idea of creating a program world. Idiocrasy, the machine passes judgement on you. You not only have to prove who you are; you have to prove your photography and computer skills to the machine as well, and if you don’t…I guess we’ll see you tomorrow!

It is an immortal truth we must come to accept that software salesman will always be smarter than purchasing agents. We will spend the rest of our days removing special characters from our address and being told our password is incorrect and that password is already in use. When you put in your five-digit zip code it wants nine. When you put in nine, it says, “Wrong!” Then there are the top of the page error messages you won’t see those until you are trying to figure out why the page won’t advance. (3 Errors) You find em, you made the mistakes!

A local grocery store that starts with K and ends with narrow aisles and high prices has an automated checkout. As you complete your transaction the machine blares, “Git your shit and git!” Well, not exactly, but it says take your stuff and leave. If a live human spoke to me like that I’d want to speak to the manager.  But it’s just a machine, don’t take it so personnel it has no emotions so cannot offend you. Yet holds sway over your life. I recently applied for new power service and was asked, residential or business? I put down residential. The machine asked, “Your name” and then, “Your address” Our records indicate that information is incorrect. I’m sorry, but it’s the only name I’ve got and I’m reading the address right off the business card. I screwed up by thinking the “New customer portal” had something to do with “New customers.” It was the “new customers” portal for new construction, and it said so in the third paragraph of the description.

I call it the non-communicative form of English. Where they give you just a speck of information and lead you down the trail into thinking you’re on the right path when, “Put in your sixteen-digit QSR-9 code now.” My what?  My unemployment claim asks, “Were you laid off this week?” The correct answer is “No” even if you were laid off this week. What they want to know is, “Did you get laid off this week?” I received an e-mail message and was told the system would be down for maintenance between Sunday at 12:00 AM and Tuesday at 12:00 AM. That’s the long way around the block to say, “Closed Monday.”

After 14 hours the message on the screen changed, “Your I.D. judge will be with you in a moment.” A young woman’s face appeared, and she was very pleasant, and I was all over trembly thinking one mistake and it’s back to the end of the line. In their turn, I showed my driver’s license, birth certificate and Social Security card. She compared my image on her screen to the driver’s license and in less than five minutes we were through. The human was able to process the information at lighting speed that had left the computer bumfuzzled. Living in a computerized feudal world locked out of the castle programmed by computer science geniuses who don’t know the difference between, “Were you” and “Did you?” They speak only computereeze, and a non-communicative form of English.

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