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  • mariokiefer

Human Consideration

Have you ever tried to reach a government office by phone? Specifically, have you ever tried to speak to a live person at the IRS? Let me tell you my tale . . .

It was a Monday morning like any other. I rose with the sun and duly performed each and every one of my morning rituals before I started work on that day. Some two months prior, for my job, I had requested tax information (duly authorized by the taxpayer, of course). I followed the protocols set forth by the Internal Revenue Service for doing so: I filled out the correct form, included the payment, mailed it to the office designated on the form, and, for extra measure, sent it certified mail return receipt requested. I had received the return receipt so there was no doubt that the IRS had received my request.

Their website said that it could take up to sixty days to receive a response. I noted on my calendar this date. Of course, there were some holidays in between, so I did not immediately contact them when the requested documents had not arrived on the sixtieth day. I waited another week. Then on this Monday morning, I tried to contact them to determine the status.

At 9:06 in the morning, I dialed one of the myriad 1-800 numbers on their website. I was greeted from the other end of the phone by a machine that instructed me to press a number for this or that. I followed the instruction and with each new entry, a computer generated message asked me to make another choice, then another, then another, then another, then . . .

I could not get through to a human being. I tried selecting “0”. I tried yelling “representative” into the phone. I pushed every numeral or combination of numerals available on that device. All of this was to no avail. The machine on the end refused to connect me with a human being.

I tried another of the myriad 1-800 numbers available on their website. Each led me down the same path to oblivion.

I tried calling the Austin local office only to be greeted with a recording which averred that “this is not a working number.”

I tried each of the Houston local offices — there are three of them. At each turn I was greeted with a recording saying that they would be unable to help on the phone and to make an appointment.

The recording for the appointment line advised that an appointment would take two months to obtain.

I had the same result with the Dallas and San Antonio local office.

I tried the taxpayer assistance line only to be greeted with a recording that instructed me to leave a message and my call would be returned but that due to the COVID emergency, it would take up to four weeks for a response. Four weeks!

Two hours had passed as I dialed, called, pressed buttons, entered numerals, and begged and pleaded with the uncaring, unhearing voice on the phone tree. No matter how hard I tried, I could not coax the automated system to answer my question or to give me over to a live human being who might be able and willing to speak with me.

Despondent, I took to cyberspace. There must be hack of some sort to get through the automated phone tree to a human being! I researched. I read articles, posts, notes, and anything — absolutely anything that I could find that might lead me down the right path until finally I came across some information.

“Eureka!” I thought.

I printed the instructions that I had found and followed them. I dialed the number. Without waiting for the voice prompts, I dialed 1, then 2, then 1, then 3, then 2. Here, the automated system asked for information that I could not provide, but the hack instructed me to make no entry, so I did not. Eventually, the ghost in the machine gave up asking me that question and when the prompt changed, I returned to my hack instructions. I dialed 2, then 4, then 4 again.

Finally, I was greeted with a voice that said, “The next available agent will be with you shortly.”

I rejoiced! After almost three hours my efforts might finally bear fruit!

And so, I waited. One minute passed, then two; then another four. Twenty-two minutes into my “short” wait, the machine on the other end launched its counter-attack.

“All representatives are busy now. Please try your call later or on another business day.”

I wailed to the heavens as I slammed the handset into its cradle! Oh, the inhumanity! The injustice! The cruelty of this world!

As I yelled to those heavens and cried out in a voice that I am certain could be heard across the globe, that scene from the movie “All About Eve” came to mind. If you have seen the movie, you know the lines.

Margo Channing was on a rant and her paramour asked her, “Have you no human consideration?”

Margo replied, “Show me a human and I might have!”

I sniggered at the thought.

There is but one conclusion I can draw from this experience: the machines have taken over. There are no humans in government.

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