A Nerd’s Last Word

by Michael Bosley

‘We’re really busy at the moment, sorry for the delay‚’ comes the earnestly toned recorded message down the phone as I remain on hold to get help with my recently deceased iPhone.

In between the abrupt interruptions from the politely voiced lady on the recording, I’m serenaded with vignettes of super-safe singer/songwriter and wearer of hats, James Bay.

The recorded message of apology repeats itself every thirty seconds or so, like an elderly relative who‚Äôs forgotten that they’d already mentioned their trip to Skegness twice since you’ve been there, but you simply haven‚Äôt the heart to highlight their rapidly degenerating memory, so you nod along and raise your eyebrows at the appropriate moments as if this is all news to you.

Despite my on-hold experience, the service I received was actually hassle-free and I was able to speak to a human being with emotions and empathy and more importantly, had knowledge of the problem I was having; namely that my iPhone was performing an elaborate light show without me having asked it to, as if Siri had developed a taste for the abstract and had hijacked my operating system in the name of artistic expression.

The disingenuous concern from the recorded lady is only one example of a public service that attempts to portray a personable, approachable service in a world where such a thing will become increasingly rare. The introduction of self service tills is just one example of such a service.

Back in the early days of public service, when the population of Britain was about 10 and stores had names like apothecary and haberdashery, people knew the shopkeeper (there was only one) and he would keep your moustache wax and ankle ointment under the counter for you when you next came in and ask how your day was.

Now the shopkeeper is dead; murdered by big business and (probably, quite literally) by urbanised, gun wielding teenagers.

Quite simply, there are too many of us scuttling around on this blue marble to make personal service anything but a long distant memory.

The idea that machines will now greet us over the phone, in our stores and whenever we walk up to anything vaguely resembling a service are now the norm. There simply aren’t enough people to deal with all these, well, people.

Many McDonalds stores now allow you to order your food on large, iPad-style displays so you needn’t face the ordeal of having to interact with another person, save for the moment you lurch forward to snatch your food order from their sweaty palms. Humans eh? Who needs ‘em!