Edward Teach was a piker

Published 2:51 pm Friday, February 1, 2019


I’m going to have some T-shirts made up with LDMFATS emblazoned across the front in studhorse type.

I’m going to have buttons made with it.

Email newsletter signup

I’m going to print up some letterheads and envelopes, have business cards made, maybe even have a jingle written—in blues, country, jazz and rock versions.

If I can enlist enough people, we’ll hire a lobbyist. Maybe two or three.


“Lord, Deliver Me From Automated Systems.

We’ll pronounce it, “Led’umfats.”

The primary purpose will be to outlaw automated telephone systems and have abusers banished to Ultima Thule for eternity.

Let me review the mild case first.

You’ve been on the telephone or out of the office for a spell, and you get a memo that Ralph Schwartz has called and wants you to call him back right away. It’s urgent.

Swiftly, you pick up the phone and call ol’ Ralph. Sometimes you get a live receptionist and ask for Ralph, and she puts you right through to Ralph’s extension.

Other times, you don’t talk to a real person at all. In both cases, you ultimately get a message that sounds something like this:

“Hello, this is Sneibert & Company’s automated communication system. It is designed to provide our customers with efficient service. If you know the extension of the person you wish to reach, you may enter it now. If you don’t, you must wait on the directory and—using the buttons on your telephone—spell the first four letters of the person’s last name. If you don’t know how to spell his last name, we probably don’t need to talk to you. (Pause). Hello, this is Ralph Schwartz. I’m away from my desk right now, but…” Or, alternatively, “Hello, this is Sneibert & Company’s auto…”

Now, this is stressful in even the mildest form, understand—the fact that Ralph called you, said it was urgent, and now he’s going to call you back, and you’ll be on the phone, and… well, you know how it goes.

But this is tolerable. The really stressful experiences come from getting a menu, listening to six options, choosing one; getting a second menu, listening through five options, making a selection; getting a third menu—and so on through five menus, only to arrive at the point where a recording says, “All of our agents are busy helping really important people right now. If you’ll stay on the line for 10 or 15 minutes, we’ll see what we can do to really irritate you.” Or words to that effect.

We all know that drill, but I met the ultimate Monday afternoon.

I picked up a bill from A.T.&T. for long distance service. It was a whopper.

My blood pressure spiked.

We don’t use A.T.&T.

We have had this same experience with A.T.&T. before, however.

More than once.

And it’s always the same.

They got “verbal approval” to switch our long-distance service. They don’t have a recording of the approval, however, but they’ve sent a bill for double the rates our carrier charges.

Blackbeard. Henry Morgan. Ned Kelly. Jean Lafitte. The most notorious pirates and highwaymen of history pale by comparison.

The difference this time is that a couple of years back we had holds placed on all of our lines. It’s supposed to take a written authorization from us to change long distance carriers.

No one can explain how it happened this time, in spite of the holds.

The people at BellSouth—who required written authorization when I did change carriers—are at a loss to explain how A.T.&T. shanghaied our calls without written authorization.

No one can do anything about it.

Mysterious, isn’t it?

On top of that, when I tried to get to A.T.&T., they not only put me through four banks of menus, but when I finally found a human being, she put me on hold and subjected me to nearly 30 minutes of the same few bars of Handel Music For The Royal Fireworks.

I think they were trying to discourage me, but I persevered.

Tune in next week and we’ll see what develops.

In the meantime, if anyone has a week-old dead rhinoceros, I’d like to send a gift.