Magazine article The Spectator

Real Life

Magazine article The Spectator

Real Life

Article excerpt

Some sadistically cheerful young popsy called Keeley or Tasha, I can't remember which, terminated the call because I breached security. My own security. This is a bit rich, even if I didn't keep completely to the rules. I always cheat during the beginning of the recorded message when the Patricia Hewitt sound-alike tells you to enter your membership or connect card number.

I did enter the details once, you see, and the automated hell into which I descended was so macabre that I vowed never to risk an encounter with it again.

Since discovering that the more you cooperate with an automated system the more options it generates, I have conducted many long and exhaustive experiments with some of the great automated systems of the world to try to work out a modus operandi for bypassing them.

I know I'm going to get into trouble for telling you this but I cannot continue without explaining, so here goes. When the computer-generated voice that for some reason has been based on a former Labour Health Secretary says, 'Welcome to Barclays Premier. To access your account or complete simple transactions press one. For Premier Life customers wishing to access their value-added features and benefits press nine - ha! you thought I was going to say two, didn't you? , ' etc. , I press one. Then when she says, 'Please enter your connect card or membership number or for more options press star, ' I do nothing. That's right. Nothing. How cool am I?

There is then a long pause during which you must hold your nerve until she says, 'Please enter your connect card, telephony membership number or for more options press star.' Resist. There will follow another long pause during which you have to be doubly determined. Do not give up now. No matter how gruelling the silence, remember that the darkest hour is before the dawn.

Eventually, she will say, 'Please enter the long number across the front of your connect card, your telephony membership number or for more options press star.'

Seriously, stay strong. Most of the climbers who die on Everest succumb to the cold and exhaustion when they are almost at the summit. That last short climb is the steepest.

When despair seems your only friend, suddenly, out of the darkness, you will hear: 'I need to transfer you to a member of our telephone banking team. …

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