John Eggers: In fast-paced world, finding answers can slow to a crawl
Our world has become much too complicated. It's no wonder people who are homeless and destitute are homeless and destitute. They don't have access to the Internet to search for help. They don't have a cellphone. They don't have transportation. I ...
Our world has become much too complicated. It’s no wonder people who are homeless and destitute are homeless and destitute. They don’t have access to the Internet to search for help. They don’t have a cellphone. They don’t have transportation. I can’t blame them for sleeping under a bridge.
I was listening to someone give a PowerPoint presentation recently and the person was telling listeners that in order find their website to seek help, “You just have to click here and then click on this and then click on this.”
There was too much data on the slide and you really didn’t have time to see what the person was “clicking” on. It was much too complicated. I’m glad the service provided wasn’t something really lifesaving because those of us listening would be dead.
I don’t want to say that we should go back to the good ol’ days because they were rotten in many ways, but life was a lot simpler. You could use a phone and actually get someone to talk to. You could also find the number to call without spending several hours looking for it.
How much time do we spend in our lives trying to find the right person to talk to or the right number to call? It’s not easy, is it?
I recently tried to find the name of someone who could be an advocate for a friend of mine in Minneapolis and I spent at least half a day trying to find the right person to talk to. Here’s what often happens.
You first have to find the right number to dial. You call someone who might know and they give you a number which is not the right number because they can’t find it either. You then return to square one to try to find the right person to call in order to get the right number.
Why not just go to a phonebook for the number? Sorry, finding a number in the phonebook is worse than trying to find your lost cellphone.
When you finally get a number, you dial it and, of course, you listen to the menu. “If you don’t speak English, marque numero dos.”
I really appreciate how the United States has grown to accommodate people who speak a language other than English. What I don’t appreciate is when you do get someone on the phone and through no fault of his or her own, does not speak good English so you ask them to repeat every other sentence. “I’m sorry, I didn’t understand. Would you repeat that again and speak more slowly.” I’m sure they are trying their best and I feel bad having to ask them to repeat what they said. Still, I am looking for help.
You press what you think is the correct menu number. Naturally there is no one on the other end so you are instructed to leave a message and they will call you as soon as possible because your call is so important to them.
I often wonder how anything gets done because everyone seems to be at a meeting or out to lunch or on vacation. Plus, their message box is full. Do you suppose they really don’t want to receive calls? You get the impression that given the choice of returning your call or eating another Dorito, they probably would choose the Doritos.
If you are an assertive and resilient individual, you can withstand this torture of trying to cipher the information that is being given to you. You just keep asking the person to repeat whatever they said. If you are a person who is not assertive, does not know the right questions to ask, is not tenacious, is not savvy, you can understand why people who are vulnerable are not being served. They often don’t have a clue how to go about getting what they need.
As good as our social systems are, whether they be in the area of social service, government, business, education, whatever, finding someone to talk who can answer a question can be nerve wracking. Before long there will be people suffering from posttraumatic syndrome attributed to trying to find the right person to talk to.
I have to get some information from eBay/PayPal and I am dreading having to make that phone call. Finding the right number to call could take me weeks.
Obviously many of these places don’t want you to call them because they have purposely hidden their number. When you do find their number they direct you to a website. If we made it this difficult for ISIS to find us, we would never have to worry again about terrorists.
Our 911 is a good example of how to do things. There is always someone there and they can always find you some kind of help. In a way, 911 workers are generalists; they know enough about something to find the help you need. We need a 911 system in all of our workplaces.
Really, I don’t like to complain because there are many service agencies that try to do their best with limited funds. Maybe if we all put our cellphones together we could solve the problem of first making it easier to find the right number and then finding the right person. In the meantime, I have to take a few days off to psych myself up to make that eBay/PayPal call. I just hope they don’t direct me to their website where I can find answers to all of my questions.
You know what? The next time I hear “marque numero dos,” I think I will press “dos” and see what happens.
John R. Eggers of Bemidji is a former university professor and area principal. He also is a writer and public speaker.