I could probably check this, but it was right around a year ago that Comcast, my cable company, tried to make good a fairly minor mistake on their part by dumping a bunch of premium channels on me, “free” for a year. It’s how we got Showtime and Starz and Cinemax and a couple others, most of which we don’t watch, although OK, yes, Showtime’s series have gotten much better in recent months.
But then the cable bill arrived, and it was $70 above normal, so I got back on the phone to express outrage and demand a lower bill. It was so silly; I knew and the operator knew that I was going to get my bill knocked back down to what it was, that the “introductory period” would be extended another year, that my cable service wouldn’t change and all I would have to pay was the $70 overage I just paid.
The “customer service representative,” a phrase that cries out for ironic quotes, was offshore. That’s all she would say, offshore, but I would peg her accent as Filipino, so there you are. She read from her script with varying degrees of success at sounding authentic — “this is your lucky day for today only I am authorized to offer you this exciting introductory rate on the package you are interested in” — and her most annoying tic was inserting “ma’am” every five words. So really it was more like ma’am this is your lucky day ma’am for today only ma’am I am authorized to offer you, ma’am, this exciting introductory rate on the package you are interested in ma’am. And no, I’m not exaggerating.
I really miss customer service when it wasn’t an oxymoron. My mother worked her whole career at the phone company as a customer-service rep, and dammit, she served. She was also in a union. I’m sure her job, if it remains in any way shape or form, is now being done in a dingy call center in Manila.
And while I grant you that this is sort of a Peggy Noonan sort of problem, it seemed to go hand-in-glove with what read, to my eyes, as a better-than-average scene-setter for today’s election in the NYT today:
The uncertainty about the outcome is a fitting match for the mood of the nation. A slowly but steadily improving economy — with six months of strong growth, gasoline below $3 a gallon for the first time in four years and substantial deficit reduction — has not translated into broader optimism. Voters are more inclined toward blame than credit. Instead, they are seemingly worn down by economic struggles and late waves of panic, chiefly about the threats posed by the Islamic State and the possible spread of Ebola.
Polls show voter interest in the election substantially lower than four years ago. The real intensity has been generated by the prodigious spending of outside groups who have aired more than 1.5 million televised campaign ads.
And candidates in both parties have done little to inspire the electorate. Unlike midterms in 1994 and 2006, when the party out of power made strong gains, Republican candidates did not carry a defined platform into this election, nor did they campaign on many policy specifics. Democrats spent months playing down if not denying their support for the president’s agenda.
True dat. I think things are settling in for a lot of people: You will probably earn less next year, even if you get a paltry raise, because your health-insurance rates will gobble up the difference and then some. Your kids’ student loans cannot be discharged in bankruptcy, so borrow wisely and don’t have too many kids in the first place. Anyway, they won’t be buying a house for a good long while, so don’t count on the value of your own going up the way it used to. This grim little ad, which the Truth Squad whistled as a flagrant foul, seems to get at the mood lately:
Here’s another one. It doesn’t really get at the voters’ mood, but it’s pretty damn brutal. How’d you like to have been at this casting session?
I step into the voting booth, and my hope springs eternal, most years. This year I’ll do my best.
Happy Election Day. See you when I’m done working it.