When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson

09 August 2005

Technology gone amok

The phone rang at 3:30 AM, jarring me out of an exhausted slumber. Given recent family events, my instinctive reaction was that of "Rose," the Olympia Dukakis character in Moonstruck, suddenly awakened in the wee hours of the morning: "Who's dead?"

It was... get this... an urgent recorded message from Continental Airlines, telling me that my morning flight to Dallas had been delayed or cancelled, and that I should call an 800 number for further instructions.

How the hell does Continental know where I live, I wondered dimly as I struggled to wake up, then vaguely remembered filling out a corporate travel profile last year when I joined up with my current employer.

At 3:30 in the morning Eastern Time, I am guessing that Continental's help desk is being staffed by someone in the U.K., as I got a very polite, deeply apologetic and quite correct English lady named Margaret on the phone when I called in.

"I am so very sorry, Mr. Campbell. There seems to have been a dreadful mistake; your flight from Newark to Dallas is showing no delays, on-time departure and arrival."

Although Margaret and I did have, as the diplomats put it, a full and frank exchange of views, I couldn't bring myself to be truly ugly to her.

(a) It certainly wasn't her fault,
(b) She was extremely polite, and I am socially conditioned to respond to, and return, polite and respectful behavior, and
(c) I have a beloved aunt (though not an English one) named Margaret and somehow it wouldn't have seemed quite right.

Had Margaret given me even a scintilla of attitude, however--even a tenth of what you get, say, calling one of the helpful public servants in local government in New York, or one of the sociopaths working in the Post Office--all of Greenwich Village would have been awakened by my response, and it wouldn't have been fit for reprinting even in this blog, where the morals standards are admittedly low.

My mission for the day, armed with Continental's "Customer Care" number (which opens, naturally, in, oh, about five hours) is to find the name(s) and the home phone number(s) of the person or persons who administer Continental Airlines' malfunctioning autodialer system.

From the area code(s) of their home number(s), I should be able to figure out what time zone(s) they live in.

I'm going to call them at 3:30 AM their time tomorrow, as I have a few irrelevant and distracting issues I'd like to discuss with them.

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