I’m always amused when I call some customer service place, and they start the conversation with “This call may be recorded for quality purposes.” Since the quality of customer service never seems to improve, I assume that it is the quality of my requests that is being studied. “Listen carefully, and you can tell riiiiight… there… that he didn’t explicitly decline the Platinum Package. That’s just a rookie mistake that will cost him $99 a month until he’s dead.”
So I’m driving to work this morning, and my car rings. My cell phone is connected to my car via Bluetooth, so it feels very high-tech to me when I can answer the phone with my car. (Disclaimer: I’m old, and I still think this is cool. Leave me alone.) The following is the entirety of the conversation.
Synthetic voice on the other end: You have reached an invalid extension. Please hang up and try your call again. <click>
I really wish I had recorded the call for quality purposes. I have no idea what I did wrong.
Disclaimer: Yes, I really want to do this to someone else.
Over Christmas, I went to visit my parents in 1974, a pre-apocalyptic world untouched by modern technology. Not through any effort to shun technology and live a simpler life. Just because nobody has gotten around to it yet. (Disclaimer: My dad actually shuns computers.) So when I go home, I have to bring my own technology with me and hope for the best.
This year, I was driving from my brother’s house to my parents’ house. It’s about 10 miles through the low hills of western Pennsylvania. When I got home (because only an idiot reads text messages while driving) my cell phone carrier had sent me the following message:
Accessing data during trips outside the US may result in significantly higher data charges. Do you wish to allow data access?
It then gave me a number I could call to sign up for a global data plan.
Now, having been educated back in the 60’s and 70’s, I’m pretty sure that Pennsylvania was part of the United States even as far back as 1974. So it took me a while to realize why I was getting this message.
You see, there’s an old adage in the computer world: Computers do what you tell them to, not what you want them to. If you don’t explicitly program a computer to handle a situation, it will respond either by failing to detect the condition, or by misinterpreting it. In my case, the latter had happened. I had traveled back to a time that predated the cell network, and my phone was responding with the closest error message it could find. The correct message should read:
Accessing data during trips to the past may result in significantly higher damage to the time-space continuum. Do you wish to allow temporal paradoxes?
I did not. You’re welcome.
(Correction: Apparently I was wrong. And I also have butterfly guts all over the sole of my shoe.)