Sunday, November 16, 2003


Many years ago my grandfather got in a fight with AT&T. He had been born in a small Croatian town several decades after the invention of the telephone but before the first U.S. President got one on his desk. So when, wonder of wonders!, he finally had the opportunity to have one on HIS desk, and used it to call ME perhaps it wasn't too surprising that he should have a different opinion of how it should work than did AT&T. You see, AT&T had the audacity to charge my grandfather for one minute of airtime when he reached my answering machine rather than me. This made no sense to my Otata--he hadn't actually gotten the benefit of his bargain--so why should he have to pay?

Sadly for AT&T, my grandfather was retired and seemed to rather enjoy writing letters and having long conversations at AT&T's expense to explain his point of view. Oh how I wish he were here to help me now.

My problem is that AT&T has been stalking me. Three phone calls in three days. This morning I finally stayed on long enough to figure out what was going on: my (alleged) $172 bill!

That got my attention.

So ensued a Kafaka-esque (what ever did we call it back before 1913?) series of recorded messages taunting me with illusory wait time figures culminating in a ringing phone with no answer (remember, this is the phone company we're talking about). When I finally (I'm nothing if not dogged, especially if the purpose is idiotic) got a real person I was told she could do nothing because my bill had not yet been mailed out.


Oh, and my grandfather? Well, that was back when AT&T was more rational. They evidently weighed the cost of 4 or 5 fifteen cent phone calls against the cost of dealing with a dogged retired senior citizen with a charming but inscrutable accent and came to the only reasonable conclusion: "Why of course sir you're right! We'll take it off your bill right away."


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