Being Able {mumble} to {mumble} {mumble} and et cetera

Grumping from home today, ill after some travel. I’d applied for a healthcare.gov health insurance policy after the end of my last consulting gig. I’ve been very pleased with the coverage until now, and the cost. While insurance companies do their best to obfuscate the actual cost to an insured person, and folks conflate catastrophic with normal health care, I’ve found it to be, not reasonable, but comparable to, say, similar COBRA-offered plans. (The COBRA cost reflects the actual cost of insurance, instead of the portion that, as an employee, I would pay when employed.)
This time I applied, then was told that although I qualified they needed to see my COBRA eligibility document, along with dates. Okay, got that. Sent ’em. Then I got a voicemail (see below). Mellifluous and unperturbed, the caller might have been threatening me with defenestration, or that my HOA dues for the house I don’t have were paid in advance. No idea. Hopefully I won’t get my dog forcibly flossed because I didn’t respond to the message.

This is a trend.in phone communications. Yesterday, trying to find my phone and being told that I couldn’t log into my Sprint account unless I typed in a code sent to said missing phone, I called support. While I’m sure he thought he was speaking English, and thought he was hearing, it wasn’t at all clear to me that Eliza couldn’t make better answers to my questions. After requesting (after 30 minutes) a supervisor, he then continued, unabated and without a break for feedback, to tell me things. Probably to him important things. I hung up after he ignored my attempts to break into the monologue to say I couldn’t understand him.

As a geek lately in the gig economy I get “opportunities” passed my way. The method varies, but it’s some riff on calling me twice in a row, then sending me an email with the opportunity, then another call an hour later. When I do make the mistake of answering I am assaulted by a melange of syllables and quick breaths that approximate, I presume, English, as spouted in a room full of other call center agents all doing the same thing at full volume.

If someone’s making an attempt to be understood I’ll go through hoops and do my best to understand them. But these are the verbal equivalent of pop-up ads on my phone. They want to get to the end of their spiel and find out if I’m interested in whatever that job they pitched. Usually I have to ask them to slow down and repeat themselves. Usually to little avail.

Nota bene: I block/report as spam companies and phone numbers (usually spoofed) that do this.

Commoditization of the employment process has been happening since at least the seventies. One of my first big-money consulting gigs was getting a networked set of Z-80 computers (well before PCs) talking to one another and using a common database at a talent agency office in downtown Manhattan. That they had their own database was already a huge deal for a ten-person agency. American recruiters can’t compete with foreign boiler rooms and calling based on unintelligent keyword matching. This is a non-lethal analogy to carpet bombing versus targeted strikes. While US-based companies have the edge in terms of personal relationships with companies, the gig economy, with a high demand for cogs in machines instead of people at positions, apparently loves this cheap way of doing business.

Whew. Okay. Back to polishing the query letter, putting out feelers, getting (for the last time, damnit!) A Day at the Zoo printed up for beta readers… And making the initial blocks for the third novel in the Shmuley Myers series ready. And, on the employment front, awaiting the results of a couple of interesting positions.

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