Featured Column
Week of 8.1.2005
          Sometimes I think machines have brains. Treat your car badly and oftentimes it will become spiteful and contract a mysterious disease – like “carburetor phlegm,” or “transmission polio,” or “spark plug influenza,” or “muffler malaise.”
          Take your lawnmower for granted and sooner rather than later it will sputter to a stop. Get angry and cuss at your computer and it will strike back by jumbling your next E-mail message or it will signal all porno sites that your screen is open for their uninvited messages.
          Mistreat your electric can opener and there’s a good chance it will soon begin shredding the tops of cans, but only partly – not enough for you to get to the contents inside the cans.
          Yesterday the refrigerator got mad at me for accidentally leaving its door open as I went outside to pick up the newspaper from the driveway. When I returned to the kitchen I saw the error of my ways, grimaced and closed the door. I felt a portent of impending doom. I goofed and I was sorry. I could have sworn I heard the refrigerator hiss and growl at me.
          I patted the side of the ‘frig and offered a “Whoops, sorry.”
           I wasn’t forgiven, because the next day the refrigerator stopped making ice cubes. Just for spite it stopped producing ice cubes – right in the midst of a blistering heat wave.
          I didn’t mean to leave the door open. It was an accident. Lord knows I didn’t want to offend Madam Refrigerator.
          So, here I am with a sulking, mean and vengeful refrigerator that refuses to produce ice cubes. Just when I need them.
          What else could I do but phone the company that I had purchased the refrigerator from and try to get them to make a house call and fix the ‘frig.
          I dialed the number for the repair company and heard the recorded voice say, in a very personable way, “Hello, how can we help you?” The recorded voice continued, “I will give you some choices, just tell me how we can help you.”
          Now, this is a recording and I’m talking back to it. “ What the hell has happened to my life?
          “Please tell me your choice: Parts, repair service or new purchases?” I answered, “Repair service.”
           “Thank you very much,” the recording stated, “ Now please tell me your home telephone number.” I obeyed. The voice repeated my number and asked me to say “yes” if that is correct.
          “Please tell me your home address. Speak clearly.” I did. She said, “Is that correct?” I said, “yes.”
          Then we were disconnected! 
          I dialed again. Once more I got the feminine recording telling me what to do. I went through the series of questions she had asked before, plus a new one. “What do you want repaired?” “A refrigerator,” I told the recording device. 
          “Is it a side-by-side?” “Yes, it is.”
          Click, I was disconnected again.
Maybe the telephones were mad at me just like my refrigerator.
          I dialed once more. I got the recording- lady and went through the series of questions again.   
           I found myself getting impatient and snapping my answers back to the recording. “I’m yelling at a recording, what’s wrong with me?”
            After telling the recording-lady that I want a repairman to come to my house and fix my ice maker the recording-lady said, “Thank you, now I will transfer you to a customer service representative. Good bye.”
          While I waited for the customer service person, I had to listen to 7 different commercials. Finally, another voice came on the line, “Hello, my name is Phyllis, how may I help you?” I had a problem. I didn’t know if this voice was a recording or a real, live person. To find out I said, “Are you a real person, or what?” The voice came back, “I’m fine, can I have your home telephone number.” I told Phyllis, “I already went through all of this.” Phyllis,the real person, said, “Thank you, how can I help you.”
           I gave my address, the make and model of the refrigerator and asked if it would be possible to have a repairman come out and fix the ice cube maker.
          “The next opening we will have is for 3 weeks from today, between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m., is that date okay?”
          “But, my ice maker. My ice maker doesn’t work and it’s almost 100 degrees outside.”
          “Phyllis, the real, said, “How would you like to pay for this repair?” I said, “By credit card.”
          “What are the last four numbers of your Social Security card? What is your mother’s maiden name? What is the month, day and year of your birthday? Give me the 16 numbers on your credit card plus the expiration date.”
           I covered the mouthpiece on my phone and said, “What the %$#@#$$)%$ is going on in my life!”
           I got back on the phone and said, “Thank you, Phyllis.”
           I hung up and immediately drove to the market and bought a big bag of ice cubes and hurried home to be nice to my refrigerator, stove, television set and computer.
           Damned if I want to go through that telephone ordeal again. At least let me get frustrated with a real, live person.
Machines getting even
      Ron was born in the Bronx, New York. He was raised in Southern California and lived in Honolulu, Hawaii for three decades. He attended Inglewood High School and U.C.L.A.. His youthful goal was to become a major league baseball player. In Hawaii Ron played on a series of championship softball teams. He is an active tennis player.
      Ron’s career began at the Inglewood Daily News where as a youngster was enrolled in a publisher training program. He served as an advertising salesman, circulation manager, writer and layout and design staffer. He has been a newspaper publisher at the Oregon City Oregon Enterprise Courier, the Beloit Wisconsin Daily News, the Elizabeth, New Jersey Daily Journal and This Week Magazines (Hawaii).
      Ron lives with his wife, Marilyn, in San Diego, California. His two children, Douglas and Diane also live in the San Diego area. Ron’s interests range far and wide and are reflected in his columns diverse topics.
Ron Cruger