The Labyrinth of Knossos

Have you tried to talk to an operator these days? One thing is for sure, you need a lot of time and patience, the patience of Job at least. In fact, when the recorded voice starts to speak with that gentle, hypocrite tone of one who pretends to be of help, while, in truth, means only to confound and make you give up, you are well aware that a very long journey is about to begin.

Press 1, press 2, 3,4,5….9, the numerous options are only a way to distract from the only and real object of your search, which they know well to be: a flesh and blood operator. Instead, if you are lucky enough, you may end up attempting to make useless conversation with a virtual dog named Toby, which seems to have been created only with the purpose to make you feel dummy.  Yet, we know, we feel, that the flesh and blood operator of our dreams is somewhere there and we keep searching in that labyrinth of Knossos, made up by the alternatives that we are generously given, but no way. Heaven forbids, that you press the wrong number!  You’ll find yourself with only two options left: starting again from square 1 or giving up. I often give up, I have to confess.

It is the very same story whenever you need to talk with your bank, insurance, hospital, principal : you always find a wall in the form of a switchboard before you. No need to say, all categories but one: teachers.Teachers are required to be available 24 / 7. We must be ready to  inform, listen, reassure, pacify, advise ( even on fashion matters in my case) any time. This happens as  the norm that regulates our duties in this matter is ambiguous. It generically says that we must keep the lines of communication with parents open, but they end up to be so open that, eventually, we can be reached through meetings, mail, voice mail, WhatsApp,  phone calls, even stalking if necessary; festivity included, of course. If a parent believes to have an  urgent need to confer with a teacher, the latter is expected to be at the parent’s disposal.

The point is that since the advent of the electronic register the lines of communications should have been open enough to limit such pressing requests only to extraordinary events. Families would be constantly informed about grades, comments about grades, lesson topics, school attendance, homework, activities and more, if they read the electronic register. But they don’t. In fact, I always have an endless line of people who want to talk to me anyhow.

Hence, I believe there is only a way to put an end  to all this : a switchboard for us teachers too, after all, I don’t think we are less deserving than other categories. Once skimmed our agenda from the unnecessary meetings, we should be able to focus only on the situations that really require our attention and effort.  I figure it might work like this:

Voice mail: welcome to Mrs Tink’s parent-teacher communication area; if you want to be informed about your son’s grades, press 1.

Mrs Tink’s voice (after pressing 1): Dear parent, check the electronic register.😑

Voice mail: if you want to get information about your son’s school attendance, press 2.

Mrs Tink’s voice( after pressing2): Dear parent, check the electronic register.😑

Voice mail: if you want to get information about course books and syllabus, press 3.

Mrs Tink’s voice (after pressing 3): Dear parent, check the electronic register.😑

Voice mail: if you want to talk about teaching methods, personal experiences and suggestions, press 4.

Mrs Tink’s voice (after pressing 4): Dear parent, you can book an appointment through the electronic register.😑

Voice mail: if you want to book an appointment  with Mrs Tink, press 5.

Mrs Tink’s voice (after pressing 5): Dear parent, you can book an appointment with Mrs Tink through the electronic register.😑

Voice mail: if you do really want to talk to Mrs Tink, press 6.

The line goes dead.🤭


21 thoughts on “The Labyrinth of Knossos

  1. Certainly, you should not have to endure direct communication other than at an official site or during official hours after setting up a mutually convenient time.

    But, whereas you have a legitimate grievance, the same can’t be said for, say, Google (who has no established way to get in touch with anyone, live or automated), or many of the other ‘institutions’ that have inserted themselves into our lives by offering us free stuff.

    Companies want customers, but they prefer customers who suffer quietly the frustration caused by their products. Hence why user forums pick up the slack (unpaid unofficial workers for trillion-dollar companies!).

    But, by far, my gripe is with smaller companies (utilities, banks, stores, credit cards, etc).

    And my biggest gripe (as someone who stutters on some words) are voice systems that don’t offer the option of using the keypad.

    My choice is to try and fluster them right back:

    Voice system: “In a few words, tell me what you’re calling about.”
    Me: “Representative.”

    Voice system: “I understand you wish to speak with a representative, but first, in a few words, tell me what you’re calling about.”
    Me: “The swan at dawn is brighter than bananas.”

    Voice system: “I’m sorry, I don’t understand. You can say things like ‘check balance’ or ‘make payment’.”
    Me: “I’m sure both Jack and Rose could have fit onto that stupid plank.”

    Voice system: “I’m sorry, I don’t understand. Please tell me how I can help you.”
    Me: “African swallows have a maximum carry capacity of a few ounces, but they prefer to ship via international shippers.”

    Voice system: “I’m sorry, I’m having trouble understanding. Let me get you someone who can help.”
    Me: “Thank you.”

  2. “Answers to most commonly asked questions are available on our website.” (I get that all the time.)
    Yes, because, if the answer was on your website, I’d really be wasting an hour pressing buttons on the phone to try to get to speak to a human being, because I have absolutely nothing else to do with my time! I feel sorry for the people who answer the phones, because they aren’t the ones responsible for problems, and callers are so annoyed by the time they get through that they end up shouting at them!

  3. I am not surprised, as I practise it every time. Especially on every request of mine! But, if you are interested more, please push the 1 button. If you have another problem, push the second button! Or just hang up the whole shit! .🤓🤣😘😘💖

  4. I have a happy memory of a hospital switchboard from 30 years ago. I had fallen in love with a young doctor (we are still married!) and I used to regularly phone her when she was working at night on the children’s ward. I had to go through the main hospital switchboard and on one occasion the woman who took my call simply said, “Oh hello. I am sure that you want to speak to Laura.” Everything is more “efficient” now as you describe so eloquently.

      • I think that society was! I would sometimes go and visit her at night in the hospital. The nurses used to make me welcom and make me a cup of tea while one would go to find Laura. I think that they enjoyed being a part of our story. Happy days and not so long ago.

  5. I think the Portuguese have the answer. I read recently that they have made it illegal for work to contact you outside working hours, or something along those lines…

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