Lifestyles Left and Right

It Can’t Be Done

Our out-of-service economy, lacking the personal touch.

By 7.2.09

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I have a T-shirt emblazoned in large letters on the front, "It Can't Be Done," which I have found to be the watchword of our new century. It didn't come easily.

I was wearing it one day while waiting for a prescription to be filled and a woman in the pharmacy similarly waiting questioned why I would wear something like that. An hour later she was told the medication she sought would be in later in the week. She asked where she could get such a shirt.

It becomes more appropriate on the phone. How many professional people do you know, physicians among them, who have recorded menus on their business phones, menus with lengthy subsets that suggest everything you might want to know with the exception of that which you want to know.

The same is true of phone companies, travel reservation offices, with sets of numbers that may or may not wind their way to a human being who, more often than not, sounds disappointed that you finally discovered their hiding place. Hollering "representative!" every few moments hasn't helped.

Doesn't have to be a phone call. How many people waiting behind the counter of a place you would like to spend money in are truly helpful? Where does the manager hide? Credit card? How much are the card companies planning to charge for the privilege of getting your business these days.

Not long ago I called the 800 number listed on one of these television ads offering something for $19.95 (shipping and handling in agate type down below). A month later I called the number back to find out why it hadn't arrived and was told the 800 number didn't handle such matters, but there was a home office number in Connecticut I might call if I paid for it. I did and after some rummaging around was told the ordering folk had misprinted the code number on the order and it could be sent right away, adding wasn't I glad they hadn't charged my credit card yet? Gosh, was I glad.

Much of this impersonal derring-do is due I think to our loss of the personal touch. How can I relate all day and part of the night to my computer and the Internet and still relate to my neighbor who is doing the same? Do I really know those people who moved into the house down the street. Will I ever?

But enough grousing. A child smiled at me today. The car started. The weatherman was wrong again. And for my birthday they gave me a new T-shirt, saying "It Still Can't Be Done."

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About the Author

Reid Collins is a former CBS and CNN news correspondent.