Receiver to my ear, I was greeted with silence as if something were being cued up. Then one of those computer-generated voices spoke in a slightly raspy, yet friendly tone:
“Hello. This call is experiencing difficulties. Thank you for your time. Good-bye.”
What “difficulties” might the automated “call” be experiencing? A damaged computer chip in its voice simulator? A lapse of computer memory about what it wanted to tell me?
Could this be serious? “Difficulties” carries a troubling, fill-in-the-blank vagueness. Airline passengers know the feeling when the pilot announces, “We are experiencing difficulties with engine number 3.”
Should I worry about phone computer difficulties? Was the intended message important? “Your credit card shows five purchases exceeding $1 million each. Please call 1 (800) XXX-XXXX to inform us whether the purchases were authorized by you.”
After imagining several similar scenarios, I clung to one part of the message as a sign of hope. The voice was grateful for my time. “Thank you for your time,” said the computer.
Perhaps time — my time — was all the computer needed to reboot or clear its memory or do whatever computers do with time when they are having “difficulties.”
Could time address the problem? For all of the changes we’ve seen, time remains the constant that cures all.
At least let's hope so.
When time itself "experiences difficulties," the very last message for eternity may be, "Thank you for your time. Good-bye."