Saturday, February 18, 2006

Stupid Things to Say

I was planning on writing about something else this week, but I heard something so stupid recently that I had to share it with you.

I have two cars. One of them is a fairly new car that I do most of my driving in, and the other is a rusty old truck that I rarely use unless I need to move something big or heavy. Since I don't need to move big or heavy things that often, the battery in the truck died. I tried jumping it with the battery from the car, but I couldn't get the engine to turn over. So I called the auto club. And here's the stupid part: The recorded voice instructed me to "speak or enter your membership number, one digit at a time."

To be honest, even if I were capable of speaking all sixteen digits at once, it would never have occurred to me to try. Nor did it occur to me to try simultaneously entering all sixteen digits of my membership number on the phone keypad. I doubt if it ever occurred to anyone else either. So I don't know why the auto club felt compelled to warn against it.

But for some reason, it reminded me of another stupid thing I heard many years ago. This was back in the days when we knew all about the dangers of second-hand smoke, but it was still legal to smoke inside restaurants. As a compromise, restaurants back then were required to have smoking and non-smoking sections. I was having lunch with some friends and we asked to be seated in the non-smoking section. We were seated, and we ordered our food, and a few minutes later another group of people was seated near us. As soon as they sat down, they pulled out their lighters and started to smoke, so I called the waitress over and asked her if we were in the smoking section or the non-smoking section. She told me, "This section is both."

This next thing I'm about to tell you isn't a stupid thing to say, but I'll tell you about it anyway. Before the bank I have an account at merged with another bank, their ATMs used to display the message "It was a pleasure serving you" at the end of each transaction. That really annoyed me, since I know enough about computers to understand that no matter how sophisticated they are, they don't actually enjoy serving people, or for that matter, doing anything else. It seemed really disingenuous, and I wondered if it ever brightened anyone's day to be told by a computer what a pleasure it was to serve them. Probably not. So I'm glad they don't do that anymore. But now, the ATMs introduce themselves by asking, "How may I help you?" That's not so bad, but it seems sort of stupid that even though everyone is becoming increasingly familiar with computers, we still try to make computers seem like people.

Okay, that's all for today. Next week, I'll write about what I was planning on writing about this week, unless between now and then somebody says something really stupid to me.