Last Victoria Day, having absolutely nothing more exciting to do, I thought it would be the perfect time to activate my CIBC credit card. Just to put things in context, this is a credit card I’ve never used. One version or another of it has been in my wallet for several years, but none have ever been used. It’s simply one of the credit cards one has and has been carrying around for years for some unfathomable reason. Somewhere, in another wallet, I probably still have a Zeller’s credit card lurking, just like this one.
So, on this Victoria Day, I dig around in various pen & pencil holders that are near my desk, and finally find a fine tip permanent marker. I’ve learned from years of experience that trying to sign the tiny strip on the back of the card with anything else will result in an unsightly mess. Moreover, I’m old school and I have a signature, not a scrawl, not my name printed in elementary school uppercase, I have a signature. It’s nowhere near as artsy as some people that produce what looks like a tag from an active graffiti artist, and which is supposed to be read into something like “Bartholomew Birdwhistle”. As far as I am concerned, my signature is legible, consisting of the initial of my first name and middle name as well as my complete last name. To be readily understood and appreciated, only a short explanation is necessary.
Regrettably, fitting the thing that took hundreds of 8½” x 11” pieces of paper to perfect when I was in my late teens is not easy. The pen has to be right, the angle and position of the signature target has to be perfect. If anything is not as it should be, the resulting autograph is ruined or, partially on the strip, or the card is ruined. Now you can fully appreciate why a slow Victoria Day would be the perfect time to attempt the process.
The back of the card signed impeccably, I turn it over and notice a sticker that asks me to call a telephone number to activate it; which is what I proceed to do, dialing the 800 number.
“For service in English, press one. Pour le service en français, appuyer sur le deux”, says the computer.
I press 1. I’m bilingual English and French, but ninety percent of the time when I select “français” I end up talking to someone somewhere in Asia that has managed to convince the local employer that they are fluent in French, when in fact their french knowledge is defined by their participation with singing “Frère Jacques” whilst in kindergarten. Invariably, the conversation is laboured and switches to English in short order, to the intense relief of my interlocutor. The point here that one may ended up with a perfectly fluent french speaker, but in my experience it’s been hit and miss. On a Victoria Day, I figure it’s not worth the hassle. Chances are that in Canada on Victoria Day, people are doing something else than answering the phone for the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce. Odds are this call will be transferred out of country, somewhere where it’s not Victoria Day.
These concerns turn out to be unfounded as the computer is back on the line. Clearly more information needs to be input.
“Please enter your credit card number followed by the number sign.”
I dutifully enter the credit card number followed by the number sign. As an aside, when one thinks about this, shouldn’t the number sign be pressed first, as in “#1234567890”? Instead, it’s used at the end, which is backwards compared to the standard use of the # sign. Anyway…
“Please enter the day and month of the birthday of the account holder”.
Am I the account holder, or is my wife the account holder? She is the financial wiz in this couple and I have no recollection of ever asking for this card. Of course, that doesn’t mean much. Frankly I have no recollection of what I ate for dinner a couple of nights ago, so a credit card? I look at the card, and seeing it has my name on it, I brilliantly deduce that they must want my birth date. Confident in my deduction, I laboriously input my birth day and month. There is no mention of the number sign, so I don’t press it.
For more than 30 seconds, there is dead silence from the other end.
“Please input the complete birth year of the account holder” says the computer.
OK… I input the requested information.
Again, there is a deep and lengthy silence. Is the call routed via the moon?
“Your call has been transferred to a representative and will be monitored for quality assurance and security purposes.”
Clearly, I screwed-up. I have always had trouble remembering my birth date. This may sound bizarre, but it’s the truth. I think it has two root causes (root causes are very popular these days because they tend to explain the unusual in a rational and slightly reassuring way. Regrettably, some things are simply irrational). In my case, first, I was brought up Catholic so I happen to have a “saint’s day”, the catholic saint that had the same first name and who was spectacular enough to have been: a) beatified by the Catholic church, and b) placed on the list of those first names that were acceptable to the French government last century. (You have to admire the separation of church and state back then…But that’s another topic). Too bad for me, those two days fall on month days that are consecutive, albeit in different months. And, when I was young both days were celebrated. So, from a very early age, confusion set-in; just like arthritis nowadays.
Over time, this got combined with another reason. That other reason is that for the longest time, somewhat unpleasant stuff would befall me on my birthday. Stuff like a car crash, or a minor injury; or something else that as the years passed, coaxed me into ignore it, or avoid it in the subconscious hope that the day would pass uneventfully. Net result, when asked for my birthday, I have to think. It doesn’t just pop into my head and very often I screw up and get the days confused. This must be what has happened here.
This time it sounds like the annoying birth date question has brought me to the point where I am going to have to explain why I have this credit card in my possession. I am now about to be “monitored”, and I seriously doubt it’s for quality assurance.
Once again the phone has been silent for more than 30 seconds. Suddenly it comes back to life.
“Your call is important to us” intones the computer, “and will be answered by the next available representative. Please hold”. Music ensues.
Another thirty seconds later, the voice comes back on.
“Your call has been placed in priority sequence, and will be answered by the next available representative.” Now I am offered an earful of country music.
Yet another thirty seconds later, I hear:
“We’re experiencing a higher call volume than normal. Your patience is appreciated. A representative will be with you shortly.” Some classical music is now playing. They sure like mixing it up…
A further thirty seconds later, the computer is back on the line.
“Your call is important to us and will answered by the next representative.”
And so the loop begins. “Your call is important” (sure); “You’re in priority sequence” (whatever that means); “We’re experiencing a higher than normal call volume” (maybe if someone answered the phone, there would less “call volume”?)
Twenty minutes later, I’m running out of ears. My mother was silly that way, and when she was young she lacked the foresight to see the need for additional ears in the 21st century, so she built me with only two. In the latter part of her life, she realised her mistake when she got put on hold for over 30 minutes.
It is at this point in my contemplation that the music stops, and the computer comes back on the line.
“Due to unforeseen circumstances, we have been forced to close our office. Please call back later.” The line goes dead.
Well… that was unexpected…
I don’t think I should use this card. Ever!