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Can I Help You With Anything Else?

Public human interaction can be divided into two distinct components. The cyber age is increasingly allowing us to bypass the need for human interaction in an unnecessary complex commercial setting. The world wide web and automated phone bill paying has not only added a cost to the relatively simple process of buying, selling and paying a bill it has also removed the need for face to face contact with a human being.

The outsourcing of customer service by companies who want to maximise their profits to poorly paid workers on the other side of the world who, through no fault of their own, have no sense of the nuances of the English language whose accent openly identifies them as the other, can quickly degenerate into a racist rant by a cold called beleaguered respondent on the other end of the line. The introduction of self-service queues at most major supermarkets allows those who are time poor as a result of the increasing complexities of surviving in a corporate dominated economy, further compounds our personal isolation in an era when we are surrounded by people we don’t need to interact with.

Even in the increasingly rare cases when public commercial interaction is unavoidable, the conversation is peppered with mechanically repetitive platitudes that are designed to liberate the few moths who still cohabitate among the plastic in our wallets. The nauseating “have a nice day” has been replaced with phrases well paid social engineers have dreamt up after numerous group sessions with the unwashed masses. Gems like, “how’s your day been?” and “can I help you with anything else?” Usually you find yourself sandwiched between both phrases as you initiate and complete another one of those irksome commercial transactions.

In my mind’s eye I’ve been tempted to blurt out, “I’ve just been diagnosed with cancer”, “the doctor just told me I’ve got AIDS”, “I’ve just found out my son living in Syria has been kidnapped by Islamic State insurgents” when I’m asked “how’s my day been” but recognising the person uttering the phrase is just another cog in the machine, I’ve kept my tongue in check.

When I’m asked “can I help you with anything else?” and feel in a mischievous mood I put on a serious face, look the person in the eye, pause … and nonchalantly say “yes, you can help me by giving me tonight’s Tattslotto numbers”. On every single occasion the person on the receiving end’s commercial armour melts, some smile, others laugh. They all come back with a non-scripted quip about how their life would change if they knew the numbers.

Mission complete. Commercial reality subverted, our common humanity the antidote to the industrial and cyber age is liberated from its 21st century straight jacket.

Dr. Joseph Toscano