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Spadina Literary Review  —  edition 27 page 14

fiction

Walt Bugleman the complainer

Mister Complainer

by Sasha Pcino

Walter D. (“Walt”) Bugleman had spent the best part of his morning complaining. He was sitting at the dining room table with two empty cups of tea and a plate of crumbs from the honey jumbles he had just consumed and he had his smartphone on speaker. He had come to think of the phone as the antonym of smart, for its voice recognition feature did not recognise his voice. From this he deduced the phone was stereotypically male, for it spoke but did not listen.

So far this morning, he had shouted at a receptionist (Takata airbag recall), and at a pharmaceutical assistant (wrong medication brand) as well as at kid claiming to be the assistant’s manager. Yes, a kid, for corporations disdained to pay mature and experienced people like himself the extra dollars they deserved. The airbag receptionist had given him her assurances and had taken his information to make the assurances sound plausible, but the moment after she hung up he realised she was concerned only to get rid of him. And the pharmaceutical assistant's manager had told him he would need to come in to the chemist’s to correct their error. Now, he was on his third and final call (faulty product from a department store).

“Welcome to iGuide, your national business directory.”

It was autumn but the automated voice made his anger rise like a thermometer on an Australian summer day. The only thing worse than sales assistants were automated virtual assistants for they gave virtually no assistance. Just getting the wifi connected had been hard enough. The company (of course, no one person was to blame) had connected it to his previous address, a place he had not lived for six years.

“Hi, it’s Walt Bugleman here, I’m just after the number for—”

“Did you say The Burger Man? Please say ‘yes’ to confirm or ‘no’ to repeat.”

“No, b-u-g-l-e-m-a-n calling Steinberg’s Department Store,” he said, enunciating as he spelled his surname into the speaker.

“Transferring you to The Burger Man, where you’ll find the best burgers this side of the world!”

Frustrated, he searched the apartment for the old telephone book. He looked in his desk drawer, and in the wardrobe, which had become a place for all the things that would not fit in other, more appropriate places, and then in the spare bedroom, and finally the kitchen, remembering he had used the thick wad of pages as a makeshift stool so he could reach the top corners of the shelves.

He dialed the number and was greeted with a phone menu. The only menu he loathed more than complex restaurant menus with their symbols (V, VG, GF, DF, etcetera) was a telephone menu. His index finger went to press the two button but hit the five instead and unwittingly he was transferred to another department. A news article had informed him that this was called fat finger syndrome — and the sad fact was that all the Buglemans had thick, man-size fingers, even the women. Once Walt reached the new department, a new phone menu was read to him. He decided to try his latest technique. It worked only four times out of ten, but that was almost a 50% success rate. Walt pressed numbers at random. Five...doot... eight...doot... one...doot... Sometimes if one presses a random selection of numbers, the automated voice, possessing the job capacity of a trainee and tasked with the role of a manager, would resign under the pressure and seek help from a real person. Walt had been on it for five minutes without even talking to a real person when he was disconnected. He cursed and brought his fist, a thick ball of fingers, down onto the table. Now he decided the phone was stereotypically female for it was so touchy! A crack showed on his phone screen from last month’s complaints — one could not even throw the thing against a wall! Throwing was do-able when they were landlines but the smartphones just smashed to smithereens.

<CONT...>