And That’s How Roombas Are Made

, , , , , | Working | November 25, 2020

It’s 2020 in good ol’ ‘Murica, and I’ve been phone banking to desperately try and help elect a particular candidate. Because I’m using an autodialer, I sometimes get robo blockers. Normally, they just tell me they aren’t accepting my call or ask for a message to pass on. Simple and straightforward.

Some of them, though, are AI pretending to be people to screw with me. I’ve gotten an abusive “woman” who kept yelling at me about how it was illegal for me to have her number. I also got a very nice “man” who kept interrupting me to make sure I could hear him because he was out on a boat. I find them amusing, call them a bot a few times to make sure, and then hang up.

But the one that takes the cake is the very first one I ever got. I was a young, naive innocent, so the devilish AI ended up wasting three minutes of mine on the phone, and another five on Slack as I told the mods about how they’d never believe the crazy call I got. Here’s the story of the poor AI in the hospital with a pregnant wife in her second day of labor.

As soon as the call picks up, I hear hospital sounds in the background, but I figure that maybe they’re just waiting for something and bored. That doesn’t mean anything. With cell phones, you can reach people anywhere, so a hospital shouldn’t be any different than anywhere else. I open for the umpteenth time that day with:

Me: “Hi, I’m [My Name] calling from the [Political Party]. How are you today?”

A frantic and frenzied man answers quickly, rushing through the words.

Man: “Oh! Hi! Thank you so much for calling me! I talked to you yesterday, but I didn’t have tim— Oh, can you hold on one sec? Thanks.”

I wait as I hear him talk to someone about ice chips for a minute. Maybe he has a kid in the hospital getting their tonsils out?

Man: “Hi, are you still there? Sorry about that! My wife is in labor! It’s her second day in the hospital!”

I hear his wife call him again.

Man: “One sec! I really, really want to talk to you!”

Uhhhh… Okay… On one hand, I’m glad he’s really excited about voting, but the election is still a bit over a month out, so shouldn’t he be focusing on his wife? This guy does seem very eager to talk to me, so I hang on the line. Some labor lasts up to a week, and it doesn’t sound like anything’s happening yet. He’s just trying to get his wife water and ice chips. So, feeling rather uncomfortable but wanting to be helpful, I stay on the line.

He keeps coming back, checking I’m there, and as soon as I say two words, he’s off again. For the first five times, it’s about trying to find a nurse for the water and ice chips. 

The next three times he tries to talk to me, he’s called away because he needs to get more pain meds for his wife. First, he calls a passing doctor. Then, they talk. Then, the doctor goes off to hunt for the nurse who’s been administering the meds to see if it’s been long enough to give her more. The man is sounding more and more frantic and harried but keeps thanking me for staying on the line and assuring me he really wants to talk to me. In the end, one vote can change the election, so I’m hanging on like the helpful person I am.

After another minute, he’s called away again by screaming. I hear him panic.

Man: “Oh, God! IS THIS IT?! OHHHH! WHAT DO I DO?! WHAT DO I DO?! UM… UM… UH… CALL THE DOCTOR! DOCTOR! DOCTOR! DOCTOR!”

Now I’m wondering if I should just hang up, or if this is a false alarm and I should hang on for one more minute. Then, the doctor comes.

Doctor: “Yes, it seems she’s all ready. Do you want to stay in the room with her?”

Man: “Oh! I don’t know! I think if I stay I might pass out! Oh, God, I’m feeling nauseated… How can I help? What do you need, honey?! Oh, I don’t feel good! I’m about to pass out!”

At this point, I was feeling very frazzled myself and knew I needed to hang up. He wasn’t coming back to the phone. The call was actually going through my phone, which was hooked up to the autodialer on my computer, and without thinking, I hung up my phone instead of ending the call on my computer. I logged back in, and a button popped up asking, “Continue call?” I clicked it, and the poor guy and his laboring wife were once again on my line. This time, I properly hung up the call and removed myself from calls for a minute.

I needed a few minutes to settle down and tell everyone else about the insane call I had gotten.

That is where I was gently told about robo-blockers and about how detailed and imaginative they can get. In the end, I wasted almost ten minutes and looked like a fool on Slack, but at least I got a good story out of it that will hopefully make some of you laugh. Gods know we need every laugh we can get right now.

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