i’m sorry, i didn’t understand that response

Part of moving involved changing all the addresses on the magazines we get. This could be done on a website, but you have to give them your birthday and make an account and really, for once, I just wanted to call.

Unfortunately, this sort of thing is handled by Autoresponse Woman.

She’ll come on the line and reassure you that she can understand most common requests, and if she can’t, she’ll connect you to someone who can help. She tells you the options and you slowly enunciate the thing you want to do.

“Chaaange aaddresssss.”

“Good! I can help you with that!”

(At this point in the conversation I imagine a little Anton Yelchin Chekov scurrying around the phone lines. “I can do zat! I can do zat!”

The conversation proceeds and Autoresponse Woman cheerfully asks me for my subscription number. I’d done this once already with Brides, so I have my number ready.

Unfortunately, I also have to sneeze.

I hold the phone as far away from me as possible and sneeze in the opposite direction. I pull the phone back to my ear and hear Autoresponse Woman saying, “I’m sorry, I didn’t understand that response. Please tell me your ten-digit subscription number, found on the – ”


Long pause. “Thank you.”

You’re welcome.

We get to the part where I tell her my new address. I have that in front of me too, but I can’t remember if I should start with the city name or the address. And once again, I have to sneeze. Augh. I can’t contain it, and I know there’s no way the phone won’t pick up on it, so I just let it out, with an extra sniffle just for good measure.

Another long pause. I picture Chekov frozen with indecision, wondering if the sneeze was the name of an exotic African city, or possibly code for somewhere with lots and lots of pollen. I would say something, but I’m afraid of giving the wrong response and having my Vogue subscription sent to Moscow. Finally, Autoresponse Woman says sadly, “I’m sorry, I didn’t understand that response. If your new address is an international location, please…”

I tune her out, sniffling as quietly as possible, wishing I had a Kleenex and yet afraid that the rustle of tissue would send Chekov into another indecisive panic. Then Autoresponse Woman gets to the point – I was supposed to start with my zip code. This I give her confidently and things progress. She even interprets our odd-sounding street name correctly on the first try, which Brides hadn’t been able to do.

(Speaking of odd street names, there’s one in Vancouver called Chkalov. Thank goodness Autoresponse Woman didn’t have to deal with that, otherwise my subscription really would have ended up in Moscow.)

And then we reach the final hurdle: “If there’s any other information you need to add, such as an apartment number, please tell me now.”

“Apartment B16.”

“You said – Department B16. Is this correct?”


“I’m sorry. Please state your additional information again.”


“You said – Apartment V16. Is this correct?”


“I’m sorry. Please state your – ”


“You said – Apartment B16. Is this correct?”


“Great!” She read back my complete address, but I only partly listened because I had to sneeze again. “Is there anything else I can help you with today?”


“Thank you for calling! Good-bye.”



One thought on “i’m sorry, i didn’t understand that response

  1. Pingback: further adventures with robo-marketers « Ruby Bastille

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