Good Neighbor

This sign appeared recently on the telephone pole at the corner of Livingston Avenue and Third Street, on my walking route to work.  At first I didn’t notice it, but when I read it I thought about what a nice, neighborly thing it was for a dental office to give up one day of paid work in order to offer a free filling, a tooth extraction, or a cleaning to someone who just couldn’t afford dental care otherwise.  And the people offering this free benefit were serious about letting people know about their effort to give back to the community — Kimberly Parkway, where the dental office is located, is miles to the east of the German Village location of this particular sign.  I imagine that similar signs could be found at many locations in our city.

In the hurly-burly of our lives in modern America, we sometimes tend to forget, or take for granted, the nice things that people do for each other.  We really shouldn’t.  There are still a lot of nice people in the world who are willing to help others and donate some of their time in doing so.

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A Good Neighbor In Telephone Hell

This morning when I walked to work in a torrential downpour I found a person’s debit card on the street.  Wanting to be a good neighbor, I picked it up rather than leave it for a potential fraudster to find, and abuse.

The card was issued by one of the Big Banks.  There was a phone number on the back of the card, as well as a stern, all-capital-letters notice advising me that the card was the property of the Big Bank.  So, I called the telephone number to let the Big Bank know that I had found its card in the rainwater sluicing down Third Street.

phone_from_hellBut when I called the Big Bank’s phone number, no one answered.  Instead, I was routed immediately into telephone hell — one of those seemingly impenetrable automatic phone thickets, where a computer voice gives you a range of “press one, press two options,” and those options in turn lead to new levels of “press one, press two” options.  After going several levels deep, and retracing my steps to try different routes, without finding any options that dealt with reporting a lost card — or that allowed me to press for a real person to talk to — I gave up in frustration.  I figure I’ll just stop by the branch of the Big Bank when it’s open on Monday and, assuming that Big Bank employs actual human beings, give the card that I found to somebody who can figure out what to do with it.

I’ve been blessedly sheltered.  In our family, Kish is the poor soul who makes the calls to the automatic phone lines and suffers the frustration that inevitably results.  I’ve got a new, even greater appreciation for her willingness to handle that thankless task and an even deeper gratitude that, thanks to her, I’ve dodged that particular bullet.

But I do find myself wondering — is putting people who just want to do the right thing into computerized telephone hell really how American businesses conduct their affairs these days?  It makes me think that maybe we should attach a few conditions the next time Big Bank comes to us taxpayers for a bailout — like, say, giving people the option of talking to an actual, human customer service representative.