Can We Talk?

After college I moved to Massachusetts and began to work my way through the single Jewish men of the greater Boston metropolitan area.

In due course I started to go around with a fancy shmancy boy from Connecticut who had a home in New Hampshire and a subscription to the symphony season.  I had a rusty old Mustang and a subscription to the Cosmopolitan magazine.

Anyway one day this guy asks me if I ever considered to take accent reduction lessons.
I had no idea what he could be talking.  I am born in this country.  English is my first language.  What kind of accent?

Shortly after this conversation and our consequent breakup, there was an incident that suggested maybe he had a point.

The co-worker who usually provided the vocal talents for the various media productions was on vacation.  There was a rush job and I was asked to replace her.  Who else could be relied upon to talk for three days consecutive?

Well, it turned out that there were an awful lot of comments about the narrator’s — that is, my — style of expression.  In the end, they decided it was too big a distraction and re-recorded the whole thing with a speaker from the more neutral-sounding mid-Atlantic region.

So, many years pass and now it’s this morning.  I need to file a document.  Some government thing.  You can’t do it on the web.  You have to call a telephone number.  You can’t speak to a real person.  You have to spell your name and address.  So they can mail you a paper form.

I use my regular speaking voice.  I get a message saying “Sorry, I can’t understand you.  Please try again.”

I try again.  It’s the same message.

I try again.  I use my best diction.  Again with the same message.

I try again.  I speak slowly and carefully.  Still with the same message.

I try again.  I enunciate each letter.  Here we go the same message.

I try again and again and again.  It’s no use.  I give up.

The machine just doesn’t understand me.  Even the numbers, it doesn’t understand me.  I wish I could speak with a customer service agent from Bangalore.

© 2013 Jaclyn Schrier. All rights reserved.

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