Hundreds of thousands of desperate, frightened human beings in Texas are calling the Texas Workforce Commission’s hotline, looking for help getting unemployment benefits. The alternative to calling is using the TWC’s website, which is only marginally more technologically advanced than communicating via carrier pigeon.
To ease call congestion, the TWC has posted guidelines for calling, asking different area codes to call during different days of the week. However, this has been ineffective, as hundreds of thousands of Texans either don’t know about these guidelines or don’t give a f**k.
Yours truly is in the latter camp. I would’ve been in the former, however I learned about the calling guidelines just shortly before beginning to type this and decided that I didn’t care because nobody else does. How do you enforce guidelines nobody knows about? You don’t.
So, as the system of governance for calling the TWC is clearly anarchy, and the TWC seems fine with this, I have been on the phone for several days trying to reach any other human being to help me with a problem that should be automated. A problem that should take all of five minutes to resolve. I’m not sure if it’s my rebellious Texas nature or if I’ve been driven to the brink by the maddening monotony of a shrill dial tone, but I’m
inches away from ordering bulk tar and feathers from Amazon and heading to the governor’s mansion. (Not really, that’s a joke.)
Yes, even in America’s darkest time, it is far easier to give your money to a trillion dollar company than to get money to pay your rent.
As I’ve downloaded an auto-dialer for my phone, I’ve made it incredibly efficient to listen to all the different kinds of dial tones the TWC has to offer. That’s all calling the TWC seems good for, as I haven’t managed to even hear a real person’s voice yet. There’s the standard, shrill beep-beep-beep to indicate the TWC phone line is busy. The tone is somewhat low, and has become a reminder to me that all is indeed lost and I will go insane before anyone actually helps me. There’s a scratchy, extra hell-like version of this beep-beep-beep that sounds as if the phone line was re-routed through Siberia and was currently being chewed on by grizzly bears (or whatever kind of bears they have in Siberia).
There’s also an ascending beep-beep-beeeeeep , where the first beep is nearly too quiet to hear and the last beep is so loud and sharp it seems designed to bleed your ears out. As if to purposefully deafen all the TWC callers so they would not be able to call again. This beep-beep-beeeeeep is also accompanied by the words “your call could not be completed, please try again,” said aloud in the fakest, most unhelpful and
death-like attempt at a cheerful voice a robot can muster.
Worst of all is when you finally get through to the TWC and the automatic menu begins. For a moment, you have hope. You press “1” for English or “2” for Spanish, then whatever other number you need to press to address your specific issue. And then you get another busy signal as the line disconnects. The hope you had rots into despair again, as you silently wonder if it would be more helpful to try calling again or throw your
phone at the wall and destroy it.
Every three-hundred or so calls, my phone overheats and has to be rebooted and cooled down. I wonder, during this forced down-time, if I could make more money by pretending to be a woman online and selling panties. Or if I could become a professional poker player, or if I should emigrate to Canada. All of these are ridiculous
options, but I’m considering them completely because the situation is so outstandingly bad.
Then, after a few minutes, I start calling again. Even though my phone is dialing automatically, I still hang on its every sound. Seconds go by slowly, as I hope and wonder if I am going to actually get through to someone this time. I am so committed to this destructive cycle, and I know many others are, too. More people than I have ever
seen in person are also trying, desperately for their lives and the lives of their families, to
reach the TWC and ask for help.
After about twelve thousand calls to the TWC, I stopped. I’m not sure if the next call would’ve gotten through, but I am sure that if I kept trying I would’ve had a stroke eventually. Maybe, hopefully, my stopping calling will help a family in greater need get through to the TWC. And hopefully the TWC will still have time and money for me when there are fewer callers. I need it, too. Just like everyone else.
Who knows? Maybe the TWC is hiring and I could go work for them. I might call them to ask.
Oh. Never mind.