Upon discussion with a very kind human working for an airline ticket agency about what we each had for breakfast, I was transferred to a robotic representative. I was told this transfer would provide me with “quality assistance” regarding the importance of considering a purchase of Travel Protection Insurance.
The voice spoke to me about the necessity of safety.
The voice spoke to me about injuries that might incur during my flight.
The voice spoke to me about which of my body parts I could be reimbursed for, if I lost them permanently during my time in the sky.
“Loss of both hands –100% compensation”
“Loss of one foot–50% compensation”
“Loss of life–100% compensation”
“Loss of one foot and one eye–100% compensation”
The list went on…
I listened, eyes wide, to the abrupt announcement–monotone, cold, mysterious, maybe calm. I pondered what complete compensation for the loss of my life might look like. Would I get to decide?
My greatest discomfort came from these words being delivered by a man-made mirage. A voice with no body to speak of, no mouth or larynx to produce sound. Why couldn’t the information be read over the phone, by a person? The recording must have been thoroughly calculated. Perhaps developed in a series of paid focus groups sourcing information, measuring the emotions and reactions that occur after listening to convoluted manipulation.
I looked up what the average heart rate is of a person who makes fear-based economic decisions. I drank coffee to speed it up. I drank water to slow it down. Someone somewhere sits behind a desk, churning the machines. That person makes the decision for the robot to communicate to me instead of another human. That person is laughing. That person has power. That person probably drinks a lot of smoothies. I enjoy smoothies as well.
When the recording was complete, my assigned human resurfaced onto the line.
“Hello, ma’am, have you made your decision? Insurance is $29.95. Will it be Visa?”
“One foot and one eye” were the only words I could offer.
Perhaps she had never listened to the recording.
“Can we talk through some of these?” I wanted to know how the company expected to ease the suffering of my severed hand.
“Ah, yes ma’am, I think what you are saying is that you would like to purchase the insurance, which is a very wise choice. It is my pleasure to serve a customer who makes very smart decisions.”
My heart splashed into my gut. She worked in tandem with the robots. Together they were directing my mind into illusion. I walked over to a mirror hanging on my wall.
“Where do you buy your vegetables?” I asked, staring at my reflection, balancing a contact lens on the tip of my pinky. I’m good at putting contacts in my eye, even without a mirror.
She laughed “I do not understand, ma’am”.
My contact lens fell to the floor and I hung up the phone. Later I went to work at a farmer’s market where we trade goods without contracts. We look out for each other. We say ‘good to see you’.
A few weeks later I sat on the airplane, watching the crew instruct everyone to study the safety card located in the seat pocket in front of us. I craned my neck to see how many fingers were pulling the cards out from their seat. Two, maybe three people.
A flight attendant knelt down by my row with a smile and a free cookie. “Are you able and willing to assist passengers in the unlikely event of an emergency?” I crinkled the package of my sweet biscuit and nodded.
“I’m going to need a verbal yes, si, oui, Y-E-S!”
I replied and turned to the man seated next to me, offering a smile.
“Don’t worry, they always talk like that…I like these exit rows because of the leg room,” he stretched out like a cat in afternoon sun. “We’re more likely to get eaten by a shark than have to help people evacuate this plane.” I’m grateful for the extra few inches to wiggle my toes, too, and I have no protection if I lose a leg in the sky. I feel much safer that way.