Until recently, I didn't know it was possible to talk to God via voice prompts. Now I'm not so sure.
My religious epiphany occurred in the midst of trying to locate the concierge at the Grand Wailea hotel, a Maui vacation destination that will play host to my family later this month. I had heard Maui visitors rave about the beautiful sunrise bike tours down Mount Haleakala and called to get information about pricing, availability and to dispel my daughter's fear that biking down a mountain is equivalent to being pushed over a cliff.
The Grand Wailea, being a 40-acre, 780-room hotel, naturally had a lengthy greeting message when I dialed the toll-free number. After listening to options for room reservations, weddings, spa appointments and in-room amenities among others, I finally heard "press eight for the concierge."
I hoped to hear a friendly voice say, "Aloha," "Mahalo" or one of those other Hawaiian greetings that tourists use ad nauseum during their vacations, usually in the wrong context.
HAWAIIAN NATIVE: Quick, a volcano has erupted and blazing lava will soon spill into the main pool!!!
HAWAIIAN TOURIST: Aloha. Mahalo. Two more Mai-Tais please!
Instead, I was treated to nine ADDITIONAL PROMPTS including an option to make dinner reservations at Humuhumunukunukuapuaa, which, in addition to being an unpronounceable restaurant, is a type of fish and a word that would cost Wheel of Fortune contestants thousands, should they need to buy a vowel.
As it so often does, my mind wandered as I drifted further into the calling prompt vortex that seemingly every service-oriented business has chosen to install. Annoyed that, after five minutes on the phone, I still was unable to talk to any concierge, I invoked His name in a frustrated mumble.
"God, help me."
"Transferring call," came the reply.
Wait, was I about to speak to the Almighty? I gripped the phone tightly, unsure yet intrigued what the next voice would sound like. I considered putting the call on speakerphone, recording it and selling it to whatever theologian would pay top dollar. Even better, I would call the Vatican and ask to speak directly with Pope Francis.
"I have something I think he'd like to hear," is all I'd say. If there was no interest, I would reply, "Mahalo" and hang up.
Instead, I was connected with the lobby concierge, the object of my original quest. As was to be expected, she was courteous, knowledgeable and informed me that the sunrise bike tour begins at 2:30 a.m. and costs approximately $500 for a family of four.
I would have gladly waited to hear THAT information.
Even so, I hung up convinced that one or more of the following is true:
1) There is a higher being and He is listening.
2) The Grand Wailea employs state-of-the-art voice recognition technology that senses when callers are frustrated and immediately bumps them to the head of the queue.
3) The lobby concierge IS the higher being.
Curiosity piqued, I decided to see if invoking His name would get me faster service at other businesses known for lengthy wait times. I dialed American Airlines. After being told to say "reservations," "flight information," "award travel," "Advantage account services," or "more options," I played what I thought was my trump card.
"God help me."
The options were repeated. No help there. Apparently He is not a frequent flyer. I dialed Comcast, the cable television powerhouse, where hold times often include a change of seasons. I hung up upon realizing that the company that controls my Internet, cable, phone system and probably my stock portfolio still does not recognize voice commands, preferring to make customers push buttons in order to find out if the repairman will arrive some time before 2017.
I called the Illinois Department of Motor Vehicles. Again, "God help me" got me nowhere. However, pressing three did connect me with a Polish-speaking agent.
"Aloha," I said. She hung up.
That ended the experiment. Much to my chagrin, I realized the phrase is not ubiquitous when dealing with customer service.
Although, I'm certain it will come in handy when I'm aboard a rented bike, careening down a Hawaiian mountainside.
Copyright 2014 Greg Schwem distributed by Tribune Content Services, Inc.