Thursday, November 6, 2008

Customer Service by Benoit Duteurtre

Oh, the dreaded call to customer service! You begin with a simple question in mind and the highest hopes of a quick resolve. When the operator picks up you discover, not an operator but an automated system. You patiently listen to all of your options and hit the proper number on your phone. After waiting through some lovely looped music and a periodic voice interrupting to remind you of how important your call is you finally hear a new voice. This voice, too, is automated and offers you more options!

In his satirical novella Customer Service, Benoit Duteurte explores one mans journey through this modern day labyrinth.

When the narrator looses his phone he finds himself cut off from family and friends whose phone numbers are now lost to him. When he can't remember his computer password, he looses his ability to do his work. And when he can't remember his code to the lock on his apartment building, he find himself in danger of loosing his home. After finding no resolution in the phone maze he decides to head straight to the top, the owner of the signature that appears on all of his bills, the mysterious customer service agent Leslie Delmare.

Duteurte's writing throughout this novella, as translated by Bruce Benderson, is very straight forward. It's a bit like reading a newspaper column series. The reader easily relates to the aggravation of the hours of phone calls trying to get services or billing information corrected.

The final chapter, however, takes a bit of an odd turn. Putting one in the mind of having read a Twilight Zone episode.

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