Gaylord Guenin: Letters from Woody Creek |

Gaylord Guenin: Letters from Woody Creek

A friend gave me a subscription for Christmas to a magazine I wasn’t familiar with, which is an indication of just how far outside the loop I am. It’s called The Week, and according to the copy in front of me, I am looking at volume 9 and issue No. 405. So you may be completely familiar with The Week but bear with me, even if I am tragically out of step with current events. If you are not aware of this magazine, let me say it’s pretty much akin to Time or Newsweek but with a nice twist.

It is a collection of bits and pieces from U.S. and international media, covering everything from politics to film reviews, so you get a taste of opinions on serious stories from Europe to Asia. The Week is entertaining (it has a “pick of the week’s cartoons” section) and informative.

I mention all of this because I was going through the March 27 edition and ran into this snippet reported by the Los Angeles Times: “The Pentagon is spending $400 million to develop a giant spy blimp that could station itself 65,000 feet over a targeted region ” so high up it would be out of the range of enemy radar, missiles and fighter jets.”

Talk about being taken by surprise. A giant blimp? What the hell, is the U.S. military going retro? Think of blimps and you are forced to think of World War I and II or the PGA tour or some other major sporting event where the mandatory blimp is hovering overhead, photographing the action below.

I am not an expert in military technology, but I can’t help but believe some of the folks working on this project are smoking too much giggle weed. Granted, 65,000 feet is a long way into the sky, about twice the altitude where commercial jets fly, but parking a blimp up there is difficult to envision. And it must be a robotic vehicle as it would be tough to find pilots who could breath at 65,000 feet.

Maybe this is a brilliant idea, one created by some young genius in a military think tank, but the idea of a giant blimp parked somewhere in the upper atmosphere just doesn’t come across all that well. It is difficult to believe the military could sell this program to Congress, if only because it contains the word “blimp.” Blimps simply do not conjure up visions of 21st century technology, the type of stuff you might see in a good sci-fi movie. What comes to mind is some sort of cumbersome, football-shaped balloon lumbering across the sky. But at least our guys are looking “outside the box.”

Come to think of it, our congressmen might find “blimp” to be a very attractive word. In fact the word blimp might conjure up images of hogs, which in turn could be translated into “pork” ” and we all know the insatiable appetite our elected officials in Washington have for “pork.”

At any rate, I believe I have discovered something else that is located 65,000 feet above earth. I could be wrong but I suspect that most major corporations have outsourced their customer service departments and relocated them in blimps.

Many of you probably have experienced what I am about to relate and that is the frustrating attempt to actually make contact with another human being in customer service at some huge corporation, a corporation such as Direct TV, and then to be able to understand what that person is saying to you.

I had a problem recently in that I missed a payment to a very large company that kindly reminded me of my error with a rather aggressive phone call from a collection agency. This was not a case of mistaken identity. I was cleaning the clutter off my coffee table and found the unpaid bill under a pile of gentlemen’s magazines.

Now I am a pretty good citizen and I wanted to put this right so I called the company in question and was welcomed to the company’s very own purgatory by a very pleasant computer. You know the routine: “If you want chocolate syrup on your vanilla ice cream, please press one now. If you wish to recant your sins, please press two now.” I was making progress, or so I thought, until the computer asked me to punch in the routing number on my checking account. That is a 10-digit number and with my first attempt the computer rejected my input and told me there had been an error. This scenario was repeated five or six times before my computer buddy accepted the number. My question was simple: “If the computer knew I was punching in the wrong number, it also must have known the correct number. So why was it asking for the number to begin with?”

Anyway I finally made contact with a human being, which didn’t turn out to be all that positive of an experience. She was very nice, very polite and very difficult to understand. The amount the company said I owed simply did not make sense and I was looking for a straightforward explanation. Each time she explained the bill to me, I had the bizarre feeling that I was talking to my washing machine. I would ask a question and her answer came back over the line as something that sounded like a “slosh, slosh, slosh.”

After endless attempts and endless explanations I could not understand, I finally just gave up, which I suspect was the intent of this entire exercise in futility. I paid my bill, which is what the company wanted all along.

My only question is how does that service representative breath when she must be located in a blimp, 65,000 feet above earth?

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