An automated shoulder to cry on

July 18, 1994|By KEVIN COWHERD

"Hello. You've reached the Crisis Hot Line."

"Oh, thank God! Look, something's really bothering me and I think I might . . . "

"To discuss general feelings of despondency, please press 1."

"What?"

"For alcohol and drug problems, press 2."

"God! You mean this is a recording?"

"For marital problems, press 3."

"It is a recording! I don't believe this."

"For financial difficulties, press 4."

"This is crazy! I've never heard . . . "

"If you've recently been implicated in a sex scandal, press 5."

"Please, isn't there someone I could talk to about . . . "

"To deliver a rambling, semi-coherent harangue against 'the system,' press 6."

"Listen, pal, I'd like to deliver a smack upside your big, ugly . . . "

"While you take a moment to decide, this message is brought to you by Art Benning of Benning Chrysler-Plymouth-Jeep-Eagle on Route 32, who invites you to test drive the new 1994 Grand Laredo 4x4, now only $22,500. Manufacturer's suggested list price, plus freight, tax and tags, some restrictions apply. Remember: Nobody beats an Art Benning deal! Art Benning puts you behind the wheel! Please enter the nature of your crisis now."

"OK, there, 3! Marital problems."

"If your husband is a cheating low-life, press 1. If your wife is an amoral little tramp, press 2. If your husband goes drinking with his buddies and plays golf all the time and leaves you stuck with the kids, press 3. If all your wife does is nag, nag, nag about how there's never enough money and how the two of you never do anything together, press 4."

"Actually, my problem is . . . "

"If your mother-in-law is driving you crazy, picking, picking, picking at every little thing you do, press 5."

"No, it's not her, it's . . . "

"Feel free to take a moment to decide! Does your bank offer 24-hour service and free personal checking? If not, isn't it time you looked into First Mutual Savings? Now with 17 convenient locations, including our newest branch on Route 109, right across from Pizza Hut. First Mutual Savings, serving the citizens of Maryland for over 110 years. Member FDIC. Please enter the source of your conflict now."

"OK, I pressed 4! But it's not really that she nags me, it's . . . "

"If the two of you have considered marriage counseling, press 1. If you've thought about calling a lawyer, press 2. If this is nothing more than a lot of empty 'beer talk' emanating from poker night with the boys, press 3. If you'd like to confront your wife with your complaints, but know you're too much of a weenie, press 4."

"Hey! Who you calling a . . . "

"For all other marital-related complaints, press 5. With the warm weather here, is your house in need of sprucing up? If so, give the pros at Wiginski Home Improvements a call. Custom remodeling of kitchens, bathrooms, club basements and patio enclosures our specialty! Also ask about our custom-made decks. Highest quality guaranteed. For a free estimate, call 555-1324."

"There! I pressed 5, 5!"

"If you wish to speak to someone with a calm, soothing voice, press 1. If you wish to speak to someone with a strong, no-nonsense demeanor, press 2. If you wish to speak to someone who is nonjudgmental but may be wishy-washy and vacillating when it comes to advice, press 3."

"No, that's not who I . . . "

"If you wish for us to call your mother, press 4."

"My mother! Ha! She wouldn't . . . "

"If you wish to speak to any available counselor, press 5."

"Yes! There, I hit 5! Lemme speak to someone!"

"We're sorry! All our counselors are busy at the moment! Please hold for the next available counselor. While you're waiting, don't forget this weekend's big 50 percent off sale at R&T Jewelers, located on the second level of the Cranston Mall. All 14-carat gold jewelry, diamond earrings and men's rings up to 60 percent off! Open Friday 10 to 9, Saturday 10 to 6 and Sunday noon to 5. Major credit cards accepted."

"I have the worst headache . . . "

"Still holding for the next available counselor! While you're waiting, please, sit back, relax, and listen to the song stylings of Mr. Mel Torme!"

"I . . . have to lie down now."

Click.

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