The Delta Air Lines automated voice asks me if I want to check arrivals or departures, make a reservation or manage my frequent flier account.
"Reservations," I say.
_ Attention, Business Travelers _ E-mail Keith L. Alexander about your experiences, good and bad, at firstname.lastname@example.org or write to him at The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071. Please include your name, address, and day and evening telephone numbers.
I think you said you wanted reservations? Is that right?
While we're waiting I can take some of your information to save time at the other end.
And with that promise, I was sentenced to seven minutes of what many frequent fliers call automated-voice hell. Many airlines are cutting the number of reservation agents and adding voice recognition systems to save money. In December, Delta tweaked its automated system by removing the option of striking numbers on the key pad and allowing callers only to speak their travel plans.
Do you already have a ticket or reservation? Please say yes or no.
I sigh, then say: "No."
I'm sorry, but I didn't understand that. Do you already have a ticket?
The sighing must have confused the system. "No," I say sternly.