Off the Top of My Head

By Gabriel A. Fraire


Customer Service used to mean a “customer” got “service”

(Appeared in Sonoma West Times and News Syndication March 2, 2020)

Having lived a few years does seem sometimes to confuse my thinking. I get confused between what I grew up with and what I live with today — for example, customer service. When I was young customer service meant someone would be trying to help me, the “customer”, with some “service.”  Often, businesses were rated on their customer service.

Today there is limited customer service. And, if you do any business online, forget about it, unless you know how to talk to a machine, have the patience of a monk, and the determination of a driven personality.

“If you think this message was sent to you in error call 800-***-****.”  So I called. My call was answered by a talking voice.

Press 1, if you have the patience to sit through a bunch of meaningless selections.

Press 2, if your time is of no value and none of these questions matter.

Press 3, if you want to reach your hands through the phone wire and strangle that voice that sounds like a cross between a robot and a 1950s suburban housewife.

At least those were the words running through my brain as the voice gave me instructions: “To find the location of the company bathrooms in a hurry press 911.”  “To request a directory of listed employees press, ‘I don’t care’”.  “If you really need help try prayer.”

Much to my surprise after several minutes of pushing buttons I got a voice on the phone. Turns out the number I was given was not to the technical support line but a local branch of law enforcement. I apologized and hung up quickly.

Another search and I got a number I believed was the technical support I needed. Another push button attack, this time I pressed the number that gave me instructions in Spanish. I don’t understand Spanish well but I figured at least that way I would have a good reason for not getting anywhere. I just pushed random buttons. After one of the pushes a person answered but he was speaking to me in Spanish.  Fortunately, he also spoke English. He listened to my concerns. There was something extremely irritating about that young man’s voice. He had arrogance and he kept making me feel like I was bothering him.

Sometimes when I get frustrated with phone service help I ask the phone bank person where he or she lives. If it is in a place like, Nebraska, I will hear how cold it is there or how hot. Then the person will ask me where I live. I say, California, and the response is always, “Ooooh, that sounds nice.” For a moment it makes me feel better, at least I’m not in the cold/hot Nebraska.

 I asked this young man where he was located. He said, “Maui.”

I waited multiple minutes. Waiting-time is much longer than real-time. It drags on and it is worse if I’m forced to listen to some horrible music. But, for the first time in this whole experience I was finally getting somewhere. I was even very proud of myself. I had remained calm and patient through this whole ordeal. Not once did I use the Lord’s name in vain; nor did I make disparaging remarks about lack of service. I didn’t even play the “old man card”.

Finally, the music stopped; there was that little blank pause where I waited for the person on the other end to acknowledge my presence. Another recorded message came on saying, “Due to the high volume of calls on your issue we are unable to help you today. Please call back tomorrow.”

The problem is they are brainwashed by propaganda

(Appeared in Sonoma West Times and News Syndication July, 2020)

I was standing in line in one of those stores with lots of checkout lines but few cashiers. As I stood there, even with social distancing, I couldn’t help but hear this loud speaking woman address her companion, “The problem with those people is that they are all brainwashed.”

I’m not the confrontational type and the loud talking lady was in the next aisle so not really in talking distance. I would have had to yell and I could never do that. What bothered me the most about her comment was it probably never occurred to her that we are all victims of brainwashing.

We are brainwashed as children to uphold the status quo, to believe what older people tell us, to accept what is written in our text books, to be Americans without question. “I pledge alliance … .”

Every country uses propaganda to help control the masses. If you’re the type who remains unaware that the intent of those in power is to keep power, wake up.  In this country those in power equates to those with money. Those with power/money have a vested interest in keeping the masses under control.

Those who seek to keep control are good at it. They know this control is important to maintaining their wealth. This isn’t a new concept. But it does seem like over the centuries those in control have become much more efficient and calculating at how they keep control.

An educated person is harder to control which is why those in control in the United States have made a concerted effort to lessen our ability to learn. I believe it is intentional.

The first generation to benefit as a whole from universal public education was the baby boomers. World War II’s victory and subsequent economic growth of the 50’s created this countrywide boom that included new schools in most communities. Baby boomers received a better education that their predecessors and the results proved disastrous for the power brokers.

When these educated baby boomers reached college age, where more of them were attending college than any previous generation, the learning increased their awareness and awareness created concern. Racism, sexism, homophobia, war and greed were all exposed and what followed was the upheaval of the 1960s.

The lesson wasn’t lost on the rich and powerful. Learned people know how to think. Thinking people tend to challenge issues that seem wrong. To deal with this, education was systematically dismantled.  It was gradual but it was deliberate. Public school funding reduced and little by little private schools began to appear. Today these private schools are pervasive throughout the country and they are populated by the more affluent, those with connections, those who are part of the ruling class. The rest of the population is left to flounder.

We are now suffering the results because undereducated, uninformed voters elect poor leaders. Poor leaders lead us astray with propaganda and it seems to be working just fine.

There were no “Weapons of Mass Destruction” that caused the death of more than 4,000  U.S. soldiers and close to 300,000 Iraqis. There were no “compromised emails” to investigate right before an election. Now, we are being told there are no climate change problems, there is no pandemic, and racism doesn’t exist.

We are fed propaganda every day and it is most effective because the ability to think has been reduced. We have all been brainwashed. I’ve been brainwashed, you’ve been brainwashed, that lady in line has been brainwashed.

It’s a quick process to brainwash when there isn’t much usable brain to wash. 







FRAIRE HAS BEEN A WRITER ALL HIS ADULT LIFE. He has had four non-fiction books published and two of his plays have been produced for the stage.  He created a planetarium script that featured Hispanic history with star study. He wrote the lyrics for the highly successful musical CD  Speak to The Madness. His latest publication available on Amazon.com is "Latino Jesse" an autobiographical fiction novel about being Mexican-American from a steel mill town.

AVAILABLE ON:   Amazon.com

Fraire latest fiction book is "Mills Rats," a fictional account of five steel mill workers and their involuntary involvement with an international people smuggling scheme. In 2016 Fraire and his wife Karen Fraire traveled to China and returned to produce their book, China 2016.


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