Letter From Milo: Manila Duke

February 4th, 2021

It was one of those days that can drive a man to drink. I believe it was a Sunday.

I had forgotten where I parked my car the night before. There was water in the basement from the ferocious storm that clobbered Chicago a few hours earlier. My wife was pissed off because I had forgotten her birthday. The damned cat was still alive. And the television wasn’t working.

“Dad! The TV’s broken.”

“Go watch the other one. We’ve got a couple of them, you know.”

“The other one’s broken, too.”

“Ah, shit.”

“Dad! Do something!”

A few years ago the lovely Mrs. Milo made a decision to switch from cable to satellite dish. She cited several reasons for the switch – saving money, more channels, better picture quality. Mainly, though, I think she did it to aggravate as many people as possible. Along with being a fine wife, great mother and good cook, Mrs. Milo is an excellent aggravator, one of the best, in my opinion.

When I went to check on the television I saw that there was an error message on the screen. It read something like, “Due to equipment malfunction we had to shut down your system. Please call the toll-free number below to reactivate your system.”

“See,” I said to my daughter, “it’s not broken. It’s just a glitch. Call that number and it’ll be taken care of.”

“Can you do it, dad?”

“I don’t know. I was thinking about taking a nap. I had a rough night.”

“Please, dad?”

“Oh, all right.”

imagesI was hoping to talk to Ernestine, but I got some guy in Manila….

It took nearly 20 minutes to get an actual human being on the phone. I was shunted from department to department by robotic prompters who misconstrued every direction I entered on the touchtone dial. I was sent to accounts receivable, accounts payable, the marketing department, the sales department, the department for blatantly lying to customers, the department for setting bogus installation appointments, the department that threatens to set collection agencies on you and, lastly, the department for blaming all your problems on other departments.

I was ready to toss the phone through the window, when I finally reached the activation department and heard a human being.

“Hello, I am being Duke, spelling D.U.K.E., your current telephone representative in the activation department. How am I to be of helpfulness in your present situation?”

“I want my television activated.”

“Yes, sir, today. I am happily doing this for you. It is about five minutes in the time taking. Please do not leaving away from the telephone you are talking about.”

“No problem. Ah, Duke, do you mind if I ask a question?”

“Please feel fine to ask your question for me.”

“Where are you located?”

“Manila, of the Philippine Islands.”

“So, an American satellite TV company has their call center in the Philippines?”

“Indeed, yes, sir. We have 2,000 people working to here, 24 hours all day. And we are a small call center. There are many others very bigger than we can here in Manila. They work for American banks, credit card companies and oil companies. They are here because we are very good speaking of English language here. I have studied for English for many years from school.”

“Yeah, you speak real well. You’re a regular William F. Buckley.”

imagesWho didn’t really sound like William F. Buckley, Jr….

“The call centers in India are much greater in size than is here. They have hundreds of thousands of many people all speaking English for American companies.”

“Yes, that’s good to know.”

“Sir, your television is now in the state of being very activated.”

“Thanks, Duke. It’s been a pleasure chatting with you.”

“And for you, sir. Please enjoy your watching of television.”

Later that evening I was enjoying a smidgen of red wine and watching the news, when they ran a story about illegal immigration and how undocumented workers were stealing American jobs. Outraged politicians expressed their bought-and-paid-for anger. Titans of industry, the same rotten bastards who have outsourced (great Orwellian term) hundreds of thousands of jobs to other countries, chimed in with their hypocritical opinions. Small business owners, unemployed blue-collar workers and immigration officials all had their say.

When the segment was over, the professional polarizers — both liberal and conservative — the spin doctors, strategists, professional apologists and marginal political hacks, weighed in with their stale, tired and completely predictable opinions. They should just put those fuckers on a tape loop.

The only thing that did surprise me was that not one person mentioned the hundreds of thousands of jobs that been sent to other countries by America’s wealthiest corporations.

I thought back to my conversation with the Duke of Manila. He seemed like a nice guy. I was glad he had a job. He might have had a family to feed, a mortgage to pay, a mistress to keep or a drug habit to support. What I didn’t like was that he had a job that an American should have been doing.

Duke worked for an American company, yet paid no state or federal taxes and did not contribute to Social Security or Medicare. You can multiply his story by hundreds of thousands.

At least undocumented workers in this country spend some of their money in this country. Duke’s money never leaves the Philipinnes. To paraphrase an advertising slogan, what’s earned in Manila stays in Manila.

I don’t see how that does any of us in the USA any good.

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