Tomato, tomato

"Please give the name of the airport you wish to travel from."


"Did you say, Finland?"


"Sorry about that. Please give the name of the airport you wish to travel from."


"Did you say, Barcelona, Spain?"


I was attempting to communicate with the automatic telephone system for Continental Airlines. While the pleasant sounding male voice appeared to have an extensive knowledge of world cities, it was apparently rather less good on world accents. I pulled a face and tried to think of a different way of pronouncing 'Buffalo'. Buuuffalo, perhaps? Buffaaalo?

"Did you say, Boston?"

Well, at least we were in the right country this time. Perhaps I should just have said 'yes' and driven there. Indeed, I promptly regretted not doing exactly that when we moved onto:

"Did you say, Campeche, Mexico?"

How does one go from 'Buffalo' to 'Campeche, Mexico'? How is it that a voice recognition system can cope (presumably) with a southern drawl and not with a British accent? Could this plausible sounding recording actually be a particularly annoyed employee having a laugh? Maybe it was someone taking an extended lunch break by wiring up the phone system to keep the customer on hold until gone half-past two. If so, I had to hand it to them; it would be a hard crime to prove.

"Did you say, Perm, Russia?"

Then again, a tape of this conversation ought to nail the skiving bastard.