The end of the financial year has entailed a few calls to Inland Revenue of late and I've learnt not to try and multitask during the process. It turns out, running a tap while simultaneously trying to talk to a machine don't mix.
You see, the automated voice recognition doesn't recognise the sound of water running down the sink while you're trying to wash dishes and state your date of birth for ID purposes.
Nor does it tolerate your kids' ongoing inquisitive voices in the background.
My first attempt to phone was in the morning. Home alone, the house was quiet, so, bar the running water, after the second attempt of providing my details, I was informed by the recorded voice that there was a higher than expected number of calls, before being rudely hung up on.
I tried again later and, this time, managed to secure a call back for between 39-59 minutes. That was fine, it would just scrape in before the kids returned from school.
However, my mum rang and it had been a while since we'd had a good natter. While we were nattering, I could hear an incoming call but we were in the middle of something good and I wasn't willing to cut it off for the IRD.
Next came the alert noise of a voice message. This happened three more times before I had to hang up as it was 3.05pm and the kids were raucously making their homecoming.
By the time they settled into afternoon tea and cartoons, Inland Revenue had given up on me so I phoned back, thereby undergoing the whole ID process again.
"We need to know briefly what you are calling about," said the automated voice.
"Are you calling about -"
Damn, I needed to cough and the voice recognition didn't recognise that sound.
"I must've misheard you. Are you calling about your income tax return?"
"Have you entered your own IRD number?"
"To confirm your security details, please say or key in your date of birth."
"Twenty-fifth…" I began.
"What?" called out my daughter.
I continued louder with my birth date.
"What mum?" she persisted. "I can't hear you."
"Nothing. I'm not talking to you."
"I'm sorry," said the voice. "I can't understand that. Please try again."
Somehow in the process, I got hung up on again so made another attempt later while the twins were cooking dinner.
This time, I got as far as: "Please say your mobile number".
"Oh two one –"
"Mum dinner's ready!" my son announced, loud and proud.
"I missed that. Please hold while I transfer you to someone who can help."
Oh good grief. Hanging up on the voice, I sat down to enjoy my spag bol with the kids.
I'd try again tomorrow.