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What the duck?



Is there any rigidity to corporate America anymore? Where went all those stiff-suited, sturdy bulls of decades past with serious jobs involving lots of calculating and forecasting the state of the economy? Now, even financiers are experimenting with creative freedom. Donning colorful Hawaiian-print shirts on “casual Tuesday,” business executives are finding ways to incorporate an artsy irreverence into the most conservative of professional environments. Here’s one slightly disturbing example: The online financial firm National Discount Brokers attempts performance art when you’d least expect or appreciate it — on its telephone customer service hotline. When you dial up 1-800-888-3999, the monotone voice of an automated representative briefly explains seven menu options to direct callers. But if you’re still on the line after listening to six of them guide you through trading, account kits, special stock program direction, etc., option seven might catch you off guard. The pleasant computerized voice instructs: “Press 7 if you’d like to hear a duck quack.”

Hear a what do what? They’re serious at NDB — press the button and a mallard speaks. When questioned about the relevance of such an odd Touch-Tone instruction, a human customer service rep explained that this option exists because the company logo is a mallard duck. Sure, it is — and it’s also an attempt at the ironic humor which seems to be infecting this nation’s art and entertainment industries. These days, everyone wants to be part of an episode of “Seinfeld” (recall the one when Kramer implements a movie phone hotline from his home telephone). We may be in trouble.

Rebecca Mazzei is a Metro Times staff writer. E-mail her at

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