I needed to talk with a human at United Airlines today. I called their 800 number, listening carefully to discover all my options. The only one open to me was the instruction that if one had a rotary dial phone they could wait until the end of the message for a human. I tried this but was disconnected (I assume because the system detected I was cheating and wasn’t calling from a rotary dial phone). Luckily I knew that folks reachable via the Web kept information pages on how to get through to the human behind the 800 number. I checked one written up recently in the NYT called gethuman database and found I needed to proceed until I got to the part where the voice mail robot said “let’s get started” and said the instructed word “agent” — at once the robot asked “Did you say agent?” I said “yes” and was soon talking with a human who was able to answer my questions.