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Friday, February 28, 2014

"B as in B*tts*x": Why you should learn the NATO alphabet. Immediately

On Valentine's Day, I celebrated by getting rear-ended so hard I got pushed into the car in front of me. That's not some weird sexual euphemism -- my car actually got smashed up.

So I got to spend my Valentine's Day evening watching a bowl of Top Ramen get cold as I sat on the phone with my insurance company.

Now, there's no shortage of aggravation involved in calling the insurance company to start a claim on a 3-car collision. They need all the info on every car involved. Driver's name, address, phone number; vehicle license plate; insurance company; insurance policy number; drivers' license number. Many of these bits of info are particularly annoying to share, because they consist of strings of numbers with letters thrown in here and there. Reading these to someone over the phone is f**king TEDIOUS, because letters in English all sound the same so you need to make it clear which letter you are saying by also adding in a word that starts with that letter. You say "one three seven N as in Nancy B as in Boy six eight" but the number/letter strings are like twenty characters long and it all takes forever. 

Luckily, I have memorized the NATO alphabet, and THANK GOD I HAVE. Why? Because there are so many ways to go wrong. Here's how my phone call with the insurance company would have gone had I not had Alpha, Bravo, and Charlie readily available in my brain:

What if your brain decides to go with something weird or offensive??

The problem with trying to make it clear what letter you said is that you have to instantly come up with a word that starts with that letter. It's like one of those word association games where someone screams "QUICK WHAT DO YOU THINK OF WHEN I SAY FROZEN?"

And if you yell "CORPSE!" then everyone thinks you're a freak.

So how is it any different when you're on the phone with an insurance company and your brain is like "QUICK WHAT IS THE FIRST WORD YOU THINK OF THAT STARTS WITH F?"

The odds of this happening to me are actually above 100% somehow.

Or maybe you've just been watching Django Unchained, so your brain is all "N as in ni--" and then you catch yourself but it is too late and now State Farm has canceled your auto insurance policy entirely.

Like a good neighbor, State Farm does not want to hang around with people who use that kind of language.

Given that it was Valentine's Day, I might have told the USAA agent that my license plate was "A as in Asshole, B as in Buttsex, R as in Rapist, six three three nine."

And then the USAA agent would have judged me.

What if your brain spews out nonsense that isn't even a word?

As if the search for inoffensive words weren't stressful enough, your brain might also play a game where it spits out absolute nonsense.

What if your brain spits out something useless?

The whole point of the 'saying a word' thing is to clear up ambiguity between letters like B, C, D, E, G, T, V, you get it. So if you say "B as in Ban," that is so completely useless you should probably just kill yourself. "B as in Ban"?? Okay, what about can, dan, tan, van, and pan? You embarrassing idiot.

The NATO alphabet lets you skip over the "B as in" part, which saves time but would be very confusing if you did it with your random word choices

Since the NATO alphabet is standard, if your insurance policy number is FLU656PZ34, you can just read that as Foxtrot Lima Uniform 656 Papa Zulu 34.

But -- if you were playing the "random word" game, your choices might start to sound like a sentence. A really, really, terrible sentence.

Farts Licking Ugly 656 Penis Zipper 34.

Flipper Lascivious Unitard 656 Pantalones Zurich 34.

Flamboyant Licentious Unibrow 656 Portly Zebra.

What the hell is the matter with you? Do you have Tourette's??

But are you limber? Filthy? Do you reside in a major urban area? If so, call me.

Take fifteen minutes and learn the NATO alphabet. Don't be a Foxtrot-Uniform-Charlie-Kilo-India-November-Golf Delta-India-Papa-Sierra-Hotel-India-Tango.


  1. I always wonder how the NATO alphabet is not approximately step 1 of call centre training. Seriously people... it's your job.

    1. Right???! I wonder if people in that line of work just come up with their own alphabet that they use every time. Animal Boy Cartoon Donkey Elephant ...