Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Isle of U-Verse


Jack was beyond excited, the day had finally arrived: his television and computer would be able to communicate. But there is more, an all sports option, the ability to see every single sporting event available on television at one time. Picture in picture, what he once thought of as the single greatest invention yet known, was old news, this was revolutionary. No longer could cricket hideaway on some far off channel; it was if a voice from above could shout out to him in a moment of remote confusion, "Jack, someone is catching a trout on channel 834, get there now!".
Calendars were cleared, plans were made, the U-Verse Goddess would descend upon us on a Monday morning and in four short hours all would be right with the world. She arrived on schedule and set to work. Nine hours later, exhausted and sweaty, she appeared on the back stairs: U-Verse would not be ours, not today, maybe someday she promised. A highly specialized doubly trained super smart high tech person would be in our home within 48 hours, there was more work to be done. Defeated, she left.

No one appeared on Tuesday. Repeatedly I called the phone number she provided, the one that, next to the number, read "We are here to help!" only to get a busy signal. Confused, having previously thought that my mother was the only person left on earth without call waiting, I continued to hit redial. Why AT&T had only one line baffled me. There was also a website but for reasons unknown my computer was not working, no Internet available. Jack took over dialing when he came home. It was not a busy signal, we had no phone service, which in an instant explained why my computer was dark as well. We tried the television, nothing. The four hour minor surgery that was to connect us to the world beyond in a way we never thought possible had ended as a nine hour communication lobotomy.

Using his cell phone, Jack found Deborah at a Kentucky call center who was as surprised as we were to find we were left without any service. He was put on hold. Thirty minutes later she returned, there was little that could be done, someone would call us the next day. Saving the details of this four day odyssey through AT&T customer service madness, in fear of incurring high blood pressure related medical bills to compete with my cell phone charges, I relate this exchange: 45 minute holding time to talk to one person, detailed explanation offered of problem, transfer, 20 minute hold, further details needed, transfer, 40 minute hold, friendly voice asking for my phone number, and then, "let me just read through these notes here", 10 minute hold and then, "and how may I help you today?".

Pardon me, you just spent 10 minutes reading your colleague’s notes about this ridiculous situation, surely peppered with commentary about the mental instability of the woman on the other end of the line, and you and your friendly voice would like to know how you can help me today?

By Wednesday I was cranky. Unfinished essays sat on my computer, unable to go anywhere, longing to be completed, and read. My husband suggested I take the girls to the coffee shop and write there. I suggested he take the girls to the office.

On Thursday I had this conversation with another genius at AT&T:

Genius: We’ll have someone out tomorrow to restore your phone service, between 12 and 6.
Happy Customer: I will not be home between 12 and 6.
Genius: Will there be anyone home to let us in?
Happy Customer: No, I will not be here tomorrow.
Genius: Right, we’ll be there between 12 and 6.
Happy Customer: Wonderful. And this is to restore just the phone? What about the other issues?
Genius: Oh, what other issues are you having?

On Friday, the day before we left for a 10 day vacation, a self confident, and highly decorated, installer veteran appeared at my door. Not wanting to insult the woman who left me on a remote island Monday, but doing so anyway, he assured me that this was as simple as flipping a switch and that he would be out of my hair in no time. Six hours later he found the switch, restoring what we once knew, and bringing the hope of trout fishing into our living room.

The next morning we left for Michigan, to the idyllic and tranquil life not bounded by telephones and computers. Where, rather than watch it on television, you can saunter down to the shore any morning and watch people actually fish. Thank goodness we were able to get away.

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