Monday, July 25, 2011

I'm going crazy. Want to come? Got two tickets!

 What’s your most frustrating experience? Show me yours and I’ll show you mine.
What rankles you, turns you from mild to monster, from a prince to the Prince of Darkness? Dealing with a bureaucrat raise your dander? A spouse? Waiting for the cable guy? Biting down on an unpopped kernal of popcorn and busting your new crown, the one that paid for the the dentist’s kitchen renovation?
Me—it’s dealing with Technical Support.
Big respect to the folks who answer call after call from no account thumble thumbs like me, impatient morons without the stamina to wade through a 300 page users manual, Type A SOBs who touch “0” as soon as the call connects.  We’re an unpleasant constituency and the folks in call centers who put up with us have enough patience to stare down Mother Theresa.
 But…tech support calls makes me crazy. Like this one. True story, no exaggerations.
My old copier died so I bought a new one. It arrived—free shipping!—and  a few hours later I staggered along the Stations of the Cross, a trip to the Veil of Tears known as Tech Support.
I got Nimitzed. That’s a word I coined to describe the state of being discombobulated, disconcerted and confounded. I swiped the term from the Nimitz Freeway, a belligerent strip of asphalt that connects Oakland and San Jose, California, like Chinese water torture connects you to irrational rage. In fact, the Auto Club of America dubbed it the Bay Area’s Rudest Road. To drive the Nimitz during rush hour is to be saddled with disorienting mania. That’s being Nimitzed.
I was flush with Nimitzosity as I struggled through my new copier’s “Quick Start Guide”; that term, BTW, is a triple oxymoron. The publication was written in cuneiform and imparted all of the benefit of an eighteenth century anatomy text. Imagine the the crisp prose of the U.S. tax code suffused with the warmth of Hoboken, New Jersey’s zoning regulations and you get a sense of the “Quick Start Guide” for my brand new Brother MFC-5490 copier. 
The instructions directed me to open up the top of the copier to plug a USB cable inside the machine. Don’t ask why an engineer puts the port inside of the machine—that’s grist for an different mill. My trouble was this: once I opened the machine, I couldn’t get it closed. Tried and tried. No dice. It sounds simple yet there’s nothing so uncomplicated that I can do it all by myself. It was time to call support, to cascade through an escalating series of technical agents and hold music, to enter the geek version of Dante’s Inferno. When it comes to mechanical objects, I’m naturally drawn to the ninth and seventh circles of Hell—treachery and violence.
I placed the call.
A pleasant voice advised me that my call would be on hold for no longer than the duration of the last Ice Age. Finally an agent answered. “Hello. My name is Tanya. How may I frustrate you?”
I explain the problem, then attempt to ward off an interrogation worthy of a prison guard at Guantanamo. I begged, “Just tell me how to close the thing, please”
“I’m sorry for your inconvenience. What is the serial number of the machine?” says Tanya.
“I can’t read it. The numbers are too small, and I can’t find my magnifying glass. I think Sherlock Holmes took it. But I just need to know how to close the machine.”
“I’m sorry for your inconvenience. What operating system is your computer?”
“What difference does that make? I just want to close the machine!”
“I’m sorry for your inconvenience. What operating system is your computer?”
“Windows 7,” I sighed. Defeat registered in my voice. Sensing a moment of vulnerability, Tanya pounced.
“I’m sorry for your inconvenience, but that is a software issue. I’ll transfer you now.”
“No! Wait! I don’t need software support. I just want to close the machine.”
“Yes sir. Sorry for your inconvenience, but I only deal with product registration. Closing the machine is a software support team issue.”  Software support team? What, they have intramural competitions there? Potato sack races at recess? Tanya was back. One moment sir.” Then the inevitable hold music. 
A generation later, I’m connected with a software support center located somewhere in the Mariner Valley, on the planet Mars. The man who took my call had a thick Martian accent. He said that his name was…Peter. Very Martian.
I repeat my question and Peter jumps in to help. “May I know the operating systerm, Mr. Harry?” The telltale accent is growing stronger.
I did not wish to vent my spleen on poor Peter. I did finally got the copier closed. Sheer brute force. In the meantime, as I move back and forth between the computer and the copier, my dog, Phoebe, positions herself so that I trip over her each time I move. It’s an instinct bred into Beagles. I don’t know how she can anticipate my every move, but each time I turn, she is directly in my path, stretched out,and gazing lovingly at me. She licks my face when I crash to the floor.
I’m beginning to think that Phoebe the Beagle and Peter from Mars own stock in Pfizer, the manufacturer of Xanax. I could use a bowlful about now. Meanwhile, I think I got the copier working, but I’m going to start using carbon paper, the way other people use stress balls.
Hand to God, this is a true story, except the carbon paper. (I’m quite certain about the call center on Mars.) In the end I got the machine working and, really, the spike in my blood pressure did me no good. I don’t know if the complexity of simple things or the impersonality of individual attention bothered me more. But I seem to pull a nutty more and more often when I have to deal with technical objects. Give me a barking dog to train or stinky diapers to change any day, thank you.
What about you? What are some of your most frustrating events? Tell me the story—I’d love to compare notes. I’ll even immortalize your mania on this blog.
And remember, there’s always a dog.


  1. I've never laughed so hard. Thanks!

  2. You should have been there when I was pulling a nutty. You'd have laughed harder.

  3. hahaha--I loved the part about "Peter" having a martian accent and for sure, Mr. Harry, the call center is, no doubt, on Mars. And the beagle under your feet? I have a blind cat that can do that too! It must be something that we have that's special...that our pets have in common? What really gets my goat (and now that I'm past 60, with just a drop of estrogen in my system and bad eyes, sometimes it's a goatee) is when I wear my sacrosanct gym shoes to work out and someone else has left a dried, muddy mess on the cardio equipment, or dried grit from their dirty shoes in the aerobics room...which of course I don't notice until I've sashayed through it myself. Ugh!

  4. Gross! Nobody likes shoe droppings, except, perhaps, a beagle.