Tuesday, April 21, 2009

We Lost Some Battles, But We Won the War

It all started about three months ago, when our Internet began taking occasional sick days and refused to come in to work. At first, these episodes were easily remedied by following standard computer fix-it protocol. Unplug it. Plug it back in. Problem solved.

I think the modem picked up on our strategy, because it retaliated by playing dead several times a day. So I called the helpful 24/7 Qwest customer service line. A computer answers. (That should have been a preliminary warning sign. Computer trouble? Call a computer. Does that sound suspicious to you?) "Hello! I see you're calling from (insert phone number, area code first). Is this the number you're calling about?" There was no prompt to press 1 or 2, so I hesitantly said "yes," feeling foolish for talking to a machine albeit a very polite one. "Okay, I see you have a couple of services on your account. Please state which one you're calling about: Telephone service... Internet service..." Internet service. (Still feeling foolish.)

Now the real problems begin. Have you ever tried to call one of these new-age help lines with young children in the room? These children assume I'm talking to a person, and therefore raise their noise level significantly out of habit. Not only can I no longer hear the computer/person ask me questions, it/he can't distinguish my responses from the children's. So when I say "internet service" and the children simultaneously say "he took my ball!!!" in a louder voice than mine, guess which one the computer picks up? That's right. "I'm sorry. I didn't catch that," comes the computer's monotone response. Repeat 9 times with various children's sentences like Mom, I'm hungry! He made me spill my popsicle! and Mom, can I play with Evan? "I'm sorry. I didn't catch that."

Finally, I banish the children from the house and make it to the next step: "Okay, I just need to check one more thing on your account...." At length I am connected to a live human being. After several troubleshooting steps, including "unplug it, plug it back again" (feeling intelligent, I tell him I already tried this one,) the human informs me that I need to reconfigure the modem. He walks me through the steps to accomplish this task, and tells me to call back in 3-5 days if the problem isn't solved.

Three to five days later, I am back on the phone. Having learned from the last experience, I lock the children in the backyard with popsicles before dialing. I make it through the screening process, and am awarded another live person. She reads through the notes from my last phone call (thank goodness they take notes!) and says, "Okay, it looks like we need to update the firmware." I'm familiar with hardware and software, but I've never heard of firmware. I'm told to type a series of numbers into the Internet Explorer address bar (good thing the modem has chosen this hour to work,) click this, type in that, click here and here, and restart the computer. Oh, and unplug it, plug it back in. {Smirk, roll eyes.}

The modem appears to have been cured! For an entire week, it is on time and reliable. Then the symptoms begin again, and within days it is all over. Completely and interminably. Yet another call to Qwest. I've memorized their prompts by now, so I give the answers before the computer asks the questions. Make it to a live person in record time. He tells me to connect to the Internet and type the now-familiar series of numbers in the address bar. The Internet doesn't work, I remind him. That's why I'm calling.

"It doesn't? Oh...." Silence while he tries to figure out what to do next.

After 15 minutes of diagnostic tests (check for blinking green lights, unplug, replug, rewire entire computer, check green lights again) during which the children are running circles around my chair and chanting in a foreign language, and this poor man is repeating every request twice because I can't understand his thick accent amid the background noise, he tells me the sure-fire solution to my modem problem. "I think your modem is broken. You will need to order a new one. I'll put you through to our business office. That will be 59.99 plus shipping. Thank you for calling Qwest and have a nice day."

The business office promises my new modem will arrive by 5:00 pm Friday via UPS. Four whole days without Internet access. One would think this would be a minor inconvience. After all, I made it through 18 years without Internet access. I remember the days of checking my email once every other week. But times have changed. Suddenly, I have to remember how to do all of the things I used to do without the Internet. Check my bank account, pay bills, plan preschool activities, renew library books, email Mom about Sunday dinner, check the TV guide to see if Numbers is a repeat.... I actually didn't make dinner one night because the recipe I wanted was online!

The modem arrived Friday afternoon at 3:50. It looks like something from Star Trek. Forty minutes of "easy setup" later, I was able to check my email. 38 new messages. Life as I know it is back.

Happily, I picked up the phone to arrange a sitter for Saturday night. There was no dial tone. So I called Qwest....


Wu said...

I loved reading this post. It has made my day all the better. I know it sounds awful that you having a difficult time could make my day good but it is all the humor you add. Kids running here and there and I have completely experienced the computer asking questions and me having to repeat myself several times. Anyway, I am so happy that everything is finally fixed! Give Isaac our love tomorrow and tell him "Happy Birthday!" We wish we could be there. love, Brittany

rachel said...

OH. MY. GOSH. I had wondered what you'd been up to. Is it okay to say that I hate qwest???? I mean, I really do. I cannot tell you how liberating it was one day to call them and tell them I was canceling everything (they didn't know how to handle that actually, they begged us to come back) for months they sent us great incentive plans, etc. but we are through...wow apparently I feel strongly about this...

Andelin said...

LOL! Thanks for sharing this story...now I know NOT to go with Qwest when we finally upgrade to high speed (we're still in the dark ages with dial-up! argh!)