Last Friday my DSL pooped out. I was happily surfing around WordPress blogs, clicking from one to another, when my final click took me to a note in big bold red letters informing me I was not connected (it didn’t say DISconnected, but NOT connected).
I’m a logical person when it comes to cause and effect. For instance, a few years ago I took Halcion to get some sleep, and after four days began hallucinating, not in a fun way. The doctor who’d prescribed the pills told me it was “coincidental.” I threw them down the toilet. End hallucinations. So when my DSL died on an innocent click, and I hadn’t touched a single wire, plug or gizmo, I figured Earthlink went temporarily out of commission. Not to worry, I told myself—they’ll fix it by morning. It was late at night anyway, so I turned off the computer and went to sleep.
Next morning I clicked Firefox’s red and blue planetary-looking icon—and got the same bold red message. Hmm. Earthlink hadn’t fixed it yet. The phone rang: it was my daughter, telling me the reason she hadn’t e-mailed for a few days was that her DSL, also provided by Earthlink, was down. She lives in LA, and they’d told her they were having trouble in California. She also described her fruitless phone interactions with the staff in India—Earthlink outsources their telephone workers to India and the Philippines. I hate to sound like an American chauvinist pig, but it’s bad enough I can’t understand technospeak, I also have to interpret English as a Second Language when I call for help (not to mention my political objections to corporate outsourcing). For that reason I figured, if California’s down, I won’t bother calling, I’ll just wait for them to fix it.
I decided to look upon my lack of connectivity as a kind of vacation. I’m always complaining that the Internet, email and blogging eat up my life; now I’d have time to read and do all the other things I used to do. Somehow it didn’t work out that way. It was like the times when I quit smoking and try to save the money in a jar; I can never seem to find that money. Likewise, the time I usually spend online simply disappeared.
After a three-day holiday, my DSL was still dysfunctional. Just before the meltdown I’d been emailing back and forth with a woman who wanted to hire me to do some ghost-writing; I began to fret that I’d lose the gig. I went to my son’s house to check my email, but other than 177 messages from various companies selling sexual aids, I found nothing of great import. Next I checked my blog stats: the graph line was in freefall, my hits moving in a steady declination. Disloyal ingrates, needing fresh meat daily! (The way I’m dragging out this story, the disloyal ingrates aren’t going to come back even with fresh meat.)
On Monday I began having three or more daily conversations with aforesaid workers in India. First they told me to put in a new jack wire. I argued that I’d done nothing to the wire or any other piece of my setup, and besides, weren’t they having trouble in California? They insisted the problems were only in LA, and that my problem was uniquely mine (read: fault). Not having jack wires hanging around, which surprised them, I had to hang up and go borrow one. Of course, it changed nothing. Next they made me push a paper clip into a hole in the modem and jiggle it around. “Should I disconnect it?” I asked, wondering if I’d get electrocuted. “I’m pretty sure you won’t,” said India. This did not inspire great confidence, but I took a deep breath anyway and jammed metal into metal, jiggling it around. The two out of four lights that were on went off. I was transferred to somebody higher up on the food chain.
By Thursday I’d made a complete circle from Customer Service to Billing (they took this opportunity to remind me of my unpaid bill) to Senior Tech Support to Installation and back around again. Some time during the course of these maddening conversations someone noticed I’d recently changed my phone number. Of course, I’d already told them this six or seven times, but somebody finally considered it significant. He told me to call my phone company and make them change some sort of record so the DSL could be connected to my new number. I dutifully called AT&T, who had no idea what I was talking about and told me I was out of my mind. By this time I was.
I seem to be omitting from this account—which I fear is as boring as it was to live—my reactions. I confess I had several emotional breakdowns. Sometimes I screamed. Sometimes I cursed, but as little as possible, since I’ve learned that if you curse on the phone the worker will turn the whole issue into your profanity and ignore the reason for your call. Sometimes I just can’t control myself.
There were another two or three calls to India before I hit upon a human being who knew what she was doing, and who I actually understood. Veronica was a joy and a treasure, the first person I’d spoken to in four days who took responsibility for the company. She did not make me change the wires. She did not make me stick pins into the modem. She did not make me call other utility companies. No, Veronica assured me she would have me connected within five business days. A long time to wait, but hell, at least—and this bears repeating—she took responsibility.
I settled in to wait the five business days until I‘d rejoin the universe. Last night, on a whim, I clicked the blue and red planetary icon, and up popped my Google page, complete with horoscope and baseball news. Now here I am, blogging away to my ungrateful, disloyal readers. Hello out there! How ya been? Did anybody miss me?
I wish I had some profound life lessons to impart from this experience. I wish I could say I read a novel or three, wrote up a storm, and got reacquainted with friends in real time—but none of this happened. It’s somewhat disturbing to think that I spent more than fifty years on Earth minus link, yet was thrown off by a week without the Internet or email or blogs. I smoked just as many cigarettes, ate just as much chocolate, and drank just as much coffee. I wish I knew where the hours that I usually spend online disappeared. I suppose they’re in the same place as the money not spent on cigarettes and the socks that walk out of the dryer.