By lex, on April 25th, 2006
Because all of you are clever readers, comfortable with technology (not to mention tasteful aficionados of the world wide web’s most delectable blogs) you may find yourself sympathetic to my plight last weekend: The Internet was broken, and it was up to me to fix it.
We all have our roles to play, our own contributions: The Kat spends great, huge clots of the family lucre on horses, the filthy beasts. The Biscuit creates beautiful paintings, when not stewing in closed-door, slope-shouldered, adolescent sulk-juice up in her room. Actually, she paints beautifully even then. The Hobbit cooks wonderfully sumptuous gourmet meals in the kitchen – you don’t get a body like mine by ignoring it – and treats with tender condescension (bordering just this side of contemptuous derision) any attempt to augment or supplant her primacy there.
And I? I fix the Internet, gentle reader.
(It is no one’s task to clean and order the three-car garage sufficiently to permit the parking of more than one – admittedly large – motorcycle, apparently. But anyway.)
Some of the more uncharitable of you might interject, quite sensibly on the face of it, that the Internet should be a very hard thing to break. It was, after all, designed to ensure the free flow of information in a nuclear war, for all love. No failure of a single node can bring down the whole network, the information gets re-routed. You can’t stop the signal, Mal.
Well, pardon me for saying so, and I hope it doesn’t impact our friendship, but couldn’t that mean that you’re being just that little bit parochial? Because what if that one single node was yours. Rather than ours. What if – quite suddenly – your wireless network… wasn’t?
Well, I’ll tell you what if: In a cruel, cold and disconnected world – a place, in other words, lacking all access to dizzying array of IM chat windows, not to mention mind-numbingly endless pages of multiply thumbnailed, slump-shouldered adolescents striking ironic poses on MySpace profiles, in a place like that, well – All eyes are upon you, and the message those eyes convey is clear: Fix it. This is why we keep you.
This is a task I usually accept gracefully, with a song in my heart even, secretly knowing that it usually means nothing more than unplugging and re-plugging the Apple Airport Extreme base station. A brief flicker of white lights on the front, and hey, presto! A hero!
Except, nothing. Meh.
A reboot of the DSL modem, perhaps? Worth trying but, alas, to no effect. A full system reboot? Nix. Wrinkled brows gave way to pursed lips – using the Mac’s internal diagnostic software seemed almost like cheating, but then again – there were those eyes. Watching me. Evaluating me. Weighing my measure, like.
Airport – green light. Airport settings – green light. Network settings – green light. ISP – green light. Internet – FAILED. Server – FAILED. Sadly, none of my admittedly meagre Mac kung fu could turn those stubborn red lights back to green.
Which could mean only one thing: Calling Tech support. I know, gentlemen, I know – calm down. I only ask that before you metaphorically heave me into your psychic sorting bin composed of failed technological metrosexuals for having had to use a lifeline – before you do that, I ask you to think of those eyes: Those multiple pairs of dark brown eyes, watching. Evaluating. Measuring, like.
Hard though, I admit: Calling tech support is akin to admitting failure. It’s not only self-abnegation, it’s something very close to humiliation, complete with voice prompts: “If you are an idiot, please say ‘yes.’ If you’re not sure, please say, ‘I’m stupid.’”
It’s worse, if that’s even possible, than getting lost in the car and having to ask instructions – in your car at least, no one has the temerity to ask you if you’ve got the damned thing plugged in. But on the other hand, there is a non-trivial risk that you might, while troubleshooting through the arched hallways and echoing chambers of your machine’s operating system, find yourself in a very dark and lonely place, with no hope of ever getting back, short of a full system re-install. Which no one wants to risk.
And then there were those eyes.
So, I dialed-in to God knew where, fully expecting to hear a mellow and very slightly accented Indian voice speak to me from out of the depths of the dark hole of Calcutta, or Bangalore maybe. I must admit that I am intrigued by the notion of all these upwardly mobile young Indian technophiles, anglicizing the names they use on the phones, working through the cold watches of the night in close company with other intelligent young people while their traditionally minded parents toss and turn fitfully through the night in their traditional sleeping wear, wondering what the next generation is going to come to, what with all this moist, humid, unchaperoned vocational proximity. I imagine cigarette smoke and overhead fans, stolen moments on the balcony during breaks. The exotic smells wafting up from the humanity-laden streets below, up through the open windows, scents of seared skaprak, covered in deeprak shlautoo.
Yes, of course I made those up.
Early in a tech support conversation, soon after we reach the point where we have established that the machine is in fact plugged in – huh – the support agent will try to talk me into a reboot:
– Like I haven’t fricken tried that already.
– Please, sir. Do it for me. I want to hear the chime.
– Oh, awright. *Bonggg*
In the leaden time that follows after, with the machine booting up, I’ve a moment or two to exercise my innate curiosity and ask my most pressing cultural questions. Questions like, “What time is it over there?” and, “Where exactly are you?”
Now, these folks tend to be pretty sophisticated, and, not wanting to sound like a geography-challenged American, I’ll usually pretend to know what city he or she is talking about, when they tell me. Except that this time, when the machine was booting up, instead of a city somewhere in India, my support rep told me she was speaking to me from the Philippines. Which, placed in the context of “getting tech support” for anyone who’s never actually been to the Philippines, surprised me just that little bit, even as it explained her very slight, but clearly non-Indian accent.
“Really. So – where exactly are you in the PI? What city?”
“Sir,” hesitatingly, “we’re not allowed to talk about that.” Which is a probably sensible policy, since there’s every chance that a perverted serial killer could be in fact masquerading as tech support customer who can’t be trusted to know whether or not his machine is plugged in, but who will attempt, using Hannibal Lecter-like leaps of technology assisted intuition, to track down hapless tech support personnel in order to satisfy the dark and beast-like cravings in his cold, gristled loins if only he might be told what city they’re in!
It all seemed rather unfair, since she had access not just to my telephone number, but also to my home address, credit card number, spouse’s maiden name and, one presumes, my browsing habits, if not my actual shoe size.
Now, this was a phone company tech rep, since the phone company-provided DSL modem had this suspiciously blinking ATM status light – color me credulous, but I never did really believe that the actual Internet had failed, and if I had ever had any responsibility for asynchronous transfer of data, such had never been explained to me before. But along with denying my evil alternate persona the urban targeting data he so desperately hungered for, my tech rep had also obviously been taught to deny even the possibility that anything might be wrong with the company’s gear. Uh, uh. No way. No sir. I felt like I was talking to a personal injury lawyer at a San Francisco fender bender.
It was probably my router, she explained.
Except of course, that I had already bypassed the router and gone directly to the machine’s ethernet jack – hands up who’s still reading at this point… thank you – so that was pretty unlikely.
And so it went for the better part of an hour, with myself proposing theories about what might be wrong, and herself helpfully shooting them down in sequence, while offering little in the way of advice or encouragement, and regretfully insisting that third-party wireless systems were not supported, very sorry. My line check was reading zero though – would I like to try another reboot?
I told her, no, not so much, while priding myself on resisting the overwhelming temptation of asking if there was anyone in India I could speak to.
We rang off shortly later, herself promising to do what she could from her end, and no doubt secretly pleased to be rid of me, while I? I had to deal with the eyes. Someone waved a magic wand stateside the next day however, and I gratefully accepted credit for his work after waving my arms across the screen and mumbling some suitably mystical incantations.
Because it’s important that, even if I cannot actually fix the Internet, that I at least be seen to have done so. Just disregard that little man in the phone company truck.