Monday, October 13, 2008

Ninth Circle of Dell

At times like this I almost miss my typewriter.

I spent four hours in tech support hell on Friday, spending the time being passed around from techie to techie like a hooker at a bachelor party.

I’ve logged enough time talking to India to give me jet lag and frequent flier miles; I’ve got a crick in my neck from holding the phone against my shoulder and a crushed ear from pressing the receiver to my head.

The only thing l don’t have is a working computer.

After months of mild misbehavior, my Dell desktop finally went berserk last week, switching off without so much as a by-your-leave, which was one of my mom's expression that I thought I would bring out for this occasion.

The computer liked to torture me, coming on long enough for me to think it was okay and then keeling over right before my eyes.

I’d hit the power button a few times, the thing would power up, I’d feel confident it was okay and then—poof!—it would croak again.

Usually I handle these things with a combination of blind fury and mindless hope. After cursing the fates for a couple of minutes, I become baselessly optimistic, figuring if I just give the machine a rest, it’ll come back to normal—as if my computer is suffering from Montezuma’s revenge or a bad migraine.

It was really bad this time and I knew I had to crack down and call tech support. I know this means hours of waiting, talking, fiddling with the machine’s innards and trying to decipher the accents and the techno-babble being drilled into my head.

The Dell bunch also likes to sell you stuff, which I find most irritating. (Maybe they should call themselves “Sell.”)

That’s like trying to sell a drowning man a year’s worth of swimming lessons. Yes, I’m sure they’ll come in handy some day, but you could pull me into the damn boat first?

The first time a guy talked me into buying ink cartridges. Fine, I was out of them anyway and could have really used them when my aunt and uncle were here last week.

Okay, so I buy the damn ink, they put me on with tech support, the dude takes over my computer. It’s weird watching your cursor come to life and shoot around the screen; I felt like calling a priest.

The guy messes around for a bit and pronounces my computer ready for the world. Great, Internet here I come.

And then it craps out on me again.

I’ll call back and the next guy offers me the special tech support—not the regular support we give the losers, but the super secret, top-of-the-line, bells and whistles, first-class tech support…for a nominal fee.

I got a little mouthy at this point, insisting to talk a techie and not a peddler. The next person, a woman, tries a bunch of stuff, and determines that it’s a hardware problem and sets me up with one of their local repair people.

I find out the guy works during the day and takes off weekends…kind of like me. But we agree he’ll come to my house on Friday at 6pm and work his magic. I dash out of work, leaving God knows what in my wake, and find the guy on my stoop.

This Won't Hurt A Bit

Naturally the computer is in the one room in the house that I didn’t clean up, so this poor bastard is stepping over clothes, books, boxes, shrunken heads, artificial limbs, and several tons of dirty laundry, including my underwear.

I go out to the living room and shudder with embarrassment.

The guy replaces the burnt out motherboard, I throw him 20 bucks and I’m ready to get back on line.

Only I don’t have any Internet connection. None, zip, zilch, never heard of it, how did you get in here anyway? So I call the techie on his cell (sell?) and he tells me to call support.

All right, I don’t complain. It shouldn’t be long. So I call the number—I’m not sure where Verizon is—and the woman starts giving me a series of tasks to perform.

I feel like a guy in an airplane being talked down by the control tower…only I can’t find the runway and the pilot just dropped dead.

Finally, she tells me to call Dell.

“Wait a minute!” I wail. “They told me to call you!”

So the Verizon woman calls Dell for me, puts me on with yet another techie, who takes over my computer once again—I feel so violated!—and opens the thing up like the medical examiner carving up a corpse on Law & Order.

I had that damn phone pressed to my head for hours. I give the guy credit, though, he tried everything to get me back on line. And finally—he did it.

“I see that your computer is very slow,” he tells me. “Have you considered getting additional memory…?”

He means buying additional memory, of course, but I’m so happy to be connected I say sure, though I draw the line when he tries to sell me some traveling memory unit.

Enough already, pal, huh?

But then I see that my Norton 360 security system is not working. Surfing the Internet without this protection is like going to Vegas without condoms. You may have fun, but you’re liable to catch something very nasty.

“I’m going to give you a number,” my salesman techie friend says. “For Norton—”

--no, please don’t say it, please—

“—technical support.”

More geeks? Are you kidding me? I can’t handle any more disembodied voices floating around my skull; I can’t keep telling the same story over and over again. It sucked the first time and has not improved with the re-telling.

But there was no getting around it. And since I had wasted my Friday night anyway, I decided to finish this thing once and for all…for the time being.

I called Norton tech support, left a number, a nice young man working somewhere outside of Manila called me back. He, too, took over my computer—Jesus, I’m going to get a bad reputation—and tries to make small talk.

“I see a picture of a woman on your computer, sir,” he says. “Is she your wife?”

“No, she’s my aunt,” I say, “but I’m sure she’ll be very flattered to hear that.”

We laughed, talked about politics, both here and over there, where, my buddy tells me that in the Philippines “we have a lady president.”

Finally he tells me I can leave and he’ll finish up. Great. The next night I go online to write a blog posting about how my computer was resurrected and now I’m back in the game.

And it crapped out on me yet again. I've got ink cartridges, additional memory. I just don't have a computer.

I’m writing this now from another location and the traveling techie is supposed to come by my house this week with another new part.

He’s not getting a tip this time and he doesn't fix my damn computer, I’ll be on the next plane to India with a Louisville slugger on my lap.

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