I Warned You Not to Touch That

Tag: technical support

Technical Support

by on Oct.31, 2009, under Essays

Any third grader knows the difference between computer hardware and software.  When I think of hardware, I think of things like shovels, electrical outlets, and rubber flappers for my toilet’s mysterious bowels.  I suppose you could add nails, picture hangers, and wingnuts to that list.  As many times as I’ve looked into my computer, I’ve never found any of these items.  I think the term hardware is an egregious display of language misappropriation.  Another example of computers taking over the world. 

Now software is a different thing all together.  In terms of language usage, I have to give technology first dibs.  It only makes sense that other areas of commerce steal this term from the computer industry.  After all, fair is fair.  Linen superstores are a natural.  All those fluffy terry cloth towels and million thread count sheets.  That’s what I consider software.  Perhaps a nice cashmere sweater.  When you think of it, emollient names could sound better too.  Lancome Primordiale skin software.  Condoms?  Maybe not.

I have modest abilities when it comes to troubleshooting technical problems with my computer.  I’m proficient at taking the cover off and peering down into the pile of circuits, wires, and lights.  Give me a can of spray air and I will gleefully blow all the dust and other toxins back into the atmosphere so I can breathe them again.  If I see anything obviously wrong, like a leaking hose or broken fan belt, I might take a stab at fixing it.  Actually, that’s not entirely true.  I feel these matters are usually better left in the hands of a professional. 

Recently, I decided to delve into one of my computer’s vexing software problems.  It was a small matter but one I felt compelled to address before the warranty expired.  I called Microsoft.  Things went well at first.  After a mere twenty minutes pressing different menu selections to route me to the correct area, I reached Angela in the Atlanta call center.  It’s clear she’s well trained in the art of customer service as her goal was to get me off the phone as quickly as possible.  Period.  She didn’t care how she accomplished it, as long as it was fast.

There are many ways they can get rid of your call.  If telling you the call is being recorded for quality assurance purposes doesn’t do it, they’ll put you on hold for the weekend.  If you’re still there on Monday, they’ll fake a heart attack.  If that doesn’t work, they’ll go with a proven winner.  Transferring you.  I don’t mean transferring you to a different unit, like the military.  I’m talking about, with a few deft keystrokes, sending you across the planet to India. 

I didn’t realize I was being sent there at first.  When Angela assured me she was going to connect me to someone who specialized in my problem, I assumed she’d be sending me to Fred down the hall.  Evidently, Fred no longer works down the hall or even in the same building.  In fact, his entire department is gone.  Cost-effectively relocated to Bangalore, India.  Things in Bangalore are a little different than they are in Atlanta.  Despite some small differences (cuisine, clothing, standard of living, government, time zone, mores, culture, currency, language, religion, etc.) we have one common thread.  Technical Support!

My first clue that I’m not in Kansas anymore is the greeting from my new best friend.  “Hello, my name is Rajib.  I’m here to provide you with excellent service.  What version of Windows are you using?”  To be fair, I don’t care if I’m being transferred to Satan, as long as he can fix my problem.  My beef is having to repeat, ad nauseum, all the wondrous details about my computer, tax bracket and shoe size.  I just spent twenty minutes browsing through the menu options and submenus to connect to Angela.  If these were the right choices, why not connect me to Satan in the first place?  Oh.  Because Angela would no longer be needed?  All right.  I guess I could bear a small inconvenience so Angela can feed her six kids.

So here I am with Rajib.  A time of new beginnings.  Of tremendous hope.  We are in the honeymoon phase of our relationship.  I’m not sure Rajib feels that way, but I do.  He’s polite, well trained, has a good job and possibly his own six kids to feed.

After asking me to repeat, for the third time, all the details of my troubling situation, he asks me to check some of the settings on my computer.  He’s like a doctor whacking my knee with a mallet asking, “Does it hurt when I do this?”  Once all the settings have been verified, I’m asked, “Would you mind if I put you on hold for a minute while I check something?”  I hate that question.  I really do.  If I say I don’t mind, I’m tacitly accepting that Rajib (training, politeness and good intentions aside) hasn’t the foggiest idea how to solve my problem.  This sad realization comes after investing four hours of my life in the matter.  I’m sure there’s a legal term for that, like tempis fugit.

So I wait, listening to the white noise of celestial satellite connections.  Finally, after watching hell freeze over, my accomplice returns with a bold new plan.  He asks, “Would you mind if I took over your computer’s desktop?”  He’s going to magically transport himself into my office?  I thought he was in India.  I’m in my pajamas.  He reassures me, “I’ll only have access to the extortion notes you’ve written, dark neurological wanderings and lascivious leanings even your therapist doesn’t know about.”  Well, I guess that’s okay.  He asks me to close any programs I’m currently using and click something that hands things over to him.  My computer.  To a complete stranger.  What if something happens and technology can’t return it to me?  Given that my alternative is waiting on hold for a few more days, I let him run with it.

I must say, it is impressive.  Someone ten thousand miles away breezing through my desktop like it’s his own private desk.  He effortlessly opens and shuts all kinds of windows and doors.  He looks in the attic, junk drawer, even under the bed.  Damn this guy’s good.  He knows where everything is in my whole house and he’s just met me.  Finally, after he dug up pesky old Mrs. Goodhue in the back yard, he asked, “Would you mind if I put you on hold again while I check something?”  God.  Now I’m terrified.  I know he’s calling the police.  Maybe Interpol.  He’s probably sending the Pac Man virus to nibble through the maze of my sorry excuse for a life.  I consider slamming the phone down but he still has control of my computer.  I’m stuck.  After I agree he says, “It may take me a few minutes.” 

A few minutes.  That’s how long it’ll take Rajib to destroy the very fabric of my being.  All those years of hard work have come down to this.  Rajib from Bangalore, opening up my life like a can of tuna.  I begin quietly gathering a few personal belongings.  I guess I won’t be needing my complete twelve volume copy of Favorite Usernames and Passwords.  Can I at least bring a picture of my beloved dog, Bubbles?  This is torture.  The waiting.  My nerves are shot and eyes sandy from hours staring at my monitor. 

At last, he returns.  Judgment Day.  He tells me, “I’ve spoken with my supervisor about this problem.”  Yes?  Your supervisor.  Okay.  Well, tell me.  Please.  The suspense is tearing me up.  Then he says something I never expected to hear.  “I want you to know that I’m assigning a case number to the matter and that I, Rajib Ghandi, am taking ownership of this issue.”  He’s taking ownership.  You mean I’m getting off with just a reprimand?  What do you mean ownership?  Like a time-share?  He continues with, “I’m going to escalate things and someone who specializes in this area will be contacting you within forty-eight hours.  When would be a good time to reach you?”  No wait.  Please.  Don’t leave me.  I’ve got seven hours invested in our relationship already.  God, Rajib.  I’d hate to have to start all over with someone new.  He’s so good he’s already anticipated my concerns when he says, “Don’t worry.  I’m preparing a trouble ticket so you won’t have to repeat all this when our specialist calls back.”  A trouble ticket?  That doesn’t sound good at all.  Within forty-eight hours?  What if I’m out?  As if he’s psychic he adds, “I’ll put you in the system and someone will call you back at an agreeable time.”  Yeah right.  With my arm now atrophied and ear molded to the shape of my telephone’s receiver, I’m forced to accept defeat. 

And what about Rajib?  I’m sure he wanted more from our relationship than this.  He relinquishes control of my computer and promises me an email highlighting the details of our time together.  I worry about my new friend.  Lying awake, drenched in sweat on a hot Indian night.  Mosquito net keeping all but a few of the man-eaters at bay.  A fan swirling the dusty hot air so that it cakes to his skin.  All the problems he’s taken ownership of.  The trouble tickets stacked in his virtual inbox, like so many mouths needing a nice hot curry.  I take comfort in knowing, with a small enterprise like Microsoft and my very own case number, I’m not likely to slip through the cracks.  It’s true it has been a few years, but I’m sure I’ll be hearing from them any day.


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