Sunday, April 13, 2008

Stone Cold Turkey Goes Unwired - My Forty-eight Seventy-two One Hundred and One Hours Without the Internet

“Whaaaaaat?”My voice echoed in the distance as if I were watching my body from above, floating in a transcendent state somewhere between suburban reality and Lucifer’s tech support.

“The next available appointment we have is Wednesday between 10 am and 12 pm. Is that a good time for you?”

“Wait. Wait.” That falling feeling was back, the one with the trippy seventies music and cheap spiral effects in the background. “No,” I stammered, grabbing at neon swirlies in my mind. “That’s NOT a good time for me.”

“Ok,” the plastic-happy voice on the phone chirped. “How about Friday afternoon, between 2 and 4?”

“Whaaaaaat?” My cheap spiral effects were beginning to wobble. My precious lifeline was fading even further away. “Nooooo!”

“We’re sorry you’re having trouble with your service,” the words bubbled off Ms. Chirpy’s tongue like a well-traveled song. I wondered how many times she said it and how often she went to confession. “Is there anything else I can help you with today?”

Is there anything else she could help me with? I had started this long, strange trip at 10 am. It was now past noon on Monday. I believe it was the same Monday that I had called tech support, but after 5 transfers, several countries and a handful of dropped calls, I couldn’t be sure.

“Yes,” I said. “You can start by telling me what you’ve helped me with already. Because I don’t know what that is.”

“Well,” she burbled, “I scheduled you an appointment for Wednesday between 10 am and 12 pm. Would you like me to change that for you?”

Lovely Ms. Chirpy had a dark side. Beneath all her effervescence, she was obliquely threatening to lose my appointment. Speak softly and carry a big schtick.

“Please….no,” I begged. “I’ll be good!”

Thus began my trek across the desert wasteland of the unwired – no email, no blogs, no instant messaging, no life.

Some of the side effects are positive- I weed the yard, organize my closet, pick out my wardrobe for the entire week, make several four-course meals for my sons, clean out the junk drawer in the kitchen, repair a broken toilet, and give both dogs pedicures. And this is all by Monday night.

My fingers are shaking from lack of typing. I decide to lift weights to sap the energy from my idle limbs. I get the punching bag up in the garage and work out. But while my muscles ache, my brain is underworked. It’s buzzing and bored, ready for mischief. I snap at my kids, who hold a quick conference together in the next room before returning cautiously. “Mom,” they ask, “When will the Internet connection be back up again?” I tell them we have another day and a half to go. Their faces fall as they return to the other room to discuss their best options for survival. They head for bed a little early. I find out later that they planted motion-sensor stuffed animals in their doorways to alert them if I trespass.

I watch Law & Order reruns and do stomach crunches, hoping to eventually pass out. Frightened, both dogs sleep in another room. Around one am I turn the television off, but as I stare at the blank screen I envision my email inbox piling up. At 2:30 I hear the morning paper hit the driveway and consider going down to get it to catch up with the news. I decide that’s too pathetic and opt to stare at the ceiling instead. At six am the news comes on the radio. Desperate for mental activity, in my head I’m rewriting the morning dj’s schtick.

My beloved laptop is not at the breakfast table with us this morning. I try to fill the void by talking to my children, but that only frightens them. My oldest tries to lighten the mood by telling me I look nicer without the lcd glow on my face. They’re both ready to go to school half an hour earlier than normal.

Facing an entire day without Internet access, I begin to acquire new respect for the sturdiness of the pioneers. Instead of checking online, I actually have to go outside to see if it’s a nice day. I apply Windex to nearly everything on the first floor, then go out to the garage to box the punching bag again. Free weights and two loads of laundry follow, then a couple of phone calls to friends to see if the Internet has crashed without me. It has not.

While running errands, I’m stuck in traffic next to a cable-tv-phone-Internet technician van. I try to make eye contact with the driver. I give him my best ‘come-hither-and-hook-up-my-modem’ look, but he’s obviously trained to expect this. He averts his eyes.

A friend of mine has the cutest service technicians and delivery drivers on the planet. Now I realize why – they’re coming to our rescue, bringing order to our chaos, restoring access to online shopping. They are modern day knights in shining armor.

Only when mine arrives, he doesn't shine so much. Sweat yes, but no shine. He's new and has never seen this type of modem before, so he fumbles for quite a while. (I'll resist the obvious analogy to dating younger men.) Finally, after two and a half hours, a new modem and another tech guy, I'm back in the saddle. They leave. Of course my Internet connection immediately dies.

The next round consists of two more techies - older, more experienced, with more tattoos. They discover that the first tech team had inadvertently linked me into a neighbor's wireless connection. Oops. After an hour and a half, they blame my router and tell me to call the router manufacturer's tech support. Oh, and have a nice day. I return to the garage to beat the patootie out of the punching bag.

Day five - I try not to notice the new teeth marks on the headboard. I floss to get rid of the splinters. Then I bypass the router, linking my laptop directly into the modem to contact Linksys support via 'live chat.' (If that last sentence made your mind numb, you're not alone.) I reach 'Nirmal', whose name reminds me of 'A.B. Normal' from Young Frankenstein. We have a lovely conversation and are getting along quite well. Suddenly Nirmal tells me to connect my laptop to the router instead of the modem. The router isn't connected to anything, which means the chat I'm on with him will disconnect. I realize that he's trying to end what I thought was a meaningful relationship. He recommends I call someone else. Sigh.

A quick break to scream into my pillow, and I make the call to Linksys support, utilizing an interactive communication tool called a telephone. After two hours, a few terrifying 'hmmm, I've never seen that before's,' and a beer, we get it working. It's now Friday afternoon. I've numb from the week, weak from the numbskulls.

What was wrong, you ask? It seems the router's finger-pointing device was malfunctioning, enabling the modem to acquire an IP address lower than Paris Hilton's IQ. By setting up a new network of unsupportive support personnel, we were able to delete an entire week of my life. If you want more specific information, you’re not Nirmal. And you should be happy for that.


packsaddle said...

This is one of the best pieces of literature I have ever read.

Great work, Annie!

Jug said...

Too funny Annie.

Wench Lizzy said...

I can't believe you pulled through! I don't think I could have made it.

wickedwitch said...

Annie, I'm going to shock you now. I do not have a laptop nor any form of home computer. I work on one in my office 10 hours every day. Life is possible without an Internet connection. But only with several prescriptions of tranquilizers, antidepressants, mood stabilizers and three weekly sessions with the psychologist. I'm glad you were able to avoid the above and get back up and running relatively (in technician-speak) quickly.

Annie said...

Update - I've gotten 4 'how'd we do?' phone inquiries so far from my Internet non-provider, all automated calls. The first 3 I hung up on, too angry to speak to them. On the last one I gave them the worst rating possible, filling up the 'comments' recording to the point that it hung up on me.

My 9-year-old was right in my face during the call. When I asked him why, he said, "I wanted to see you swear, Mom." He didn't.

Anonymous said...

It's definitely true that cute tech guys that come to your house and make you laugh make this horrible procedure slightly easier to handle.

Perservere, Annie, there are cute ones in your neighborhood too. :)

Kristina said...

Wait a minute, Paris Hilton has an IQ? I guess even zero is a number.