Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Cumudgeon begins to vent

Before a volcano erupts, scientists tell us, there are often warning signs: Tremors, sudden land level rises, steam or gas escaping from fissures in the ground.

I'm going to erupt, I think, pretty soon.

But let's start with the small stuff. The petty aggravations. The kinds of things that had me red-in-the-face, eyes bulging, hot under the collar furious before 8:30am yesterday.

Then, later this week, time (and Internet access) permitting, we'll get to some of the stuff that's really making life complicated in the Curmudgeon family.

Oh, yes, I begin with Internet access.

I've already told you how I moved this month from the Undisclosed Location about 35 feet straight up to the Teeny Tiny Law Office. Actually I still haven't surrendered the keys to the old location, but that day draws near.

One of the smoothest parts of the move was the transfer of our Internet service. In the last several months, we've had enormous difficulty with the Internet -- we were off line between August 24 and September 20. We fired our former ISP (who may yet sue us) and went with a large, well-known phone company (we'll call it AT&T) because our tenant had enjoyed reasonably reliable service with that company.

Note: "had enjoyed." Past tense.

We've had all sorts of troubles since. In January, I wrote about how our Internet had gone down and come back for no apparent reason. At one point, you may recall, I thought we were stealing someone else's wireless signal. We weren't. My remaining colleague in the Undisclosed Location had bought a new router with a wireless feature. Somehow, we were accessing the Internet via the unsecured wireless signal instead of the cord plugged into the wall. Days of my life were lost in trying to figure that out.

But moving the service had gone smoothly earlier this month. They turned us off on Friday afternoon. By Saturday morning I was plugged in here at the Teeny Tiny Law Office, reading the comics on line just like always.

In the middle of last week, though, my colleague received a voice mail advising that a technician would be coming out Monday to install our "new" service.

We didn't order new service.

Then, Thursday, I was working on line -- actually working, mind you, attaching a document to an email to be sent to another lawyer -- when the Internet went down.

I went ballistic.

I looked at our closet-where-the-wires-reside -- a much simplified version of the Rats' Nest of equipment that clogged the storeroom of the old Undisclosed Location -- and saw the blinking red light on the Uverse modem. I tried resetting it. That sometimes works, you know -- just unplugging and waiting a few moments and plugging back in -- but, of course, it did not work on this occasion.

I braced myself for the Passage to India.

Funny thing about AT&T Uverse. They provide one number for Ordering or Billing and one number for Ordering, Billing or Support. They put these on two different lines on the bill as if they were different numbers.

They are the same.

So before one can even get to India one must first run the gamut of bill collectors.

Our bill was paid up. AT&T wouldn't let me move my phone without clearing up not only the bill that was a day or two late -- they effectively held me up for next month as well, claiming they'd also not received the payment for the month before. This was total fiction. But the person looking at the computer screen in the AT&T Anti-Customer Disservice Center believes whatever flashes on that screen as if it were Holy Writ.

Anyway, to make the move, we had to be current on our bills and then some. And we were. And thus I was in no mood for some woman who sounded like she was auditioning for a Li'l Abner revival who tried to tell me that our Uverse bill was not one, but two months in arrears and, indeed, we'd been sent a disconnection notice. I kept my language moderate, if not my tone, meaning I eventually shouted her into stamping my telephonic passport to India.

But not before she punished me.

First, she decided that I was not authorized to talk to AT&T about this service. It's my service. The initial order, however, had been placed by my colleague who did put it in the corporate name that we formed for these shared responsibilities. The account "password" was the last four digits of my phone number. I've been the person making all the calls for repairs since the system was put in -- and there've been a few. But no matter. For purposes of "security," I had to be authorized to be on this account all over again.

Then, having grudgingly agreed to connect me to technical support so I could try and restore my service, she connected me to the AT&T Uverse "home" support folks, as opposed to the AT&T Uverse "small business" support folks with whom I was supposed to talk.

But -- eventually -- I got to go to India.

Whereupon I had to explain, all over again, how I'd tried all the steps I can try from my end to restore the connection. He tried all the things he could do from the suburbs of Mumbai (or wherever) to restore the connection. Eventually, after another hour of my life was gone forever, he finally conceded that a technician would have to be dispatched to make repairs. If the fault was in my equipment, I would have to pay; if it were on AT&T's end, I would not. And how, I wondered, would I be able to trust whatever was finally said? But I did not say it. And the Indian gentleman did say something about this service being scheduled for replacement next week, but I told him that was silly. We have service. We didn't discontinue service. We moved it about 35 feet vertically. He said a technician could come between 5:00 and 9:00pm. I said, as politely as I could, that this was a place of business (at least it had been -- now, it seems, it is merely a place where we grapple futilely with the technological marvels of the age).

As it turns out, declining to wait until 9:00pm proved to be a very good idea. But that's for later.

In the meantime, he suggested that someone would come by between 8:00am and noon on Friday and I agreed.

The man came by late on Friday morning, first trying everything that I had tried, with equal success, before disappearing into the building basement. Eventually, he returned. Someone had disconnected our service at that end. But he'd restored it. (Our tenant's service, thankfully, never went down during this time.)

Anyway, Friday, I had Internet.

I arrived at the Teeny Tiny Law Office early Monday morning, wearing blue jeans and a flannel shirt (yesterday being the official observation of Lincoln's Birthday, a court holiday in Illinois) prepared to clean my desk and hang my pictures and otherwise get more settled in and ready to do business going forward.

But I wanted to check my email first.

The Internet was gone again.

Rushing to the front closet -- the modem flashing red -- me flashing red -- eyes bulging -- roaring to the heavens.

I tried calling AT&T Anti-Customer Disservice. I couldn't get past the stupid, simpering computer voice who kept saying I was not entering anything he/it could understand. I punched zero, zero, zero, zero. But the computer stoutly defended its Anti-Customer Disservice staff from speaking to a crazed attorney.

There is an AT&T office building nearby my Undisclosed Location. I ran over there, in search of a human. The security guard was a nice, pretty young lady who looked carefully from side to side before telling me that there were no customer service people in that entire building and that she had discontinued Uverse herself because of its unreliability and poor customer service.

I couldn't yell at her now, could I?

Anyway, she gave me a different 800 number to try and I tried it. It still led to the same computer-voice Phone Hell. But I was calmer now and eventually was connected with a human. The human put me through to India. There I was told that my service really had been cancelled and that a new service was scheduled to be installed between 1:00 and 3:00pm. I tried to reason with him. I pointed out the absurdity of what he was saying. He made sympathetic noises. But -- it seems -- I am not authorized for this "new" account -- I didn't place the order.

Since no one did, I am not surprised.

But AT&T thought my colleague did. He had come in while I was howling into the phone and decided to go out on errands until matters settled down. So he was unavailable to set them straight.

Besides, in four or five hours, some poor schmuck would show up with orders to install a "new" service and we'd be back on line anyway. I could either spend that time pleading in Mumbai or hanging pictures.

I hung pictures. We're back on line. My colleague had left for a meeting by the time the installer showed up, so once again I was the point person for this wholly unnecessary transaction. But I'm not authorized on the new account.

Sometime later in the afternoon, one of the building engineers dropped off a flier for Comcast. Comcast, it seems, is moving into our corner of the Loop, hoping to compete with AT&T.

They should. I have Comcast cable at home. Their anti-customer disservice is at least as bad as AT&T's. And they charge a king's ransom for their execrable service. Indeed, the remotes on my cable box stopped working normally this weekend. They will still change channels, but the signal is not being received properly and one has to change channels one at a time. (And, yes, I changed the batteries.) With 500 channels -- and nothing on -- this gets old real fast. But I just don't have the heart to call them yet.

And all of this, aggravating as it is, isn't a patch on what's really going on.

But more about that later.

If, of course, I have access to the Internet.

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