Eight days after launch, when the Wi-Fi was fixed and the hassle was over, the silver-haired man who fixed it stood in our foyer and proclaimed: In his entire career, he said, this was about the greatest challenge the he had ever asked. Of course I thought about my teeth.
Taking in his assessment — awash with emotions ranging from pride (aren’t I special?) to shame (surely I caused that) — was akin to what my former dentist’s receptionist had said when her boss said, he’s retiring forwarding paper files to new dentists. “I wish you the best,” I told her as I left the office for what I knew for the last time. “I think your file was about the fattest in our office.” She said to me. I pretended to laugh.
Surely we figured when the streaming of “Better Call Saul” was cut off one night it had something to do with the heatwave and impending power outages. But it couldn’t be quite that black, because our lamps were still burning. The landline was down and the computers, like grumpy teenagers, pushed aside our frantic efforts to connect. The ominous red light on the modem blinked. (Just typing the word “modem” takes me to the extreme limits of my technological understanding.)
Every few minutes there would be a faint bong sound and the modem’s three lights would turn green, prompting us both to scurry to our desks in hopes of getting some work done or returning an email. Three sentences in, another bong sound – not all bongs are created equal, we’ve learned – signaled one of the lights had gone red again and our email wasn’t going out, our phone didn’t have a dial tone. From the start, it had been a see-ya-later for Netflix; We didn’t even try to watch anything on our smart TV for the eight days it’s been speechless. .
On the third day we accepted the fact that it wasn’t the heat and one of us (not me) accepted the lead role in this drama: as a besieged he had the privilege of making the first contact with the provider; swing your machete wide to make your way through the jungle of phone messages; to try to follow the “Have you checked this or that” requests from the customer service representative; all the time trying to explain to this representative what is wrong. Don’t – I was deep into this process twice when the phone went kaflooey (not a technical term) and the call broke. After devoting at least two hours to this process on a Friday, he generously let me do the job.
I waited until Sunday, after five days without internet, thinking it would be quieter than Monday morning when the remote workers were making demands. In front of the Masterpiece Theater it was time to move. I went through the phone prompts and finally reached an empathetic woman who was well trained to tell me she felt my pain. If I had told her that my laptop had jumped off my desk, flew through the air, and hit my head, I think her reaction would have been the same (“I can understand why you’re feeling frustrated”).
She was very nice, especially when I played the age card and told her we couldn’t replace the modem ourselves. I was hoping she would portray us as a couple of retirees who had nothing better to do than to file a class action lawsuit if their company exhibited even the slightest level of age discrimination. She promised to dispatch a repair person on Tuesday.
Monday was quiet, only interrupted by numerous text messages from the supplier asking if we were sure, if we could confirm, if we really needed a repairman… or maybe just cancel and forget the whole thing? We got stuck in there. When I couldn’t carry the phone to the shower, I asked the other member of our household to listen for messages from the provider and to respond without hesitation if there was another question if we still needed help.
And then the show started. From Tuesday through Thursday there were three different technicians/repairers/miracle workers, each with seemingly more experience. We offered them food and drink (they all said no), tried to appear optimistic about their chances of success, and thanked them profusely.
I think the first guy thought he fixed it. But as soon as he left and we locked the door behind him, the modem lights started flashing red, then green, then red again, sort of like a neon sign outside a Broadway girlie club. The last guy, inside out and up and down the pole, came two days in a row. He didn’t just drop in; Each visit lasted six hours. If this escalation had lasted longer, the company president might have been on our doorstep.
craftsmen came and went; the dog barked; the dog has made himself comfortable. Head office was called. Every part of the system has been replaced. At one point it was theorized that we live too far away from where signals are sent out. We have lived here for 49 years; had wifi for at least 10.
As the last of the guests in tool belts was working, we both snuck off into corners and chatted about other companies to sign with. But this guy tried so hard that it seemed ungrateful to just say, “Thank you, but we’ve chosen Lucky Joe’s dollar-a-day internet.”
On the eighth day, a Thursday, the lights were still flashing red and green alternately, and the last man standing (and climbing and repairing) shook his head in desperation and said he was going to replace one more wire, even though he knew someone before him it had already been replaced. We sighed.
Maybe we could go to smoke signals. Who needs to read things other people tell you to read? Who needs to send the dog a picture of the rash? Not only is it patriotic to patronize the USPS, but penning a letter is fun. Is it really that important to know that your second cousin had a baby the same day his dog died? There are already many recipes for apple pie on my cookbook shelf.
He fixed it.
When he ended his sit-in with us, he was standing in front of the front door. And while I showered him with gratitude like pouring maple syrup on hot pancakes, he returned the favor by telling us how hard it was, which I knew meant how special we were.
Which brings me to the dentist. Don’t worry, I won’t go into dental stories with the level of detail I used to describe our computer problems. Suffice it to say it’s a long story, from the time I was almost a girl to now when I’m almost a crone. Many thousands of dollars have been invested in my choppers, the money goes hoping my teeth don’t do it, goodbye.
I can see that there were comical aspects to this — for example, having a temporary fall out while I was talking to one of the San Francisco mayors was particularly funny — but mostly it made me miserable. The medicine cabinet is packed with brushes, string, picks, thread and toothpaste. It was a lifelong guilt for spending more time eating than flossing.
Somehow it’s easier to accept that it’s all my fault than to accept that it’s coincidence. And so it is with our computer problems. I’m sure it was me who pressed one of the many keyboard keys that resulted in an instant abort message to our system, clicking this or that and destroying everything. This machine looks at me – while the dentist is looking into my mouth – and shakes its head.
You really expect me to fix this?