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Lightning Strikes! - a True Story for the Bored Stiff

Date/Time Permalink: 08/11/06 10:28:50 pm
Category: General

Ah, Iowa in storm season! If the tornados don't get you, the lightning will! We had a rather strong lightning storm blow through yesterday morning. And - silly me - I was trying to work in it. When the flashes and crashes got too frequent, I saved my work and got up to comment that I was going to wait to finish to see if the storm made the power blow. No sooner were the words out of my mouth than it was so. The power was only off for a minute, but it was enough.

In a three-computer household, a power hit means that I have to scurry around the house for thirty minutes restoring order to the boxes. First Mandriva recovers by merrily giving me a 5-second countdown to check the disks, which I have to be there to hit 'y' to for both disks. Then Slackware, which I have to boot with a floppy, and it comes up indignant at this outrage of having its power interrupted and labors through both disks repairing Inode tables, grumbling all the while. Slackware is the only distro I've seen where you feel like apologizing to it when circumstances beyond its control cause it to fail. Last, the mostly empty box with a grml live CD and half of a Linux From Scratch install, which means I'll have to work back through the book's instructions setting variables and user names again.

I sit after this and twiddle with a game of Nethack, deciding to wait out the storm before trying to get anything constructive done. The storm's nearly over, when one last bolt seems to strike the house itself. The window flashes blue and the crackle is instant, so it was either a direct hit or very close. The hair on my arm frizzes, the neighbor's dog howls, a basement light bulb explodes! A battery-operated toy on my desk lights up and beeps and starts walking all by itself!!! Freakishly, only certain circuits in the household shut off this time. Again I must reboot two machines, and after that, I discover that the DSL modem gateway - our only Internet connection - is kaput; surge protector be damned.

And so we discover the joy of getting our ISP to ship a new gateway. The first two calls get routed to some offshore call center. That's OK, I know that outsourcing tech support is a fact of life - but neither of these guys understands or speaks a single word of English. I don't mean that their accents are bad. I mean that they clearly had NO UNDERSTANDING of what I was even calling about, but they gamely forged ahead anyway, ignoring my increasingly distressed tones, while completing some kind of transaction whose nature remains a complete mystery to this moment. I think that, as far as I can pin it down, I either ordered a raspberry bedroom linen set from Ikea or signed up for a bonus travel miles plan. The third call miraculously gets an English-speaker! I have her look up the account, where she tells me that no activity has happened at all. The first two calls really did do nothing. So here we go into the third time telling the story.

Yes, the modem is dead. Yes, I tried unplugging it and plugging it back in. Yes, I tried holding in the reset button. No, the lights aren't red; they are dark. No, the lights don't blink, they are dark. No, I mean dark, as in the opposite of lit. I'm waiting for it to turn into the Parrot Sketch ("It's merely pining for the fjords!") when the tech support at last arrives at the conclusion that the customer really does know a dead router when he sees one.

We begin negotiating for a new model. Would I like this feature, that feature, this new package, would I be interested in their maximum-sales-commission offer? Anything will do for me, as long as it's here fast. I work online, I plead; there are websites waiting for my content and clients taking their business elsewhere as we speak! After hours of wheedling and begging, I am told it will be here by tomorrow morning.

Tomorrow morning comes. And goes. No router. Noon, we begin the first of what will prove to be six calls in a marathon router-watch that stretches until seven PM.

On the first call, I am actually relieved to be told that I'll be getting it by way of UPS. My relief is because if it were a service tech from the telecommunications company proper, I would then have to throw my body between him and the computer and assure him that I'll install it myself, thanks. Otherwise, I'll be denied service because I run Linux, which they don't support. You'd think I have drugs in the house and a cop at the door, as defensive as I have to be about being sure Linux and my monopoly-biased ISP service tech never meet. A UPS guy will care for nothing but a signature.

Mysteriously as the hours wear on, we find out that though they have sent it UPS and that they can assure us that it's "on the truck", they cannot find out the tracking number for us so we can ask UPS what's going on. Don't you love it when UPS can't help you without the tracking number, and they're the only ones who know the tracking number and they won't tell you what it is? I resist the temptation to start guessing tracking numbers at random on the off chance that we hit mine, through call after call as the sun goes down.

Finally, we solve the mystery when they report that it's BEEN delivered, but no package has arrived here. Turns out they got the address wrong. (Bear with me: like you, when I call my ISP, I have to draw a deep breath and rattle off my name, number, ADDRESS, and permission to access my account data at the beginning of EVERY SINGLE CALL to the ISP, or they are not allowed to help me. Yet, it wasn't until call number seven that we asked them to read the address that they have back to us and discovered the mix up.)

As my brain slowly tries to hide itself by oozing down my spinal cord, I find out the address the new router went to and map it. Yeah, verily, it's only about six blocks away! They got dyslexic with the numbers, is all. Turning the tables of telephone service call rules, I leave THEM on hold for a change, while I simply fly out the door and run to the house it went to.

Turns out to be a nice couple who, yes indeed, have my box. I flash my ID to show a name matching the box label. They only got it twenty minutes ago. The lady is positively bemused; she asks "How did you know it was here?" At this point, exhausted, panting, and sweating in the fine Iowa post-storm humidity, I have energy to do naught but eye her levelly and say, "Madam, where there is a will, there is a way.", before vanishing in a cloud of inscrutability.

Oh, and the model they sent was a completely different one from the one that they said they'd send. It's an older, cheaper downgrade, and I'm looking forward to being billed for the newer, more expensive upgrade. I don't know which I love better, Iowa storm season or my darling Internet Service Provider!

Down, not across.

The fun ending to this saga.

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