Coffee heat rising

Back again…temporarily?

What’s more annoying than a punch-a-button phone maze? A robot that answers the phone!

Qwest’s DSL connection went down around 8:00 this morning, just before I left for work. After dinner tonight, I called the Philippines in hopes of finding a tech who could figure out how to fix it.

Make that “I tried to call the Philippines.” All of Qworst’s online tech help appears to be based in Manila. But you can’t get to them without trudging past a robot gatekeeper animated with a peculiarly infuriating smug voice. By the time I reached the first live human — get this: after the oily robot actually cooed “hold on while I make a note of that”!!! — I was so enraged I could barely speak.

So now I have this Filipina techie on the phone and she’s asking me how the DSL contraption is acting. Following what is clearly a canned routine, carefully enunciating a script, she guides me through a number of little tests: disconnect and reconnect this, that, and the other. These require me to climb on top of the desk and fiddle with the gadget, because I can’t pick the gadget up easily because the cords, which are too short to start with,are snugly tucked in along the back of the desk to keep all that junk off the floor. Many of the connections are invisible to me, even with my head upside down and jammed up tight against the wall. But none of these experiments work, anyway.

Next she gets me down on the floor, upside down under the desk. “Unplug the telephone line from the wall socket and plug it back in,” she says.


Not surprisingly, this strategy disconnects me from the Philippines.

I call back and get the same enraging robot. By now I’m so angry I’m choking and so the robot doesn’t understand what I’m trying to say, possibly because some of it isn’t printable. I slam the phone down and dial “0.” Applying a superhuman effort, I stay polite long enough to ask the operator if she could please connect me to a human being. “Sure,” she says: and connects me right back to the same effing robot!!!!!

By the time the robot ran me through another 8 or 10 minutes of the same enraging hoops (asking questions that the live human would soon repeat, again), I was so furious I found it extremely difficult to be courteous to the poor wretch who finally picked up the phone.

He now starts to repeat the same series of instructions, word for word, that his compatriot so recently fed into my ear. I explain that I’ve already done those things and none of them worked. I also explain that unplugging the telephone from the wall causes the phone to disconnect. He, being smarter than the average bear, says, “Well…do you have another cordless phone in the house?’

Uhhmm, yeah. Duh!

“Go get it,” he says.

So now we disconnect the phone line from the wall socket and reconnect it, to no avail. DSL is still nonfunctional.

He concludes the unit is broken and says Qworst will send a new modem, which is to arrive on Friday. Once this wonder gets here, I have three weeks to return the old one or be charged a hundred bucks for it. I express my appreciation for this charming demand and the graceful terms in which it is couched. I also suggest to him that if he is earning less than $20 an hour, he is being underpaid and he and his workers should unionize and demand a decent wage.

He says he’ll make a note of that.

I say, “Here’s how you spell it: h-u-e-l-g-a. That’s v-i-v-a l-a h-u-e-l-g-a! Then, so infuriated am I at the maddening robotic hoops and the barely competent customer service, I remark that after three interactions with Qworst’s smug robot, I’m beginning to understand what motivates people to wrap themselves in explosives and blow up corporate headquarters.

So, I expect the next post you read from this blog will come to you from Cuba.

All this notwithstanding, the DSL mysteriously came back online, which explains why this last post is reaching you from Arizona.

How hard is it to have a human being pick up the phone? And what makes the executives of a faceless corporation think a) that anyone on the planet wants to be run in circles by a smug-sounding robot voice, or b) that even one of its customers is so stupid as to believe “your business is important to us” when they can’t spring for the subminimum wage required to have a nice citizen of the Philippines answer the G.D. phone?

Tomorrow, assuming I’m not riding a black helicopter to Guantanamo Bay,I intend to find out what’s involved in switching to Cox. Can I even get a cable internet connection without having to sign up for cable television that I’ll never watch? If so, can I get out of Qworst’s nonservice? We shall see.