Aug 11, 2007

The Golden Age Of Wireless*

Just to start this off, let me say that I am not technophobic. I'm also not an uber geek. I'm just one of those middle-of-the-road guys when it comes to being able to swim in the modern waterways. I can hook up the components of a computer and troubleshoot them just a little bit, but I don't know diddly about networking and I doubt I could build one from bits and pieces. I know a lot about home theater systems and used to build my own speaker enclosures but I can't do the algebra necessary to figure out the perfect interior size.

I tell you all this to give you the frame of reference necessary to understand why I never set up the voice mail on my cellular phone. And before you start lambasting me for it, I've already heard it all from my syster, who in between gnawing on my arse and laughing at me told me that her voice mail is the first thing she sets up on any new phone she gets.

See, I bought a new cellular phone, oh, last November? I got a good price and the cheapest plan available from Cingular directly off their website (you can't buy the $59 a month plan in stores ever) and bought one of those sleek SLVR L7 phones. I got it mostly because I didn't want another flip phone. I'm bad on flip phones, you see. I'm also geek enough to admit that I bought it because mine in black looks a hell of a lot like the Monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey. I never said I was completely free of geekdom.

Well, somehow, things being what they are and me being enthralled by a new toy, I never set up my voice mailbox on my phone. And I didn't know at the time that Cingular gives you about fourteen minutes from the time you activate your phone to set up your voice mail before they shut off an "unused system feature" from your plan. It don't cost more but I guess they figured that I wasn't a True Believer and therefore didn't need voice mail as I hadn't bothered to set it up in the first three minutes of ownership.

About a month into enjoying music and the internet and making phone calls on my own personal 1:4:9** block of technology I realised that I hadn't gotten any voice mails but a lot of missed calls, and looked into setting up my vmail. Easy enough--the manual said to press and hold the "1" key until it beeped, and follow the voice prompts to set up a PIN number. And this is how it went:

IRRELEPHANT: *pressing and holding the "1" key
SLVR: *BEEPS* and display reads "Calling voicemail"
IRR: Ah, good deal.
ELECTRONIC VOICE: Voice mailbox. Please dial your ten digit voice mail box.
IRR: *puzzled but undaunted, dialing my ten digit phone number*
EV: I'm sorry, but that is not a valid mailbox number on this system. Please dial your ten digit voice mail box number.
IRR: *thinking a fat-finger dial had happened, dialing my phone number again*
EV: *In a rather snide voice* I'm sorry but that is not a valid mailbox number on this system. Apparently you're a sodding idiot. Goodbye.
SLVR: display reads "Disconnecting"
IRR: *fuming and yet strangely depressed, hanging up phone*

Now, I am one of those people who hates computers who try to fake being people, and I REALLY hate it when they're snide. So, I forgot about it.

For about a month.

Tried again. Same problem. Tried again the next month. Same result. Repeat about once a month for eight more months, whenever it comes to mind. And yes, I'm that stubborn, and mule-headed, and if there's nothing I hate more than snide computer generated voices it's not being able to figure out something painfully simple like setting up voice mail on a phone that is supposed to have an idiot-proof system.

So a few days ago I finally gave up and went online to find some help. Found the Super Idiot Proof tutorial that insisted that all I had to do was press "1" and follow the prompts. Pfui. I'd walked that road ten times at least and never found the end, so I knew that wasn't the answer. Which left me with Tech Support.

I hate Tech Support. Those people are trained to help kindergarten level users, not people with half a clue, and I hate feeling like a retard, especially to someone with an accent so thick that it sounds like they're talking through a bottle of syrup. But, I've dealt with Tech Support before. You're listening to a guy who has spent an hour and forty minutes on hold with Packard Bell (not HP but Packard Bell, back in the days when everyone from GM to Colt Firearms built computers) for a malfunctioning computer for my mother, only to hear from a recorded voice that Packard Bell was now out of business and that I was S.O.L.

So. I dialed, expecting a snide computer voice to tell me that I was important to them but my hold time from this point would be measured in days, and got...a person! Granted when he read his little spiel from his Cingular Fanatic Customer Support binder (v 1.04) and said his name (Vasupala Punjab Deevidhullighandi) I sighed deep in my tired soul and knew it was going to be a long phone call full of me saying "Excuse me?" and "What?" until one of us got aggravated enough to hang up on the other.

Seems Cingular's new mission statement is to deliver extraordinary customer service. I know this because Punjab kept asking me if he was doing so. I just kept saying "yes" because he had my account open at his brown fingertips and could do me some expensive cellular damage if I balked. So. He kept typing on his keyboard and reassuring me in that soft sing-song Hindi voice that it was no problem to get my voice mail reactivated, I kept hearing the Windows XP critical error/full stop "bloink" sound and he kept apologising for making me wait. I kept telling him it was no big deal and he kept tying and I kept listening to that strange background murmur you always hear when dealing with a whole mass of little honey-brown people talking into open-microphone headsets while standing around the Ganges River shooing flies off cows while working on fat American's cellular phone accounts.

And finally, with one more "boing" noise and the soft low of a Brahma cow he told me I was ready to go and asked yet again if my experience had been incredible, orgasmic, beyond all compare. And yes, I had to admit it was surprisingly fast and that I didn't so much mind the sound of hundreds of women with kohl-rimmed eyes and saris murmuring in my ear while the Ganges burbled and the cows ruminated in the background but that now, truly, the proof was in the pudding. I waited just long enough for him to say "What? Excuse me?" to hang up on him. Score one for the fat American.

After I hung up I pressed and held the "1" key to set up my voice mail account, fully expecting to hear that snide CG voice again, but this time she simply asked me to enter a PIN number that I'd never forget ever and to record my name and to ask politely if I wanted to record a clever, personalized message for people to hear when they miss me on the phone or if I preferred a snide computer-generated voice that was preprogrammed at the factory for me.

I was tempted to ask her if they had anything in a soft sing-song with maybe some cows in the background, but settled for a "Howdjado?" and "Leavemeamessage."

* with thanks and humble bow to the wizardry and creative genius that is Thomas Dolby.

** a little sci-fi geekery there: 1, 4 and 9 are the squares of the first three numbers which is the ratio of the dimensions of the 2001 Monolith, proof of hyper-advanced alien craftsmanship.*** You REALLY gotta read the book if you haven't.

*** and no, I have not measured my phone to verify these dimensions, I'm just going on faith that someone at Motorola has a great sense of humour.


meno said...

It's always an adventure to call "customer service." You never know what will happen.

Nice cow noises.

You are SUCH a geek.

Scott from Oregon said...


Irrelephant said...

Thank you, Meno! I'm quite proud of my cow noises. I can do a heck of a Rhode Island Red, too.

And I'm rather proud of my middling geek status!

Scott, guilty as charged, but hey, at least I'm hung like a horse.

Jean said...

ummm... your last comment to Scott just made me totally forget what I had planned to say here.
Now... what to do with that image just planted in my head ;)

Scott from Oregon said...

geek tripod!

Jean said...

Scott... bwahahaha!

Nancy Dancehall said...

But is it full of stars?

Anonymous said...

Your mom is full of stars.