My oldest daughter is normally a calm person, but sometimes she can be very stubborn. No idea where she gets it from.
After some odd decades of slamming into various brick walls, most of them metaphoric, I’ve become somewhat accepting of things getting fouled up, especially mechanical or electronic things. My laptop hinge breaks, I hook it up to a monitor -- now I’ve got a desktop computer. That’s just the way it goes. My lawn mower explodes? I get another mower, and write a column about it. Or five.
Our new laptop computer came with wireless internet capabilities. I had this fantasy of sitting on my front porch, answering e-mails and enjoying the mild spring air (assuming spring ever comes), even though I knew it would probably never happened. We’d received a wireless modem when signing up for DSL – I hadn’t asked for one, but who am I to argue?
Now I had a computer that could actually go wireless, and … it didn’t work. It detected the signal, but wouldn’t actually hook up to it. There was some button pushing and cursing (by me, not the computer), both unproductive. Then I shrugged in that fatalistic way I have, plugged it into an Ethernet cable, and away we went at high speed. No big deal.
Until my oldest asked to borrow the laptop. She took it to her apartment, where she has the same modem that I do, and was able to get it to go online – wirelessly. Excited, she brought it to my place and to show me how to work it, which produced – nothing.
I needed to get some stories e-mailed to the newspaper (because it’s a whole block away, and heaven forbid I should actually walk there), so I was prepared to let the whole thing go and try another day, which would probably have been never. If I can’t stop the leak from my bathtub faucet, why should I believe I can make an electronic device that’s smarter than me do what I want?
But boy, do I ever have a stubborn daughter. She wanted to call – wait for it – tech support.
I tried to explain to her that asking tech support for help is like asking Adolf Hitler to respect your borders, but she’d hear none of it, and against my better judgment I let her make the call. In no time at all, a customer in Indiana was talking to a technician in India. Me being a supportive dad (plus it’s my computer she was trying to fix), I stayed with her, instead of getting my stories sent out on Old Reliable, my ancient Mac.
For an hour and a half, I stayed with her.
I know lots of people in lots of countries. Most of them are smarter than me. Now I know a lady in India who isn’t. For instance, when Charis explained that we can’t get a wireless connection, she suggested hooking up the Ethernet cable.
Excuse me? Can you say “Wireless?” Nice try.
Charis repeatedly went around with this lady about whether it’s a problem with the way the computer is set up. How can this be? We’d had it online wirelessly at three other places, by then. In fact, it went online so easily that it was almost Mac-like in its simplicity; only at my home is at acting all Windowsy. (Leave me alone, I can make up a word if I want to.)
So finally the lady asked me to authorize her to control my computer. Those of you who don’t worry about viruses and spyware should take note of this: A brain-dead tech support person in India proceeded to take over of my computer. We were sitting there, watching the mouse move around all by itself, opening and closing windows, typing in instructions, ordering pizza. From India.
And the lady couldn’t figure out how to get me a wireless connection from ten friggin’ feet away! After awhile we realized she kept doing the same thing, over and over, expecting a different result, which as we all know is the legal definition of insanity.
All the while she lectured about how the wireless card has to be turned on, or how we might not have the right software. An increasingly frustrated Charis kept explaining to her that the SAME COMPUTER went online just fine, using the SAME MODEM, at her place.
My other daughter and I started to back away, slowly.
Pretty soon we realized the lady was actually into DOS, the computer’s holiest of holies inner control, typing in funky commands like “BOOTC://SCRWDUP”. I kept waiting for the laptop to start spinning around and spit pea soup at me.
It was all over when Charis demanded to speak to Bill Gates.
I kept hissing at her, “Let it go! She’ll screw it up so much we won’t be able to go online anywhere!”
I saved a lot of money that night, heating the house from the steam coming out of my daughter’s ears. But the good news is, our laptop can now go online wirelessly, anywhere it can detect a signal.
Except my house.