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"And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." - John 8:32
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Author:  Larry Simoneaux
Bio: Larry Simoneaux
Date:  October 1, 2006
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Topic category:  Other/General

Beyond here be dragons.

Iím a tolerant man. Kind to animals. Compassionate. Slow (well, compared to some) to anger.

I fully admit, however, that Iím adverse to change. It took years for me to move from a typewriter to a computer because I wanted one that was the electronic version of a hammer. That is, a basic tool. No frills. No gadgets. Just something to record keystrokes, make corrections, and not crash at the first sign of an electronic hiccup.

Iíve had a dial-up modem for 9 years and it works fine for me. When I finish a column, I connect to the Internet, compose an e-mail, attach the file, and send it to my patient-beyond-words editor. All of which makes me, in the eyes of my family, a dinosaur.

They need to "download" things and send "digital this and that" to all of their cyber buddies. This need has led them to pester, harass, and torment me to no end.

So I recently gave in and ordered a "high speed" Internet plan and all of the assorted stuff necessary to bring me "up to date."

On ancient sailing charts, there used to be warnings that said: "Beyond here be dragons." Such warnings marked the edge of the known world or places where ships had entered and never returned.

The term "up to date" in reference to anything in the cyber jungle has the same meaning for me.

Shortly thereafter, everything arrived along with pamphlets telling me how "after only 3 easy steps" Iíd be blazing (their word, not mine) around the Internet on the electronic version of an 8000 horsepower, nitro-methane fueled dragster.

That was two nights and three tech-support people ago. The last one Ė when I finally hung up Ė was most likely curled into a fetal position and convinced that heíd just encountered Darth Vaderís evil twin.

You see, after receiving the package, the only thing that went well was the inventory I took of its contents.

Even though I followed the instructions precisely, all too quickly there came a screen that said: "Dave, Iíve detected a problem. Youíll have to go outside the ship to fix it."

No, wait. That was Hal. What my screen said was that there was a problem that needed to be fixed but, before we could continue, I had to enter a password. Unfortunately, I couldnít enter a password because a password could only be assigned at a later part in the installation.

Still being a reasonable human, I called the 24/7 tech-support line. There, it took approximately 6 menus and 39 (but who was counting) verbal prompts to finally reach a living, breathing entity.

(Note to CEOís everywhere: If you want to earn the undying gratitude of everyone whoís had to wade through the morass of automated answering systems, put a human being on the switchboard and watch the accolades roll in.)

Anyway, as I remember, my responses to those prompts went something like this: "No." "Yes." "New customer." "Installation." "Tech Support." "Good grief does this ever end?" and, finally, "Iím going to strangle someone if a human being doesnít pick up this phone right now."

"Good evening, sir. What seems to be the problem?"

After explaining the situation, I was told to connect to my browser.

Patiently, I explained that I couldnít because the installation program was frozen and waiting for a password I did not have and could not get.

The next words are among those that can cause rational men to begin sharpening axes and looking for tech-support people everywhere.

"OK, but go ahead and connect to your browser."

"What part of ĎI canít because it wonít let meí donít you understand?"

"Just try."

At which point, I hung up and went outside to bang my head against a tree. I called back later (going through the same menu jungle) and spoke to another member of the tech-support team. Same dialogue. Same ending. Same tree.

The third call was a replay of the first two although I did manage to get the wastrel on the other end to agree to send me a new installation package before I became somewhat cranky and ruined his entire evening.

For now, however, Iím now back to my dial-up modem. Which, by the way, still works just fine.

I think it was the late Soviet Field Marshal Georgi Zhukov who once said that "Better is the enemy of good enough."

Believe me, I understand exactly what he was getting at.

Larry Simoneaux

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Biography - Larry Simoneaux

Larry Simoneaux is a regular columnist for The Everett Herald in Washington state. He is a retired ship driver for the US Navy and NOAA.

Read other commentaries by Larry Simoneaux.

Copyright © 2006 by Larry Simoneaux
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