Thursday, August 23, 2012

Conversations with a Robot

When Dylan and I moved into our house in 2007, we argued over garden plants and paint color (what exactly is wrong with a bright orange living room anyway? We live in Tennessee, for God's sake. Come the redneck zombiepocalypse, an orange-painted living room will be the equivalent of the animal blood over the doorframe thing during the plagues in ancient Egypt), but we were on the same page about one thing: we were going to keep our monthly expenses low. I don't know how many of you have lived on a grad student stipend, but "living" is a generous exaggeration of what you can do with that amount of money. I didn't have a job lined up when we arrived, so we wanted to make sure our monthly liabilities were as low as possible. To that end, we eschewed such modern comforts as cable or satellite TV and smart phones and, much to the phone company's dismay, got the cheapest cell phones and cell phone plan possible with no data, texting, or whatever other fancyschmancy phone thingys I don't know the name of because my household is living in 1995. We also downgraded from the cable Internet we had in Davis to DSL...and that brings me to today's tale of frustration and futility...

About a year ago, our Internet started to slow down. Suddenly, pages were loading line by line and images were taking a good 5 minutes to appear if they showed up at all. I had a brief moment of nostalgia for the good ol' dial-up days (Oh my God, do you think that hunky hunky boy whose e-mail address I creepily stole from his best friend has answered that 1000 page survey I sent him? I wonder if he got the super subtle reference to him I made under number 96: who's your dream date? Oh teenaged Megan...I kinda want to take you out for ice cream and then drive you to a back alley and beat some sense into you). Nostalgia lasted about as long as it took me to realize I could no longer load my mommy message board (White people problems! Holla!) and then it quickly gave way to a wrath equal to that of a toddler who's caught Mommy eating the last of the Thin Mints behind the freezer door...not that I've ever done that...

Dylan called the DSL company (not to name any names, but it rhymes with Schmay-T&T) and they spent about 45 minutes telling him that nothing was wrong and it was allllll a baaaaaad dream. Shhh, little Dyl-Dyl, ignore the bad phone man in the corner stealing all your money and go back to sleep. When the husband proved impervious to hypnotic suggestion, they agreed to send a technician out. He did some fancy wire-splitting somethingorother and gave us a new modem for free because (and I quote), "The one Schmay-T&T sent you is a piece of crap," and that seemed to solve the problem.

About a month ago, however, the Internet started going out altogether. Every evening like clockwork, it would shut off at 7 p.m. and every morning it would come back on around 10 a.m. This time around, the outages were even more annoying, because apart from mommy message board-type frivolities, we were now also using the Internet in the evenings for Dylan's dissertation work, certain semi-secret writing projects for me, and, most importantly of course, to stream episodes of "True Blood" and "Game of Thrones".

Thus began a series of amusingly futile phone calls to what I'm pretty sure was an Indian robot built from used parts of old flip phones and named John/Brenda/Sam.

First John/Brenda/Sam told us nothing was wrong and it was allllll a baaaa -- but Dylan had heard this story before. The robot's next move was to run the very technical and important beep-beep-boop-boop test during which I'm pretty sure all s/he/it did was surf Facebook and intermittently make beeping and booping sounds into the phone for the next 5 minutes. Surprise! The beep-beep-boop-boop test revealed that nothing was wrong and it was alllll a baaaaaad...yeah...again, my persistent hubby (God bless him) was having none of that, so John/Brenda/Sam's next move was to tell us that our modem was busted and s/he/it would send us a new one for the low low price of $99. This seemed a bit fishy since we'd just received a brand spankin' new modem from the technician last year, but we agreed to give it a shot on the condition that we could send it back if that wasn't the problem.

Guess what? That wasn't the problem.

So a few nights later, Dylan called his ol' buddy John/Brenda/Sam back and, after spending 40 minutes on hold listening to the same terrible elevator jazz song over and over again (seriously, Schmay-T&T? You can't even vary your hold music? I bet you could train another used phone robot to sing a variety of 98 Degrees tunes pretty cheap), John/Brenda/Sam told him it was allllll a...well, you know...and then s/he/it ran the beep-beep-boop-boop test again...and then s/he/it finally agreed to send a technician out for the low low price of $99.

So the technician came out and he did some fancy wire thing and the Internet ran great...until 7 p.m. when it slowed down to download speeds not seen since the Clinton administration.

And thus...Dylan got to spend another evening on the phone with his robot buddy. Here is roughly how that conversation went:

John/Brenda/Sam: Thank you for calling Schmay-T&T! My name is Sam. I am definitely not located in Bangalore. I am also not a robot made from used flip phones. How may I frustrate you?

Dylan: Our Internet has been really slow for the past month and you guys have sent us a new modem and sent a technician out and that hasn't solved the problem.

John/Brenda/Sam: I don't know what slow means.

Dylan: What is this, an Excedrin commercial? How can you not know what slow means?

John/Brenda/Sam: What is slow? Who am I? What is the meaning of life?'s running at 0.3 Mbps...

John/Brenda/Sam: Beep beep boop boop Beep beep beep BOOOOP. Nope, you're currently receiving 1.13 Mbps, sir. Will that be all?

Dylan: No! Listen, I am running your speed test right now and it says 0.3.

John/Brenda/Sam: Well, sir, high speed Internet is really unstable at such slow speeds.


John/Brenda/Sam: 1.13 Mbps is really slow and so through the magic of underground cable gnomes you are receiving 0.3 Mbps instead.

Dylan: Okay...can we upgrade to a higher speed DSL?

John/Brenda/Sam: No, I'm sorry, that doesn't exist in your area. Will that be all, sir?

Dylan: NO! Listen, we can't even load an entire page. We have received 1.5-1.7 Mbps in the past. I need this service so I can work in the evenings.

John/Brenda/Sam: What is evening? What is time? Are we all just grains of sand on a cosmic beach? need to come up with a way to fix this.

John/Brenda/Sam: Well, sir, for $99 I can send you a new modem.

Dylan: What the f---? Were you not listening to me? You've already done that.

John/Brenda/Sam: Okay, well, did you know, for a different $99 I can send someone out to stare at the DSL jack in your wall for 30 minutes, then move a couple of wires and call it a day. How's that?


John/Brenda/Sam: Can I interest you in a new modem?

Long story...well...long...guess who's getting cable Internet? As it turns out, if we dump DSL and our long distance plan (which we keep trying to dump because who needs long distance on a home phone anymore, this isn't 1995, but Jim/Susan/Dave, a cousin of John/Brenda/Sam made from returned DSL modems, keeps telling us that through the magic of unbundling, we'll actually lose money that way) and change our Netflix subscription from discs to streaming (we didn't do that before because our Internet was TOO SLOW to stream), it'll be the same cost. And we'll be getting 12 Mbps. 12. Not 0.3 or even 1.13, but 12. Now, I have no illusions about Schmomcast being much better than Schmay-T&T in the customer service department, but at least I've got a man on the inside. My dad works for them, and he is most definitely not a robot made from stolen satellite dishes...I think...

Poor John/Brenda/Sam is going to be so lonely without Dylan to talk to in the evenings...


  1. This is just the post I needed after a L-O-N-G phone call with a certain national banking chain on Friday. I think it was the 5th representative that actually told me I did not know my own social security number and hung up on me. Thank goodness they all sounded like they were from the Deep South (which thankfully I was born and raised in and therefore speak) instead of India. "How may I frustrate you?" OMG, spot on.

  2. Hmmm, was it Schmank of Schmamerica? Because if so, I feel ya. Oh boy, do I ever.

  3. Lol! This is so spot on! I am glad that you can write and/or laugh about this mess instead of being ticked off and giving yourself an ulcer!

  4. Oh my God. White people problems. Dying over here! Welcome to 2012!!