4 min read
What’s the most luxurious perk you can imagine? A boat? A plane? Your own masseuse? For me I can’t conceive of anything that would place me in the top tier of the pampered more than having someone else call the cable company for me.
To not have to burn up hours of my life routed through a tortured connection in Bangalore, just to reach a guy whose name can’t possibly be Phil, who promises me everything is now okey-doke just before the line goes dead… well that would be a taste of heaven.
You can have your toys, money, women and power – if I never again have to feel myself growing old waiting on hold, just to reach a boiler room where an “advisor” tells me to have a super, wonderful rest of my day… for that I would trade my soul.
Well good news! This week I figured out a way to do just that. Not trade my soul but get my own expert personal assistant to wade through the storm drain of modern telecommunications for me. It was easy, obvious and I don’t know why I didn’t think of it sooner. Oh, and it was free.
I won’t bore you with the backstory but suffice it to say I took up AT&T on their offer to switch from U-verse to Direct TV. For those of you who are already laughing at me for sticking with such a primeval delivery system for my diversions… you’re probably right. The universe has a way of punishing those of us who refuse to evolve. Or stream.
Anyway, to make a long story short, along with the switch I was promised upgraded internet speed. So… a tech came by to work on my internet “box” out in the street but warned me that my service would be disconnected for half an hour. Fine. This was soon followed by a call from the tech who tells me there’s some kind of burnt-out panel or something. He has to bring in another guy. Shouldn’t take but an hour.
You already know where this story is going, right?
Six days later, still no internet and no one from AT&T is calling me. And neither the tech nor his supervisor return my calls. I’m convinced they have fired me as a customer.
Do you know how bad it feels when a utility company fires you? I mean, they’re the salt of the earth. It’s like air and water have decided you’re just not good enough anymore. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so adrift.
Also, some of you might be wondering what all this has to do with travel. There is no travel story this week. It was a shitty week.
Come Monday, I weigh my options. I have several numbers I can call. I try a few but the AT&T theme that plays over the phone brings up the gag reflex and I hang up. That’s when it hits me.
There is an AT&T owned and operated store nearby. Why don’t I just go there and explain the problem to them? Maybe they’ll take me back.
From the instant I made that decision… I won’t say I felt hope, but the sense of despair that had been growing all week lifted just slightly.
By the way, if you don’t think you’re dependent on the internet, try going a week without it. I was parsing my days into net and non-net activities. And where I could go to pick up a signal – libraries, coffee shops, my girlfriend’s. I was even mulling over the idea of offering my neighbor a few bucks for his password as I sometimes pick up his WiFi network.
But as I said, I was immediately drawn to the idea of real human contact at the AT&T store. If nothing else, they could explain why I had been banished.
First up: parking. They had a big, easy lot with many empty spaces and it was free. I tried not to get my hopes up. Then, as soon as I walked though the door, Boris caught my eye and invited me to sit at a tall table with him. Boris was kind and oozed confidence. I immediately felt I was in good hands with Boris.
I spilled out the whole messy tale. U-verse to Direct TV. A promise of upgraded service. The tech. The burnt-out panel. The sheer terror of abandonment and loss of connectivity. I emptied my soul and then looked at Boris like I was a later day Blanche DuBois, dependent on his kindness.
Boris nodded. He had seen people like me before. I could tell he wanted to help. With his easy smile, his smart phone, scanner and iPad, he went to work, calling mysterious AT&T numbers. Connecting with his cohorts, he gave them his special operator’s ID. He talked with them, he frowned, he conferred and then moved on to more specialists.
And me? By degrees I slowly tuned him out, letting him do his thing as my thoughts drifted away from the internet for the first time in a week. My breathing slowed as I realized someone else was now taking possession of my personal hellscape.
The Good Life
So, this was what it was like to have a personal assistant. I let Boris do the mind-numbing work as I happily wandered over to look at phone cases.
And then Boris got disconnected! Wow, it even happens to the pros. No matter, he just dove back in, assuring me with his smile.
After about a half hour of this – talking, dealing, haggling with specialists, Boris called me over. The tech people were doing a line test and would fix my service remotely. With that reassuring smile of his, Boris told me to go home, my internet should now be up.
I was grateful, I was happy. But, I still wasn’t convinced. What if I went home and the internet still wasn’t working? Boris wouldn’t be there.
In that case, he gave me a service number I should call. I looked straight at him and said if my internet wasn’t back I wasn’t calling any number. I was done calling numbers. He had ruined me for calling numbers. If I didn’t have a signal he’d be seeing my face the next day. He laughed and said fine.
So the next morning, when I went to see Boris… well, let’s just say no one was surprised. I brought my iPad with me. I figured, why not? They at least owed me the WiFi signal I had been deprived of all week.
I opened my iPad and started checking emails and the assorted things I do to start my day. Boris picked up where he had left off the day before, trying again to pinpoint my internet problem. We both went about our business, as one would in a busy office. I pretty much forgot I was sitting in an AT&T store, with other customers milling about.
I looked over at my new helper – this was all working out. My goodness, life was so much more efficient with a personal assistant. Plus, Boris was an expert. He knew all the monsters who lurked within the labyrinth and would negotiate a clear path toward my salvation – in this case, a good WiFi signal.
And, he didn’t cost me a dime! I finally felt, probably for the first time ever, I had gotten the system working for me. Do you have any idea how good that feels?
It was like harnessing the power of the wind. It had always been there, a foe, its cold blasts slowing my path. Now those same gusts were filling my sails, sending me aloft.
After a little while, I got myself a cup of coffee. I deserved a break. Boris, meanwhile hadn’t slackened his pace. He was working hard for me. I would give him a great Yelp review.
Putting down his phone, Boris told me he had arranged for a tech to come to my place to once and for all get the damn thing up and running. I thanked him, packed up my stuff and promised to use his services again soon. He laughed, we shook hands and I left with a bounce. I felt smart, in control - like one of those people running webinars promising your best life ever.
The next morning as I again pulled into the free parking lot, my thought was: this was starting to feel like a comfortable routine. I had replaced my iPad with my laptop and marched into my office – I mean store – greeting Boris with a big wave.
He looked concerned - had I not gotten my internet back? I smiled at his question and his genuine concern. It’s all good, I sang out. I once again have my internet. It’s just not the fast speed I had been promised. This, I told him as I opened my laptop and settled in to get some work done.
Is the coffee ready? I looked around and didn’t see any. That would have to change.
Here’s the thing, I told Boris: The tech had confirmed I could get the internet speed upgrade I had been promised (remember how this story began?) and it could all be done with just a simple reprogram at the central office. I just had to call in and make arrangements.
I had told the tech, I don’t do calls anymore, but would look into it. Thus, with Boris’ new marching orders explained, I held out my hands giving him his cue. He got right to work… as did I.
In truth, I hadn’t had an assistant in years. It felt good to be double teaming again – so productive. I looked over at Boris. He was nodding and typing, giving me the thumbs up.
We had a rhythm going – now if I could just find another free assistant like him to do my filing, doctors’ appointments, insurance claims… you know, the stuff we live for.
After a little while Boris waved to me. Yes, he verified, the upgrade was going to happen. 50 mps internet speed. He was sincerely happy.
My Man Friday
He had done it. All of it. He was a master. And I suddenly worried… his work with me was almost complete. What now of our partnership? All the team building we had done?
I didn’t want to let this relationship go. Where would I ever find a personal assistant like Boris again? And for free?
So I stalled. I started asking him about other things. Did he know of any good restaurants in the area? He seemed so smart and capable, he must excel in other subjects as well. Perhaps he could find a hip, little bistro and make Saturday evening reservations for me. No tables. I prefer a booth.
But it turned out restaurants weren’t his thing. As much as he knew about telecommunications, that’s how little he was informed on fine dining. I mean, he had a few suggestions but they were no more than two stars.
Still, I didn’t want to let go of my new assistant… good help is so hard to find… but deep down I realized my turn was up. Others were there, waiting for his services. They had their own complaints, upgrades and connectivity issues. And these days, don’t we all?
It was time to leave, to say a bittersweet goodbye to Boris. But I also realized we did have a future. Because I was soon going to be changing the plan for my cell service. Surely that will require extensive arrangements to made over the phone. Someone else’s phone.
I will be back I told him. And soon.
If you enjoyed this post please 'like' or leave a comment below, and share with friends.