Wednesday, February 13


file photo

• Broadband problems look to be repaired, as we've presently been connected for fifteen and one-half hours straight, tying the record set last Wednesday. In between were five calls to tech services, router replacement, port replacement, replacement of something in The Box, and assorted line repair "from the Other Side", which I take to mean "the office", though my Poor Wife's suggestion that any of several otherwise mundane occurrences ("didn't this all start just after it rained so hard/you got your computer back?") could be at fault had led me to look for Shamans in the Yellow Pages. You'd think a city of this size would have at least one, but if so they don't advertise.

Finally, we got a technician who had been here before. Of the four he was the one who'd done the most cursory work, and whose repair had proven the briefest, not that three hours versus four is such a big deal. I was in despair when he called ahead and reminded me of his identity, but it actually worked in our favor, as he was disinclined to do much beyond checking the line, which, as it turned out, was Still Fucked. So he explained he was calling in the INF, or the CRT, or some such band who turn out to be the Guys Who Climb Poles. At this point I had experienced what the uninitiated call "service" roughly 45 minutes out of the last 30 hours, and I figured it would be the next morning before I saw the guy, but he turned up an hour later, explained he needed to unplug service to every American telephone and telegraphic device in the house, and I almost asked him how much it would be to forget to plug them back in.

Then he drove off. Presumably he didn't like the looks of our local pole, and wanted to climb a different one. He retuned about forty minutes later, audibly fiddled with something in The Box, then rang the doorbell.

I invited him in for coffee. He came in but declined the beverage service. I think there must be an urban legend about doped repairmen waking up to find a missing kidney or a new job guarding a serraglio; oddly, the only guys who ever accept are plumbers. He wanted to see if the system would power up, but it already had! Empirically satisfied he proceeded to explain my week in the Intermittent 19th Century House:

"Well, I went up, and I had to set the Gain all the way up so I could see clear, and there it was, at the end of the line! There was an old Delmonico splice* there (this he indicated with opposed claw hands) which was fine if you were only running 18 or 19, but it's not gonna handle 22. "

"Dammit," I said. "That's exactly what I told 'em over the phone last Thursday."
* I don't remember what sort of splice he said it was. I should have asked him to write it down.

• This reminds me that I never got around to writing up my experience with The Apple Store as a pitch to the Sci-Fi Channel. It reminds me because AT&T phone sex operators are required to say, "This is so-and-so. How may I provide you with excellent service today?" Well, for starters, you can stop talking like that.

And because these people are forced to say this for eight hours at a sitting, it always comes out like a single word, which means it takes two or three calls before you start believing your own ears, which means you're already pissed off because your problem has taken two or three calls and still isn't fixed.

Okay, so you're way ahead of me. The world is run by people who are still working out their sexual frustrations from high school; otherwise they'd be off having sex instead of thinking up crypto-fascist slogans that couldn't possibly fool anyone and forcing everyone who works for them to repeat them over and over until they quit.   But then, if there's one thing the Sixties didn't accomplish that still has the power to shock (me), it's that shit like "And, if you act now, as our free gift to you..." and "Packed with Wholesome Goodness" still floats.

Then there's The Apple Store, which you are now required to use if you need covered service from Cuppertino, which I did. I bought that refurbished iMac back in January. It survived ten days. This is not that bad; after "never thinking again about it being refurbished", breaking down quickly is the best thing that can happen. Except now you have to go to The Apple Store instead of a local Apple-certified guy who is more concerned about repairing your product than impressing you with his nerd-chic fashion sense. Plus the store itself, to my continual amazement, is, whatever the day or time, crammed full of customers who are either there to admire the nerd-chic fashion sense of the people who work there or to get help picking out The Right iPod/iPhone for Them! instead of picking one up at Target for what I assume must be thousands of dollars less, judging by what Apple charges for memory.

I've owned Macs for twenty years, back when that engendered tiresome Ford vs. Chevy or VHS vs. Beta arguments, all the more tiresome because the people who take part in them are inevitably wrong. But it cannot be that way anymore, which is why walking into The Apple Store is like finding yourself at a Green Day concert in 1991 when you remember what real Punk was. Hey kids, nice to see ya, don't ever lose that utter cluelessness, okay? Luv ya just the way U R.

Anyway, what Apple figured out--and I have to give them credit for this--is the solution to the aesthetic problem that has plagued American business since we turned into a service economy in the 1970s, namely, how to provide service that reflects the truly democratic, egalitarian, don't-tread-on-me, it's-my-fucking-break society in which we live, as opposed to that robotic, Hi I'm Todd Your Waiter Tonite HowMayIProvideYouWithExellentService? Faux-Brit bullshit.

And the solution was really simple; it's been with us since the Reagan administration solved the tricky problem of unfairly Government-regulated labeling of Bovine byproducts artificially determining meat should be "healthy" instead of profitable by proclaiming that henceforth "Choice" would be known as "Prime". So rather than bothering with trying to get an assortment of over-educated geeky misfits to perform actual customer service, Apple simply redefined service to mean, well, I'm not sure what. But not service. I was, from the time they confiscated my machine--which I was informed was sort of an imposition to begin with--Simply Ignored in every virtual, digital, Wi-Fi, and micro-miniaturized fashion you could imagine, and several, I assure you, you haven't. The place might as well have an unlisted number. Responding to emails is apparently against company policy. One is informed periodically by overhead display that one may use any computer in the store to make an appointment to talk to someone who "works" there. Or one may simply wait and be ignored, as I was at one point by a young man I was standing eighteen inches away from and staring at. It took me two trips to pick up the thing after I'd been informed (online) that it was repaired. (I never, ever heard from anybody at the store. If the whole thing wasn't under warranty I'd have had to pay for every phone call I made trying to contact them.) When it wasn't done the first time they sent out a nice young man with a terrible stammer to break the news to me. I think his job title must reflect that: probably Level Two Sympathy Communications Specialist. I was almost hoping they screwed it up the next day so I could meet Level Three. I'm guessing Very Small Child With a Black Eye and The Sniffles.

• Seriously, is there some reason I should listen to Amy Winehouse, or is my impression that she's Feist except she doesn't keep her knees together when she sits down pretty close? Is she a decent lyricist, or just another canny heroin user? She's now a multi-Grammy winning tabloid darling, which is pretty much like telling me that Newsweek called some new standup "The postpartisan Dennis Miller". Your cooperation is appreciated.


DBK said...

Plumbers? I had a plumbing problem recently, so I called my primary care physician and asked him to fix it. he said, "Why are you calling me? I'm not a plumber." I told him, "I can't afford a plumber."

Yeah, it's an old one, but some jokes never go out of style.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Riley, sir: I am a longtime reader, first-time commenter. you should listen to Amy Winehouse because she's GREAT. terrific voice, uncanny connection to the glory days of Stax/Volt R&B, above-average songs. she's NOT britney spears. she has talent to burn, and is bound for a distinguished career, if she can wrestle her demons to a standstill. do your head some good and listen to Back to Black.

Prof. George Edward Challenger said...

I laughed, I cried.

I have no idea who Amy Winehouse is. As far as I'm concerned the history of music ended in 1989. Although, like Bill Hicks I like my Rock'n'Rollers dead, face down in a pool of their own liquids, so maybe Winehouse is making the right start.

My eight year old was learning American Idiot by Green Day on his 'Lectric Gee Tar. I chuckled as he affected a Green Day snarl. "That's so cute," I said."


billy pilgrim said...

the first time I heard a Bell-bot intone that phrase I broke out laughing hysterically and had to terminate the call.

It has really improved my outlook on corporate behemoths that they have adopted that phrase for so long. They make the dinosaurs look well-adapted. If not for inertia, they would have fell over dead several years ago; the mass of money moving has a ways to go before it stops.

However, when the revolution comes, they will be far from the first against the wall. The line is getting long.

scott said...

Amy is just another in a long line of white chicks who impress the hell out of white music critics because they can "sound black". Been there, heard that, got the hearing loss to prove it.

heydave said...

Dude. (Sorry.)
I can tell you're worked up when whole paragraphs slip by, unimpeded by a single period.

a said...

Winehouse is better than Feist, but that ain't saying much, since Feist strikes me as the musical equivalent of Mitt Romney. Back to Black is very easy on the ears, but the more I've listened to it the more I realize that it's the grooves, not the singer, that bring me back. Credit for that should go to the Dap-Kings. Therefore, I would say skip Winehouse and invest in the catalogue of Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, or any artist on the DapTone label. But that's just me.

D. Sidhe said...

Always enjoy your interactions with ConsumerAmerica. Except that I'm a little worried some day you're gonna take someone hostage till they finally fix something. My advice is not. They whine about what you feed them, no matter what it is.

Also, my partner is one of those people in the Apple Stores. I strongly suspect they accomplish something close to orgasm just by the proximity of all those shiny little boxes.

Rugosa said...

You have my sympathies. There is something about IT types that doesn't like human contact. At the place where I work, almost every department's website lists the staff, their phone numbers, email addresses, etc. The IT site has not a human name attached to it. It's updated on a cicadian cycle. If you have a question about how to use an application, as opposed to simply having an application installed, no one knows how the application can be applied to your actual work.

James Stripes said...

I took a similar ride with the Geek Squad shortly after I bought a Jeep, and thus could no longer afford computer repairs. My computer had a hardware problem and a trojan (SpyAxe). I'd dealt with SpyAxe before and said I could again if they would fix the hardware problem so my machine wouldn't keep shutting off. They charged their $200 minimum to run a scan and remove the trojan, then told me I needed a new power supply for $70 plus labor. After complaining to the manager, I was able to get the labor charges reversed.

As for Winehouse: I have one song that came free from iTunes. It's catchy, but nothing about it says to me that I need more. It sounds like pop to me. I'll listen to some pop in small doses, but save my money for better music.

Speaking of iTunes, I sent them an email a few days ago in full knowledge that they won't reply. I keep getting a message that my version needs an upgrade. When I start the install the EULA appears in a font that might as well be Greek, except that I can read Greek (they don't know that), and in truth is no worse than bad handwriting, which I read often enough that I know I can get through that too. EULAs are painful enough with a decent font, and I often skip them. The almost unreadable font suggests, however, that they have something to hide, and that tells me I better read it carefully to see what valued services will be discontinued or hidden fees added.

All this simply adds support to your point that a "service economy" means principally redefinition of the word as something else. More and more service seems to mean that young people earn a living making change without even minimal skills in arithmetic or they become the human face of a large corporation because they lack essential interpersonal and communication skills. As Taylor Mali says in his poem, "Totally Like Whatever," America's young people are becoming the "most aggressively inarticulate generation in, you know, like a long long time."

Glenn Kenny said...

What "a" said: Go with Jones and the Dap Kings.