Waking up to discover that your internet isn’t working is never a great way to start your day.
I know that sounds very #firstworldproblems (oh god, did I just use a Twitter hashtag in a blog post?), but when you work from home as an online college instructor and get paid by the hour, a broken internet is incredibly frustrating.
I woke up at 8 a.m., set up my workstation by 9 a.m., and prepared to spend the day grading student discussions nice and early so I could spent the evening hours making dinner, drinking tea on my porch, and relaxing.
And, you know, unpacking — because I just bought a house.
Instead, I’ve spent the day – over two hours now – speaking with the good folks over at Comcast. (I’m on hold, again, as I type this post.)
And it’s been a less than pleasant experience. As usual.
THE CUSTOMER SERVICE CAROUSEL
The first rep I spoke to (whose name I didn’t write down, but let’s name him Barry) spent a good 45 minutes running through the basics with me: Is your modem on? Can you power cycle it? Hmm, I can’t find your modem. What about your router? Can you reset your router?
I could reset all the electronics, but I couldn’t reset myself. I was starting to get a little upset – which is unusual for me, frankly. Having slaved away in a customer service call center for three odd years (and define “odd” as you will), I totally empathize with CSRs.
I know their plight. I know they get limited bathroom breaks and spend hours every day listening to people yell obscenities at them for problems that they didn’t personally cause.
They suffer from something called role conflict — the desire, as a human being, to help to the best of their ability, which uncomfortably rubs up against their workplace expectation to follow protocol (sometimes at the expense of truly helping the customer).
The result? A mental brush burn.
It’s a tough working environment – and again, I know it might sound all #firstworldproblems (again?!) to call office work a “tough working environment”, but it’s truly a draining one – mentally and physically.
(You might be surprised to hear me say “physically” here – but it’s true. Sitting down all day, every day, for at least eight hours can really take a toll on your back. Staring at a computer hurts your neck and your eyes.)
But this blog post isn’t about the CSR’s experience. Not today.
It’s about mine.
STOP THE RIDE; I NEED TO GET OFF
Call me selfish, but I need to vent. I need to complain. I need to wring out this tightness in my chest that, all too often, ends up inviting a true panic attack.
I’m sure you can empathize. You know this feeling, right?
So, Barry spends about 20 minutes trying to help me while I, trying to remain productive, skittered around my new house trying to balance the phone on one ear while unpacking boxes and putting away laundry.
“Can I have your account number?” he finally asked.
“It’s in a cardboard box somewhere, and that box is probably under other cardboard boxes, so…no. What else can you use to pull up my account?” I asked.
“Your phone number will work. Or your address.”
I gave him both – but, since I just moved, his system pulled up a clusterfracas instead of an account. Different addresses and phone numbers and missing router ID numbers and overall nebulous confusion.
Followed by more pointless troubleshooting.
REPEAT, REPEAT, REPEAT
Then, 45 minutes into the call, the acknowledgment of failure with which I am intimately familiar: “I’m sorry, Ma’am, but I can’t seem to resolve your issue. I need to transfer you to someone else who can re-activate your modem.”
Okay. Okay, sure. If that will help.
“Can you please hold?” Barry asked-yet-told.
And then, instead of being transferred to a human, I’m cold transferred to an automated prompt that didn’t even include an option for internet troubleshooting.
(It was about cable. I don’t have a problem with my cable. In fact, I often forget that I even have cable because we rarely use our cable and we only have cable so that we can get our internet for a cheaper price.)
Begrudgingly, I hit “0” – which is often a sure way to connect with a real human – and I was greeted with a stark automated response:
“Please hold.” [Pause.] “Please hold.” [Pause.] “Please hold.” [Pause.] “Please hold.” [Pause.]
Please hold what? Please hold onto your sanity? Your bottle of Xanax? My frustration was growing by the minute.
And then, after a couple minutes of pleasing and holding, the automated ladyvoice delivered a new message:
“I’m unable to connect you. Goodbye.”
(There’s more to come, unfortunately. Check back soon.)