Monday, August 11, 2014

It will take time (and terabytes) to rebuild this relationship

Today started as Day 11 of our Internet outage at home. I don't want to name and shame the Internet provider, so I'll just call it by its initials, AT&T.

Readers would presumably be bored with the specifics of my problems. I'll even concede that the poor person employed by the Illinois Commerce Commission to read consumer complaints may not have been entirely riveted by the screed I submitted last Thursday. But, for reasons that will become apparent, I must at least point out that, in the course of allegedly repairing my Internet outage, AT&T disconnected my home phone besides as of Monday, August 4. This was at least our second home phone outage in the past couple of weeks; we'd had an unexplained five-day outage that had only just ended (after our repeated pleas for assistance) on July 28. These phone outages were mentioned in the ICC complaint.

However exciting, or unexciting, my ICC complaint was, it at least seemed to have a salutary effect on the aforementioned telephone monopoly: On Friday I received an earnest phone message from a gentleman in the "Office of the President of AT&T," and if that doesn't sound as official as all get-out I don't know what does.

Interestingly, Friday was also the day that, according to the AT&T U-verse computers, our Internet "upgrade" was to take place. Never mind that, for roughly two blessed hours on Wednesday evening, our Internet was working. Our outgoing phone line was open. Only incoming phone calls were blocked. My foolish mistake was in telling AT&T about this one little flaw. AT&T responded to our request to take care of this minor, remaining issue by scuttling our brand new Internet service and our partial home phone service. My wife and I had just about finished installing the new wireless password on our phones and iPads and other household geegaws when the lights on our brand new U-verse router stopped flashing a uniform, cheery green. From cheery green, the "service" light had gone cherry red. And the phone's dial tone was gone, too.

But that did not set us off. No, we were more or less rational about having the 21st Century snatched away from us -- again -- at least until the AT&T "service" representative told us (our recollections notwithstanding) that our new service had not been installed, but was scheduled to be installed on Friday, August 8. Things got a little heated. But at least the "service" representative did not ask, "Who are you going to believe -- my computer screen, or your lying eyes?"

And, in fairness, a man did show up on Friday afternoon. He worked at a box a couple of blocks away, then came to our house, heading out to the pole in the backyard for awhile, before coming back to the house to tell us that the paperwork was all wrong and would have to be reentered. Meanwhile, my wife and I could return to our unscheduled nostalgia trip to a time before the Internet. And house phones. I had to resist the urge to stop by the general store for some kerosene on Saturday morning.

This morning, when I got into the office (located in the Loop and the 21st Century) I checked the AT&T website to see the status of my "repair appointment." I thought I'd been angry before, when the website said installation was scheduled for a day and a half after it had been up and running, only to have it snatched away from us. But now, when I looked at the screen, and it told me my order was "complete," I'm afraid I may have lost it.

I'm also afraid the attorney in the next suite over is going to look at me with a bit of a raised eyebrow for some time to come.

My wife called AT&T again, while I waited vainly for the earnest young man in the "Office of the AT&T President" to call me back. The person with whom she spoke on this occasion noted the pending ICC complaint and promised that a "senior technician" would be dispatched, a plenipotentiary with full authorization to do whatever it took to put us back online.

And, would you believe it? This time, it worked.

Even the home phone works.

And when the home phone started working again I discovered I had seven voice mails waiting. One was from a credit card company, trying to sell something. The other six were from AT&T. None of the callers seemed to appreciate that they were calling a number they knew, or should have known, not to be in service. This does not inspire confidence.

Nevertheless, I am back. Tentatively. Fearfully. Checking the lights on the broadband modem in between key strokes.

I am hopeful, but I am wary.

I can't embrace the Internet again at home as I had before, not right away. It'll take time. And uninterrupted service. Uninterrupted service for some time. A long time.

I'll try and make this relationship work again. But some scars heal slowly....