Just when I think I've made it past the worst of my angst and strife, I am struck with an nearly insurmountable blow: My Internet connection went black.
Upon my return from San Antonio on Sunday night, I found the lovely green DSL and Internet lights had gone dark in my modem. At first, I shrugged it off as a temporary outage. I was beat from my travels and even relieved to postpone going through the hundreds of emails that had amassed while I was away. But the next morning, my feeling of reprieve turned to panic when the lights failed to come on—I had been disconnected from my world.
You must understand that as a freelance writer and editor, I live and die by my Internet connection. So being disconnected from this primary mode of communication, and the vast body of information the Web provides, sent me into somewhat of a tailspin. It's one thing to go on vacation and not check email for a few days; it's another to be cut off.
Over the next 48 hours, I spoke to at least 10 different Earthlink customer service representatives, each who provided me with differing, and often conflicting, advice for how my problem might be resolved. The second representative deduced that I required a new modem. This sounded plausible, as my modem was five years old. After paying an up-charge, it was shipped for overnight delivery.
On Tuesday afternoon, the new modem arrived and I blithely plugged it in, ready to get back in the game; but alas its lights failed to ignite. The modem was not the problem. I tried every combination of phone cords and adaptors and splitters, troubleshooting every possible permeation to no avail. I called AT&T, who provides my phone service over which the DSL rides, and they dispatched a service person in record time. But the phone line was not the problem. The service guy—who was very nice—explained that my modem was not synching up and the problem was in the DSL line, which he could not service.
This news plunged me back into Customer Service Hell on Tuesday night as I alternately listened to Muzak and explained my malady to several more representatives who were obviously on a different continent. But all the agents in India could not fix my problem that night. I was told I would have to call back in the morning to request that a technician be dispatched.
At 8 AM I began scaling my way once more through the levels of customer service. Apparently I had to get to Level Three before a service request could be written. Did so many people frivolously call and request a real-live person visit their home and fix their DSL connection that Earthlink needed to place these speed bumps to slow them down?
By the time I made it to Level Two, I was sobbing. "Are you okay, mam?" the representative kindly asked. "No, no I am not okay," I said. "I have been cut off from the world for three days! Three days! Do you know how that feels? Do you know what that's like?" "I'm sorry, mam," she said, "Let me connect you to the Level Three representative who can resolve your problem." Yes! I brightened. I made it to Level Three. Yes! Level Three was Nirvana! Level Three was Enlightenment! Level Three would release me from my suffering.
The L3 representative put me through my paces, but she finally wrote the work order that would send a living, breathing sentient being to my door. "When can I expect him?" I asked. "It could be as late as December 13th," she replied. At this point, I had nothing left to lose. I was a desperate woman pushed to the limits of good grace and Buddhist nature. I was pissed. I explained in a very concise and terse manner that I depended upon my Internet connection for my livelihood. I was losing money. I had wasted money on a new modem that I didn't need. I had been an Earthlink customer for 14 years! 14 years! And that was longer than any relationship I ever had with anyone other than a family member! Did she not understand how frustrating this was? Did Earthlink not value my loyalty as a customer? I did not use my good Buddhist practice, but I doubt even the Dalai Lama could have kept his cool under these circumstances. I assured the woman that I knew it was not her fault, and then I demanded I be connected to her supervisor. I was placed on hold, again.
To her credit, the supervisor was a compassionate person. She must have sensed that she was talking to a woman just shy of a nervous breakdown. I suspect she imagined the headline: Crazed Birmingham woman flies to India and takes Earthlink customer service representatives hostage. She promised that she would get a technician to my door within two hours.
Craig, my knight in shining armor, arrived within the hour, DSL meter swinging from his leather tool belt. He worked on the line outside—in 25 degree cold—for two hours before the flashing green lights became steady and constant. I thanked him profusely as 256 email messages came flooding in. I was back in the land of the living, connected to the world again.