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Saturday, Jan. 23, 2010


Technical support — how it ought to be

My house is stacked with gadgets — from computers to cameras to game machines to bathroom scales that voice my weight, and more.

Most of these gizmos work fine. Except when I really need them.

At that point, they either freeze up, smell like smoke, or, in the case of the scales, crack fatso jokes.

I spend more time than I would like on the phone with technical support staff. That many of these people do not speak English and I have to pinball along in Japanese can be a problem. Worse is that far too often these support whizes speak no language at all, other than machine jargon, incomprehensible, I sometimes suspect, even by themselves.

Still, it is somewhat comforting to have a potentially helpful voice only a few push buttons away. That is, if the phone works.

And I've always thought that it would be useful to have technical support for non-mechanical woes as well. Like in how to manage the ups and downs of an international marriage . . .

Me: Hello, is this . . .

Tech Staff: Hi! jWife support here! What's your OS?

Me: Huh? Oh, uh . . . Showa 35.

TS: . . . Eeew.

Me: Is that bad? I mean, I took it for a sharp model at the time.

TS: The Showa's are unpredictable, all of them. And the new Heisei's are worse.

Me: Gosh, that doesn't leave much to...

TS: So, won't boot up, eh? We get that a lot, especially with the older models. The first thing to do is to see if she's plugged in.

Me: What? Of course she's plugged in! She's alive!

TS: Whoa! Just routine. You would not believe the people who never check and all the problems that will solve.

Me: That's not it.

TS: So, not enough memory then? Let me tell you: the farther back the OS, the worse that can get.

Me: No, no, it's not that. At least . . . as far as I remember.

TS: Too noisy? Can't help you there. With the jWife, the motor keeps whirling all the time. And sometimes the off-button sticks. She won't shut down, no matter what.

Me: To tell the truth, I . . .

TS: Then if it's a warranty question, forget it. You go off warranty on the day of marriage. You should know that.

Me: Yes, I do, but . . .

TS: And if it's in-laws, I'm sorry. We don't handle peripherals. You'll have to call jMom, or some other affiliated company.

Me: No, no, the in-laws are mostly, uh, unplugged.

TS: Ah, I know! A faulty logic board! Then relax. That's standard. Don't expect her to follow your support manual and you'll be fine.

Me: She . . . has a logic board?

TS: Most people don't know, but she sure does. It's just twisted on backwards and hard to see.

Me: Well, it's not that.

TS: Language then. OK, you have two choices. First, go to your system file and click on "English," while at the same time you force down the control key. The control key has to be held down tightly or she'll revert.

Me: What's the other choice?

TS: Learn Japanese.

Me: Language is OK. I can usually figure things out somehow.

TS: I guess that leaves software. I bet a few of her old applications no longer work. Or only work when she wants them too. That can happen. Here's what you do: Only run one application at a time. And if it doesn't start up, then forget it. Try again some other day.

Me: You keep jumping ahead.

TS: That's because I've had several jWives of my own and know them inside out. And I'm here to tell you that your final option might not be the best.

Me: Which is what?

TS: To trade her in for something more fashionable. Like a racy new laptop. I know they're tempting. And it seems all your friends have one. But sooner or later the same problems appear. They always do. So I'd keep your jWife as is. Plus, now you know her ups and downs. You won't have that with a fancier model. You'll end up calling tech support 10 times a day.

Me: Listen, you haven't let me speak at all. You have no idea why I called.

TS: It doesn't matter. That's my entire spiel.

Me: Well, here is it. I'm calling for my jWife, the Showa 35. She's been phoning fHubby for technical support. It seems I'm driving her out of her mind. But the line's busy. So . . . is the number right? That's all I want to know. The jWife and fHubby are related, correct?

TS: Yeah, but that line's flooded. Just too many bugs in the fHubby. Tell her it's best just to give up and feed you pizza and beer. That will calm you down and solve any glitch you've got. Usually.

And there you have it. Real life technical support at its very best.

Too bad they don't deliver.

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