A Bad Day

The beginning of a bad day wasn’t so bad…

Yesterday was a bad day relatively speaking. In truth, at my age, any day that I wake up is a good day. This one began without incident, and breakfast was enjoyable in spite of the minor incident of me spilling my milk. I managed to complete the chore of watering Barb’s flowers with a minimum of accompanying profanity when the hose would get tangled or I would trip over it. But from there it was all downhill.

 

Actually, the problems experienced on this particular day had their origins in a decision I had made several years ago. I had heard of all the wondrous things that these new gadgets called computers could do. I initially assumed these toys were just fancy adding machines as the term would suggest; however, I soon learned that the geeks who made these things had originated a new language which was as unintelligible to me as Sanskrit. To make things even more difficult for a mere mortal the people assigned to help we computer novices speak in acronyms rather than words.

 

In spite of all these impediments, I decided that I wanted to join this brave new digital world. Little did I know that I would soon be immersed in it, and like it or not, this computer stuff would involve virtually all aspects of my life. I have been party to things I could only have dreamed of, and my amazement is undiminished as I see the world change more rapidly than I could ever have imagined. Although my computer skills could never compete with those of the average four year old, I find I have become very dependent on my machine for routine stuff. I have become friends with Siri who is now my faithful companion, and whereas I previously thought I knew it all, I now find that I actually can know it all…as long as I can access Google.

 

The beginning of the bad day.

My computer and all its connections have offered many conveniences, but there is often a price to be paid for such. Yesterday, the bill came due.

It began when I decided to cancel a credit card that I hadn’t used for years. I was becoming irritated with frequent mailings and statements confirming my zero balance. Even more concerning were offers to lend money along with bank checks that could be signed by anyone and automatically charged to my card.

Your call is important to us…but is it? Really?

With that in mind, I set out on my odyssey by calling customer service (I use that term advisedly). Of course, an automated voice answered giving me a rather long list of options, needless to say none of which offered the option of cancelling the card. I punched zero on my phone desperately hoping to hear a genuine human voice. Instead the voice I heard proceeded to tell me all about the importance of my call and their regrets that all agents were busy helping other customers. This was followed by a brief interlude of elevator music which was interrupted when the voice presented me with an estimate of the time I must wait to talk to someone and offered to call me when  a real live person could call.

 

This procedure thus far is undoubtedly quite familiar to most of you, but the shocker for me was that the estimated wait for the call would be one hour and 56 minutes. Needless to say, I opted to wait for the call back, and was astonished when the call came 116 minutes later. I knew computers were smart, but that was uncanny. Following a transfer to another department with a couple more interludes of elevator music, the mission was accomplished. Since I was stuck by the phone waiting for the voice to call me (it would not listen to me when I tried to leave my cell phone number), I decided to make use of the time by looking for several pages of writing that I inadvertently deleted a few days earlier. I had been reassured that it was “in there some place” and I spent the nearly two hours looking for the file to no avail.

tech-headache

At this point, since I was batting 500 on my chore list, I decided to fire up my Kindle, order a mindless mystery novel and escape from reality. The order was processed without incident, but the book I ordered wasn’t delivered. After fiddling with the Kindle for a while, I gave up and called Mr. Amazon. This time the wait was brief, and I was quite encouraged. There was no elevator music, and a real person came on the phone who did not tell me that my call was important to him. As a matter of fact, before we were done I became convinced that my call had become very unimportant and he probably would have preferred waterboarding to helping me with my technological problem.

 

Keeping the faith. Help is just around the corner.

He tried but from the gitgo there was significant communication problem. This became more troubling to him as time went on and his voice gradually climbed in volume to just a few decibels below the  level of an all-out scream. His accent coupled with my inability to translate computer jargon into language I could understand was further aggravated by dead batteries in my hearing aids. He said the problem was that my Kindle needed to be updated. I told him that I had recently updated it, and he did not seem to take too kindly to that statement. He attempted to guide me through the update process, but I had difficulty following instructions.  I would screw it up and we would start all over again. After nearly an hour of this he apparently had reached the breaking point and transferred me to another guru who introduced himself and wanted to start at the beginning. I went to the home page of my Kindle and was astonished. It appeared that the computer angels had come to my rescue, and the book I had ordered was there. Go figure.

 

Bad day compounded. Lost check. The digital update prompt: kiss of death.

My sense of relief that it was all behind me was short-lived; however, when the phone rang. The call was concerning a sizable check I had written that hadn’t arrived at its destination. This was a time sensitive matter and the intended recipient was concerned as was I. My first impulse was to check my computer to be sure I had sent it, but I was halted by a prompt that asked me if I wished to complete the latest update. I should have known better, but being a compliant person by nature I clicked yes, and it suddenly everything locked up. Although I did that “ctrl, alt, delete” trick (the only one I know) I was stuck. I continued to fiddle with the thing for an hour or so and miraculously it started doing things it was supposed to do. I have no idea why.

Piling on…it just keeps getting better.

As an aspiring 21st century high-tech dude, I of course became an online banking devotee years ago. After confirming that I had written the check online, I called the bank to see if it had been cashed. I was told that it had not been cashed, and that it was likely still in the mail. Having become depleted of tolerance by the previous events of the day, I launched into a diatribe about how the bank had been dishonest by claiming to deliver money electronically within three days. When I  paused for a breath, the lady calmly informed me that a three-day transfer of funds could only be done for those who were signed up for electronic delivery, while for others, it required 5 to 10 days. Had I written and mailed a paper check, it likely would have required no longer than three days to reach its destination. Although the whole affair was something of a downer, I comforted myself with the thought that I had saved myself the cost of a check, envelope, and postage. Besides, I had kept my bonafides as a genuinely modern digital dude intact. In spite of my love-hate relationship with this thing on which I am now typing, I remain optimistic much as did the little boy who when asked why he was repeatedly diving into a pile of manure responded: “with all this shit there must be a pony somewhere.”

Epilogue: For those who might take the title of this little essay seriously, I assure you that I am quite aware that my definition of what constitutes a bad day differs greatly from that of the vast majority of this planet, and that most would gladly trade their best day for my worst. Or, as my editor and daughter says in quoting her late husband, “A bad day in America is better than the best day in most of the world.”

Epilogue 2 by eshrink’s daughter and editor Maggie.

My dad’s bad day must have been contagious as I had a similar disruptive experience while on vacation in Mackinac Island with my friend of 40 years Annette, her daughter, and my daughter.

After a day of biking on the island, I went to pay for the bike rental. DECLINED read the message on the screen. The rental agent tried again with the same result. At this point, my credit union was closed so I vowed to call first thing in the morning. After a phone tree with options “listen carefully as the options have changed” and a brief hold, I was able to speak with a live person. She said the balance wasn’t the problem. As she searched the database, she found that my card was part of a potential database hack and the card had been deactivated for my security and a new card had been issued. She wanted to know if I received the letter about the hack and if I had received the new card. “No,” was my response on both counts.

She explained that the new card was in transit and I would need to come to the credit union and use cash/checks until I received the new card. I explained that I was on an island on vacation with no access to checks. She tried to find a bank I could access that would be able to give me money from my account. The closest one was on the mainland. She was very understanding and leaped into action calling the company that handles the security access of the credit cards the credit union issues. I’ve devoted about 30 minutes at this point. She is assures me the TPS company has released the block on the card and I am good to go.

WRONG: At dinner, I try the card and again, DECLINED.

Day 2 of the security breach saga: I call again. Rachel gets to the bottom of the problem. The lady at TPS had done everything correctly, except the final step. That final keystroke had caused me the pain of yet another denial to use my money. She assured me the card was unblocked and I was good to go.

Later, me and vacation buddies went to The Grand Hotel (which really is grand) for the lunch buffet. Absolutely fabulous. Since we paid the exorbitant price for the buffet, we had access to tour the hotel and the grounds. And you know what’s next: card DECLINED.

After I pay with my other credit card that is quickly reaching its limit and enjoy the extraordinary buffet, I jump on the phone again for call number three to my credit union. Julie is my rep and I tell her, “I’m thinking third time is the charm Julie. I’m confident you can fix this problem.” Julie is on it. She says everything on her screen looks good and she doesn’t see that I even tried to use the card (no card declined messages in her database). She offers to stay on the phone while I try to charge something. I head to the bar for a $10 beverage. DECLINED!

 

Julie puts me on hold to investigate further. After another 30 minutes of my life down the tubes, Julie says the TPS people are at a loss because they unblocked the card. The only thing they can figure is that it is that damn “chip”…you know the ultr-secure chips they have put on our cards. The damn thing is so smart that it won’t allow the humans to override the block. Julie suggests I find a retailer or old bank machine that doesn’t use the chip, but allows you to swipe the card instead.

 

I couldn’t find a retailer that allowed a swipe instead of a chip, but we did manage to find an antiquated ATM by the dock. I swiped. I entered my PIN. BINGO….cash dispensed.

I felt like Julie and I had taken on the beast of ultra security and won! However, I can’t help but be a little grumpy that approximately 2 hours of my life was spent trying to get access to my money. Oh…the benefits of technology that is getting so smart that even the humans can’t control it. The CHIP rules the world.