Tuesday, February 09, 2010


I recently bought a new iMac, which immediately mangled strategic imported data from my old computer.

Glitch City.

Among the issues was the failure of the new computer to download my e-mail from Earthlink, my e-mail service provider.

While trying to correct the problem, I came to know several Earthlink tech support folks better than either they or I wanted to. Typing messages back and forth over Earthlink’s chat support line, they gave advice and I followed their directions well into the middle of the night — when I am decidedly not at my best.

Well, actually, it was noon to them as one revealed in a moment of candor while we waited to see if our latest fix would work.

They were typing their advice from Lahore or some place on the other side of the globe. We never got down to exchanging news of the weather or the kids.

They’d always introduce themselves as Barry S., David L. or Michael P. as if they lived down the street and around the corner.

We knew it was a lie. I should have countered that my name was “Sri” or “Ravi” and that I played cricket in my free time.

Deceit is not a good way to start a complex relationship, but such is the world of outsourcing and globalization. Besides, we had serious work to do. What's a name when you can't get your e-mail?

So any misgivings dissipated when they’d type those welcome words, “How can I help you?”

Well, where to begin, I’d think, before feverishly typing my epic tale of computer woe.

I wore down six of these guys and never did solve the problem. I confess it was everything I could do to contain my testiness.

Exhausted and glad to be rid of me, they’d always end by blaming the problem on the Earthlink system’s “web server,” which was reportedly causing problems. They seemed to consider it a handy deus ex machina that had Earthlink and my e-mail in its grip.

With nothing more they could do, they’d advise me to wait a few hours and try again, when the server had been at last subdued and, presumably, they had gone home for nan, curry and an IPA.

Finally, through my keen deductive reasoning, I figured out that Earthlink wasn’t the problem at all. The settings were exactly what they should be, as I had been told repeatedly by Barry, David and Michael. I had become as familiar with the computer e-mail protocols as I am with my computer password, my user names, my social security number, my faculty ID code, my cellphone number, my land-line phone number, my address, my car license plate number and my date of birth. For instance, I will probably go to my grave knowing my port settings should be 110 and 587.

No, the answer to the problem resided within the silver, slim body of my new Apple.

Mercifully, Apple tech support involves talking on the telephone. We Mac devotees pay more for Macs in order to talk to people who can, in turn, afford to live down the street and around the corner. One said he was in Austin, which is close enough.

I still managed to I work my way through a couple of befuddled Apple techies until I was turned over a supervisor in charge of e-mail program problems, one Justin Lewis.

I assume that is his real name, but I have no proof.

After doggedly but calmly eliminating this and that problem for at least an hour, Justin decided to probe the inner sanctum of the new computer’s hard drive. And there, hidden away in an obscure folder (at least to me), he found the culprit, which he summarily ordered me to trash.

E-mail that had backed up from the beginning of the year was suddenly unleashed and came flooding into my new computer. I was awash in long-lost data.

It had taken hours, but it was worth it. I was reconnected.

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