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Grant Marylander is a friend of a friend, and I got this email forwarded to me.  It’s a classic experience dealing with a broadband company (personally, I have Brighthouse down here and the support is pretty good, and their service is excellent). 

I’ve reprinted the letter with permission of the author.

Our Internet went down this weekend. Your palms are sweating at the thought, aren’t they? Don’t even try to imagine what it’s like in real life; you’ll drive yourself into near catatonic hysteria.

We took it well for the first five minutes. Five minutes of powering off the modem and router. Five minutes of restarting all the computers. Five minutes of searching for non-existent manuals and coming up with a postage size note which referred us to a website for troubleshooting Internet connection problems.

When self-help failed us, we started to feel the panic. If we couldn’t fix the problem ourselves, our fate rested solely in our Internet provider: Comcast. Relying upon this communications monolith for help is roughly akin to asking United if there are any Mileage Plus seats available for your trip to Hawaii. In either case, the response is never worth the effort.

Nonetheless, our limited options compelled me to call their toll free number, negotiate a series of computer generated questions (“If you’re calling from a touch tone phone, prefer boxers to briefs, like the smell of freshly mowed grass, know the words to MacArthur Park, and can speak in tongues, press pound”), and wait for my call to be transferred to the far reaches of space so a person whose command of English was second only to his complete lack of knowledge of anything computer related.

Comcast’s highly trained technician ran me through a series of security questions to ensure I wasn’t some nut who randomly reported Internet outrages just for the thrill of hearing terms like “ping” and “IP” spouted in a foreign accent. After verifying my identity, I was promptly placed on hold while the technician checked to see if, in fact, my Internet connection was down. This permitted me to listen to the London Symphony’s version of “King of the Road” while I watched my kids repeatedly open and closer their browsers in the faint hope that repetition might spawn a cure.

Just as I was preparing to beat myself into unconsciousness with a paperweight rather than listening to a flute version of “Jumping Jack Flash,” my technician reappeared to announce that, in fact, my Internet connection was down. He then proceeded to run me through the obligatory power down, power up sequence I had performed before the call. Once I completed this task and assured him that I was still Internet deprived, the technician announced that my modem had became unregistered, an affliction which had randomly hit a number of subscribers in my area. “Register me,” I pleaded.

“Well, I don’t know how to do that. Let me check with my coach.” Honestly, he said “coach.” Not boss. Not supervisor. Coach. At that point, I was fairly sure that Comcast’s call center was located in an Indian middle school for the dyslexic and verbally challenged.

Fifteen minutes and five Henry Mancini songs later, the tech was back with bad news. “My coach has gone to out to eat and won’t be back for an hour. Then he’s got a meeting. But after that, he should be able to re-register your modem. Give us till 4:00 and you should be up and running.”

Four o’clock? That was in three hours. How were we supposed to survive for three hours without the Internet? I mean, I had lots of important things to do – check the weather, my e-mail, the calorie count for a McDonald’s hamburger, where to take Brazilian fencing lessons, the exchange rate for the dinar, stuff like that.

When I broke the news to the family, there was general bedlam, followed by clothes renting, profanity and plans to home invade the neighbors so we could use their Internet. We were momentarily mollified when we tried to pick up an unprotected wireless connection using the laptop but, once that failed, we resorted to self-medication and a heavy dose of TiVo. Every fifteen minutes or so, someone would traipse off to a computer to see if were back online.

At 4:00 sharp, I was on the horn with Comcast to find out why the hell we weren’t speeding along the Internet highway in search of junior Sudoku puzzles. Needless to say, I was subjected to another identity scan (“name five anagrams you can form using your mother’s maiden name) and the obligatory power down/power up cycle before the technician would confirm that I was still without the Internet. My crack technician, who sounded strangely like my first crack technician, told me that my modem had always been registered and the problem was with the connection to my house. “Are you sure that this isn’t an area wide problem?” I asked, hoping that my misery was shared by others.

“Absolutely. Our computer cross-checks every outage notice and you are the only person in this area suffering a connectivity problem.”

The tech then told me that the earliest they could have someone out was Monday afternoon. I’m not sure what happened next because my hyperventilation caused me to pass out. When I finally came around, I found my family preparing to sacrifice a goat on an altar of keyboards and discarded video cards. I forestalled the sacrifice long enough to give everyone the bad news. During the resulting hysteria, the goat managed to escape his bonds and flee in an old Red Flyer wagon.

Without a sacrifice or repairman to cure our loss, we fell into a deep despair that was periodically interrupted with condemnations of all things Internet and the occasional rush to the computer to see if Divine Favor had restored our connection. By early evening, we were spent and retired to our bedrooms for a restless night filled with dreams of dropped connections and pages unavailable imagery.

The next morning brought a renewed desire to fix this problem ourselves. My youngest and I braved a freezing rain to trace our cable line to a box on the side of the house. Of course, the box had been painted over, thereby making entry nearly impossible. As I was taking a chainsaw to the unyielding hinges, a neighbor hailed me from her porch. “Is your Comcast down too?”

Five minutes later, I was screaming into my phone about the nationwide loss of our Internet connection. My newest technician, a sycophantic clone of the other techs, assured me that Comcast was well aware of the problem and was sending a repairman as soon as possible. “When?” I demanded. “We don’t have an ETA but someone should be out sometime today.”

I paced the hallway for hours (or at least 30 minutes) before I saw a repair truck stop outside the house. I ran out to urge the repairman to new heights of speed and competence. Unfortunately, in the span of a minute, the repairman had disappeared. Within minutes, the truck was gone. The Internet, however, remained only a memory.
I searched the neighborhood for the repair truck, anxious for any word on when we might be restored to civilization. While I drove through every street and cul de sac, the repairman mysteriously returned to our house where he resumed his mystical incantations over the cable box.

“The Internet’s back up.” My heart still flutters when I think of those words. “The Internet’s back up.” I may tattoo that phrase on my back, right next to the Chinese character for “No MSG” (it was supposed to say “Justice” but the tattoo guy’s Cantonese was a bit rusty).

Within fifteen minutes, all of the pain was forgotten. Well, almost all of the pain. I still shake a little when I think about it. But I found this great website to help with Internet withdrawal. I should be okay. As long as the Internet doesn’t go down again.

Alex Eckelberry