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Volume 15, Issue 18 ~ May 3 - May 9, 2007

Where We Live

by Steve Carr

Lost in Space

I’m out there, and so is my email

E-mail has been driving me bats lately. I actually like this amenity of modern life because, unlike the phone, I can deal with it on my own terms. I can ignore it, or I can monitor it regularly to make sure I’m not missing anything. Because it involves writing, rather than talking, I find it a very satisfactory way to communicate, both socially and professionally. It’s convenient.

Which brings me to the beef I recently had with my Internet provider. The company was started by a kid from Severna Park, and I know his mom. Over the years, we have had our occasional problem with this and that, most of which I never really understood. But for the most part, I have been happy with David and have avoided the Goliaths like AOL and Comcast in favor of a local company that prides itself on prompt and efficient technical support.

A few years ago, the little company that could was bought by a large company from Texas or someplace far afield, for mucho dinero, and I said to myself, That’s the beginning of the end. The next time I need help with something, I’ll be dealing with someone in India or Kuala Lampur.

But I was wrong. The takeover was seamless. The cost remained the same. And I could always get some geeky nerd from Arnold on the phone at any hour of the day to talk me through some unfathomable computer problem.

You know how when you get an e-mail message, there’s that little happy bell that sounds? Yeah, I hate that bell. But you know what’s much worse than that sound? Not hearing the bell. Because that means you aren’t getting any e-mail.

Now let’s be honest. When that bell sounds, it’s usually someone trying to sell you Viagra, ringtones, a line on local singles or a can’t-miss penny stock. We rightfully refer to these missives as spam. Why we can’t outlaw this obnoxious intrusion is beyond me, but I can peacefully coexist with such nonsense as long as it is pre-separated as junk and I can just delete it.

Worse Than Junk Mail: No Mail

I work for myself out of my home, and e-mail is my link to the outside world. So when three clients called to ask why I hadn’t responded to their important e-mails, I realized that I had a problem. I immediately called my service provider.

After suffering through their never-ending if you wish to speak to someone about your horoscope, please press one menu, I was put on hold and serenaded with several snappy musical hits from pop hell.

Finally, Ricky came on the line.

“Hi, Ricky. I haven’t gotten any e-mails for a few days now, and I was wondering what’s up.”

“We are having trouble with our server,” replied Ricky apologetically.

“Okay,” I said. “And when do you think you might get this problem fixed?”

Ricky exhaled softly. “Well, I can tell you that our engineers are working on it non-stop.”

“That’s great news, Ricky. I love engineers. But when will they be finished?”

“We’re not sure,” said Ricky.

Why Get It Free When You Can Pay?

I started to lose my cool. “Ricky, I need e-mail for business, and this has stopped me dead in the water.”

Ricky perked right up. “What you need to do, sir, is to get a backup account.”

“A what?”

“You know, a Hotmail or Yahoo account that’s free.”

I held the phone in a death grip. “Why would I get a free backup account, Ricky, when I already have a paid account with you? And how will that allow me to read the important messages that have been sent to me the past two days, and which are apparently lost in space?”

“I don’t know, sir,” said Ricky impatiently. “But everyone has a backup account.”

You Can’t Get There from Here

I tried to get us back on track. “So you don’t know when this is going to be resolved?”

“No, sir,” answered Ricky.

“Okay, Ricky, who’s in charge over there where you work?

“Well, that would depend on what department you were talking about, sir.”

“Let’s start with the department responsible for maintaining your server,” I growled.

“I’m afraid we can’t give out those numbers, sir.”

“Look, Ricky,” I said, trying to remain civil, “I know this isn’t your fault. But you haven’t been much help here. You don’t know the extent of the problem or when it will be fixed, and you can’t even tell me who is in charge of this secret operation.”


“Well, Ricky, let me ask you this. How can I cancel my subscription and get a refund? I think I’d like to go with a more reliable Internet provider.”

Ricky didn’t miss a beat. “That’s simple, sir. You just need to send us an e-mail stating that you would like your money back.”

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