Think we're a cordless society? Hah! Don't make me laugh or I'll suck a rhino into my lungs. There are always wires SOMEwhere, people. Have you ever seen cable or phone company workers making a repair, opening up one of those concrete boxes embedded in the sidewalk? I walked by one the other day as a technician was knee-deep in such a hole. It's like a spaghetti dinner down there. I mentioned this, but he didn't seem to think it was funny.
Anyway, I am armed with a flashlight and a magnifying glass, and my (cordless) phone receiver is tucked under my chin with a very nice Comcast representative on the line, helping me troubleshoot my ailing modem. I had discovered this mechanical malaise shortly before, after brewing my coffee, settling in to work and finding my laptop itself working fine -- my screen background of cute English bulldogs greetings me cheerily as usual -- but unable to find a Wi-Fi connection.
My first thought was to shout out a reflexive, "Ramsey!" -- Ramsey being our fabulously capable if often cranky IT guy at the Oakland Tribune. But alas, he was not in my kitchen at my beck and call with his typically sardonic, "OK, what did you do now?"
Indeed, while working from home can be awesome, if you have tech problems and you're not a tech nerd (which I've recently been told is called a "terd"), you're up a creek without a Ramsey.
So here I am, eagerly poised to absorb the high-tech advice from the sage service rep on the phone ...
Service rep with high-tech advice: Do you have a paper clip or a pin?
Me: Um, I guess I could find one, but what for?
Service rep: There's a reset button on the back of your modem. You may need a paper clip or a pin to push into the hole and hold the button down for five seconds.
Me: (Stunned silence.) Um, a paper clip? You're kidding, right? This is the "Minority Report" universe we live in?
Service rep: (Tolerant silence.)
I realize these brilliant "terds" have to dumb things down for people like me, but, at the same time, for people like me, couldn't they make this hole a little bigger than a grain of kosher salt? Maybe I should just smack the thing with a hammer like my dad used to do when the vertical control on our RCA console TV went haywire and made "Happy Days" look really sad.
A paper clip? Seriously? Also, I realized, since I'm not at the office, I don't actually have a paper clip. I am, however, under my sewing table, so I do have a pin and with that I manage to perform the requested function. Nothing happens. Official determination: R.I.P., modem.
The rep gives me options. I can go to the Comcast/Xfinity store and get a new one, but I cannot buy one there, I can only lease a newfangled combo modem/router for $7 a month. They can ship one, but that will take three days and it's now 10:32 a.m. and I need it now! If I want to buy one, I can go to Best Buy or wherever and ask for a DOCSIS 3, which is explained as "Data Over Cable Service Interface Specification" and blah blah blah "cable" blah blah blah "computer" blah blah blah "have a fire extinguisher handy." None of the options involve anyone coming out and just doing this for me, dagnabbit, so I go with option one.
Though dusty, I drive over to the Comcast store in Oakland and fairly quickly obtain my new, leased blah blah blah modem/router, and soon I am back under the sewing table, calling the activation number, having it still not connect, calling another very nice service rep to help me troubleshoot the new device and together we go through a series of activities involving more high-tech techniques such as unplugging and replugging various wires so I can eventually return to my wireless life.
Finally, after a total of three hours and 24 minutes, which includes my trip to Comcast and a stop at Peet's on the way back to bolster my resolve with a medium mocha freddo, I am back online. I finish my story, then take the opportunity to dust.
Life Story is a rotating column by features writers and editors for the Bay Area News Group. Follow Angela Hill on Twitter @GiveEmHill.