The problem with my computer could have been solved by any 11-year-old with the juvenile’s basic exposure to locking taskbars and unpin options.

No such rescue was at hand in my house. My wife was wading through the sharp elbows of her competitors at a book sale in Barnes and Noble. My granddaughter was occupied with her third hour trig class 1,500 miles away. Jeffrey my default high tech expert, was out of pocket repairing someone’s sub-woofer in the suburbs.

I was marooned and working against the clock to finish a project. I needed to do a couple of pages before leaving for a meeting bringing together a half dozen alleged problem solvers on how to deal with life when it turns sour. My only qualification was having survived 45 years in daily journalism. The computer manuals were worthless because this was a problem in the computer’s gadgetry. I couldn’t log on and had already exhausted my one defense—pulling plugs and re-plugging them after 30 seconds

Gloomily I dialed the company’s customer service department, knowing I was headed for probable gridlock. This didn’t work very often. The folks who build these things are in the computer business, not the telephone business. They want you to handle most of this stuff on line, which becomes a problem because (a) a lot of us were past puberty before discovering the miracles of Cookies and Browsers and (b ) Modems sounded like some thing you had to take twice before going to bed.

Being crafty, I got out a customer’s guide that gave me the phone numbers for the trouble department. The first voice answered, “Your call may be recorded for quality assurance.”
This was good. “Listen carefully because some of the options have changed.” More progress. I listened carefully. None of the options seemed to connect to the problem of a computer that wouldn’t start . I could go to billing or customer service. I could go to technical support, all of which sounded promising. I called. None of them connected to the problem of a computer that wouldn’t start A voice said there was heavy demand. “We’ll be with you as soon as a line opens.”I could wait a few minutes. I called again. The same. I told myself this is normal. Lots of people call. Fifteen minutes and I’m in. It could have been worse. “Listen carefully because some of the options have changed,” a voice said. “I’d done this three times and, as a change of pace I hit one of the number keys blindly. “Your opinions are valuable to us; if you like to comment on our service, please stay on the line and an agent will be with you shortly.”

Buoyed by this foothold of progress, I punched the requisite buttons and three minutes later a voice answered. “Welcome to the service department,” the woman said cheerfully, “what can we do for you?”

I explained the problem. I’m in Minnesota,” I said. “My name is Jim. Where are you?”

“ I’m in Manila,” she said pleasantly “My name is Melanie. I am your agent for today.” I said I thought Melanie was a lovely name and I described my problem. She began giving instructions, about things like modems, and outlets and yellow cords. Nothing stirred on the screen, We went deeper into the computer’s innards. I did plug-ins and hit buttons. Nothing happened. She suggested that I follow the trail of the yellow cord, which disappeared into the bowels of the wiring jungle under my desk: “ Melanie,” I said, “ it’s obvious that you know your job very well, but when you try to educate me I’m just not able to understand you’re technical talk because we accent the words differently. You have a fine voice and speak well and your English is good But I wonder if you could switch me to an office in the United States. I know your company doesn’t like to do this.”

Melanie laughed and said she could do that for me and told me to stay on the line. “What a find” I told myself, “a real problem solver.” Most of the American firms that set up call centers, in southeast Asia and Latin America, saving millions with cheaper labor, pretend to meet your request and shift you back to an American office. So I heard some transfer sounds and said, “I’m in Minnesota.” The voice on the other end sounded surprised. “Hello,” she said voice said. I’m in Manila. My name is Melanie.” Somehow somebody had rerouted the call back to Manila.

So I was left with my unresponsive plugs. I pulled one out for auld lang syne, put it back in the outlet—and every light in the computer came alive.

You need expert computer repair? Give me a ring.