Sunday, March 12, 2006

We live in times of spiritual and technological crisis

These words, spoken by Dr. Melfi to Tony in a Soprano's episode, struck me as an unusual combination at the time. For a psychiatrist to mention a spiritual crisis that in some way needs to be recognized did not seem at all unusual but to combine it with technological crisis was somewhat provocative, so it stuck in my mind. This weekend gave an example of why.

Apart from anxiety about loved ones, there is little that gives me more angst than dealing with the call centers of health insurance providers, technology providers, financial institutions etc.
On Thursday, our home's newest computer refused to function beyond some error messages on a blue screen. We tried everything, but it was simply frozen and unresponsive. Oh God, we had to call Dell. Briefly, it took almost three hours on the phone and five transfers to come to what will hopefully be a resolution. On each call I had to give full information(name, address, phone, computer serial number, warranty information etc.). The first three were bounced around India, presumably moving up the hierarchy of experience. In each of these first three calls I had to go through, at their direction, all of the maneuvers and keystrokes that I had already done before I called. On both calls two and three I was told that it would cost $99 to be transferred to a software specialist despite our three year warranty(like some banks they tried to sell something to a caller who was only focused on problem resolution). On the third call I held my temper and was at a point of begging as I tried to explain that, regardless of the warranty, the result of the three repetitive calls so far had been that it was a hardware problem, not related to software. Finally, without a fee, I was transferred again but to an American voice, which I must admit was a relief at that point better than any pill could provide. Again however we went through the same protocols, but at least with a sense of cultural understanding on the other end of the line. There was still no resolution, but it felt like progress as I was transferred once again, back to India. This time, however, I had finally moved far enough up in the hierarchy to reach intelligence. He understood the problem, came up with a few new maneuvers to identify it better, agreed that it was a hardware problem that was under warranty, and now we will have a house call in a few days for replacement of parts and repair(unfortunately to repair it and save any data would entail an additional charge and I'll not get into that, but most of our data is backed up on discs or another computer so we'll have some inconvenience but no charge). After all of that it felt like a relief but I did have a slight tremor from exhaustion. How did I hold my temper for that long?

Technology can do amazing things, but perhaps we are in the early stages of realizing the real benefit. Today if it works, fine, but if it doesn't the layer of intelligent human beings that once existed has been replaced by low paid call center operators working off of set protocols. Problem resolution can be amazingly frustrating and difficult, and sometimes seemingly impossible(I hope to do a follow up on healthcare which deserves its own post).

So to get back to our fictional Dr. Melfi's comment, spiritual crisis and technological crisis---one requires some kind of faith and one may be beyond faith.

Postscript---To my friends who read this---some of my historic e-mail, especially recent, was not backed up, so if you could send an e-mail, no note necessary, that gets your e-mail address back into my system I would appreciate it.


Blogger Guy said...

If the service rep removes and replaces your hard-drive, insist on keeping the original and then smash it good before disposing of it. Even if the hard-drive is dead a good hacker might still be able to get your personal info off of it. I have done so before for people who didn't want to lose precious business info so please believe me it can be done.
Good luck.

11:12 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home