HJ-ED-DHJHerald Journal Columns
October 16, 2006, Herald Journal

Technoinsanity

By IVAN RACONTEUR

My computer is making me crazy.

I am usually a balanced individual, and can get through most situations with decorum, but there are times when I begin to understand how a bull must feel when some fool waves a red cape in his face.

These unfortunate interludes often occur when I am working on my computer.

Tonight, for example, I set out to add a feature to my e-mail account.

It started simply enough. I received an e-mail newsletter from my service provider describing a new feature. All one has to do to begin using the feature is to update one’s account profile, the letter said.

That was where things began to go wrong.

I set out confidently, but soon encountered the first obstacle. Even though I was already logged in, the helpful message on the screen told me that I needed to log in to the master account (address provided) to access this feature.

Fine. I entered the address.

Another message flashed across my screen. It advised me that the password I had entered did not match their records. Please check the spelling, and re-enter your password, the helpful message suggested.

I was a bit provoked by now, but I pressed on. It should be noted that I am limited to dial-up Internet service, which is slower than the Pony Express, and a lot less reliable. As a result, there is an excruciating delay between entering information and getting results.

This does not improve my disposition when I am working online.

I entered the password again, typing carefully. After about a week, the same error message appeared on my screen.

I took a deep breath, and tried a different password. I don’t need to access the master account very often, so I may be using the wrong password, I reasoned.

Several decades later, the same helpful message appeared. By this time, I was starting to become frustrated with the process. There was a button on the log in screen optimistically titled “password help.” I clicked it.

This brought up a new window that indicated it was a “support screen.” It offered two options. If I had programmed my password to automatically log in on this computer, I must do so before I could change my password, the first option said.

Obviously, I hadn’t programmed it to automatically log in. I couldn’t log in, that was the problem.

The second option was to log out of the screen I was in, and go back to the home page. When asked to log in, I would need to enter the master account address, and then click the button titled “forgot password?”

Grumbling a bit, I followed the directions and met a new obstacle. I am certain that when I created this account, I was forced to enter a security question (favorite color, name of pet, that kind of thing).

Apparently, that was a complete waste of time, because under the “verify identity” screen that the “forgot password?” directed me to, the options were to enter my credit card number, or to enter my phone number and PIN or secret word.

I had no intention of entering my credit card number. I don’t have a PIN number attached to my phone number, and I haven’t the vaguest idea what secret word I was supposed to enter.

If I knew the stinking word, it wouldn’t be a secret.

By this time, I really was beginning to see red, which sounds funny to say, but I was not amused.

Yet another helpful message suggested that if I was still having trouble, I could log in to live support, and a customer service representative would assist me.

Decency forbids me from engaging in conversation with a live person at these times.

I have a reasonably broad vocabulary, and I am normally able to express myself clearly and appropriately, but after a few weeks of sparring with an electronic demon, I seem to lose this ability.

My response would probably go something like this:

“Look, you horrible little person, if I (expletive) knew my (expletive) password, I wouldn’t have spent the last (expletive) hour entering 50 (expletive) incorrect passwords.”

I realize that it is not the tech support person’s fault that I am having trouble, and I prefer to wait until I can conduct myself with more control before calling, so I abandon the mission until I am in a better frame of mind.

On the occasions when I have called tech support, I have met with limited success.

In one case, a previous employer required me to use a certain vendor to purchase ink cartridges.

The company in question was exclusively an Internet company. It had no stores or catalog, so one might assume it would be able to do business online efficiently.

The company’s web site was terrible, and it had a really annoying feature that nearly drove me over the edge.

Quite often, after I had entered my entire order, confirmed everything, and pushed the “send order” button, it would freeze. The order would be irretrievably lost, and I would have to go back to the beginning and start over.

This happened nearly every time I placed an order with that vendor, so I called the company’s tech support department.

I answered a whole lot of irritating questions about exactly how I was entering the orders, what kind of computer I had, what Internet provider I was using, and so on. After about a week on the phone, the representative came back and said he had no idea why that was happening, but suggested that if I liked, I could just call in my orders to their customer service staff during regular business hours.

I thanked the geek for his help, and hung up the phone. I didn’t bother to point out that calling in, navigating through the automated menu, and sitting on hold waiting to read my order to a customer service rep during their business hours is not my idea of an efficient way to do business.

More and more, we are forced to depend on technology, including bad technology. This involves having to deal with entities that are incapable of creative thinking, and can only deliver programmed responses, rather like those cheery people behind the counter at the driver’s license center.

As a result, the incidence of technoinsanity will rise, and soon the streets will be filled with people wandering around muttering to themselves, and occasionally breaking out in hysterical laughter.

And, I will be one of them.