Friday, February 5, 2010

The Failure of Technology

It was an interesting and not successful trip to my mother's.

I left at 9 a.m., eager to get there early, so I could also get home early. I thought about taking my bluetooth (I'm really getting into this bluetooth technology!) but decided that my mother wouldn't be calling me, at least not on my cell phone, so I left it at home.

tallegret.jpg (48353 bytes)Sure enough, I was about halfway to her house when the cell phone rang. I don't answer the phone when I'm on the freeway, so I let it go, but pulled off at the next stop to call her back.

It turned out that the place where I could pull over was some sort of truck place, with nobody around except me and this lovely egret. I took the opportunity to take a lot of photos of him.

But first I called my mother, who said she had hoped to catch me before I left the house and that a friend of hers had stopped by for coffee that morning and had fixed her television.

Since I was already halfway there, I decided to continue on down to her house anyway and have lunch, since I hadn't seen her in a couple of weeks.

First, I took several more photos of the egret, who finally decided that I was somewhat suspicious and flew away.

FlyingEgret.jpg (52444 bytes)

I continued on down the freeway to my mother's and got there around 10:30, I guess. The TV was, indeed, fixed and she didn't know what her friend had done to fix it. But I learned one thing--she now has the same Comcast box that we do, which greatly simplifies things because now I know what she's looking at when she is using her remote. She seemed surprised to know that I didn't know she had gotten a new box. She was also, as I suspected, in over her head as far as how to work the thing.

Well, THIS was something I could do. I have worked with a few technophobic people and I know how to be very patient and I am usually successful in teaching them. The problem was that in setting the box up so I could show her how simple it was, I ended doing so many things that she already felt she would never learn it. I told her to totally ignore me, that she would never need to do the things I was doing, and that, trust me, when I was finished it would be very, very simple. The skepticism was writ large on her face.

As it turned out, it was not as simple as it should have been. I'm sure a lot of you have ComCast. When you press the "MyDVR" button...

MyDVR.jpg (43939 bytes)

...this is the menu you are supposed to see:

DVRMenu.jpg (41152 bytes)

Only with my mother's box, you didn't get this screen. All you got was a screen which said (I think) "scheduled recordings." I tried recording something, the box showed it was recording, the "scheduled recording" screen shows a percentage of the DVR had been filled, but nowhere did it show any program that had been recorded. I also scheduled a series recording and there was no place that would show that recording.

So, I called Comcast, thinking that this was going to be a horrendous hassle because--face it--calling ANY business these days is a horrible hassle. It wasn't a horrendous hassle, but even though I had not indicated that I wanted a Spanish speaking customer service rep, the one I got was Spanish speaking. I managed to explain my problem clearly enough that she told me she would have to transfer me to a technical rep.

The next rep spoke English, but after I explained my problem, he told me he would have to transfer me to a technical rep. I told him I thought I had been transferred to a technical rep.

The next rep also told me that I needed to speak with a technical rep. By now I felt like I was trapped forever in a pool of incompetent, albeit very polite and trying-to-be-helpful customer service reps, but finally I did get connected to a bona fide technical rep.

He reset the system, which meant we had to wait 20 minutes for all the channels to load again. He promised to call me back and, God bless him, he actually did. But the problem still existed. He finally gave up and said that he thought she needed a new box and scheduled another rep to come out tomorrow to bring a new box. I am going back to her house to be there, because I know what it should look like and can tell if there is going to be a problem, which she can't.

Interestingly, my mother told me that the first rep had installed THREE boxes before he found one that worked (and obviously it didn't work either). She also asked him to please show her how to work the remote but he said he was late for his next appointment, handed her a book that was waaay too complicated for her to understand, and left. The woman is 90 years old, for Pete's sake. Would it have killed him to show her how to find her soap opera and record it? (If he had, he would have discovered the problem that I did!)

I hope I made her feel a little better because she kept saying she was stupid-stupid-stupid and I told her about a couple of appliances that I had purchased and then felt overwhelmed when looking at the instructions and so had not used them until I finally decided to sit down and really READ the instructions step by step. That seemed to help a bit when she realized she wasn't the only one overwhelmed by having to learn new stuff.

Written at 10 p.m.

Around 4:45 this afternoon apparently a transformer blew up somewhere in the neighborhood and plunged us into a brownout. The computer and TV went off and would turn on, but would not power on (no whirring in the computer, TV would start and then stop again).

I didn't realize it was a brownout until I realized that the lamp in my office was not as bright as usual and then saw that everything was very dim, especially the lights inside the refrigerator.

When Walt got home, he called PG&E and found out that they were aware of the problem and that it would either be fixed by 7:45 or there would be an update. The TV in my office, which apparently doesn't pull much energy, still worked so we waited until Jeopardy was over (it went in and out, but we got about 80% of the show) and then went downtown for sushi, this being David's birthday.

By the time we got home, the brownout had become a blackout and the dogs were very confused. We were trying to stumble around with flashlights and get candles lit. Walt was just going to go to bed. Me, of course, being antsy until I've posted this, had to go back to Mishka's (which is open until 11 p.m.), to get something posted.

I did get an entry posted and when I got home we were all still in darkness, which lasted until 2 a.m. It is now 2:20 and I am revising what I posted from Mishka's

My task for the evening was going to be to put together a VERY SIMPLE how-to book for her, complete with illustrations and step-by-step instructions for how to do the most simple of things and then be sure I don't leave her house tomorrow until I'm convinced that she knows what she is doing, that she can at least turn on the TV, find the channel she wants to watch and, if she wants to record something, know how to record it.

Because of the black-out that didn't happen. but I hope I'll have a chance to do it before I leave later in the morning. For right now, I'm going back to sleep!

3 comments: said...

"As it turned out, it was not as simple as it should have been."
In the land of programmable this-and-that, when does it ever turn out any other way? At some point, I like to think people will come to the realization that most of the remotes, MP3 players, phones, chargers and so forth have all been designed by space aliens for space aliens.

Indigo said...

I don't have Comcast, but I do have Time Warner. I once switched to The Dish, but I was so freaking confused by the system that I cancelled it and went back to Time Warner after three days.

My grandmother still records her soaps on her VHS, and can't work her DVD player. She doesn't even bother with getting the DVR box ....

You could probably find a market for that how-to book.

kathi said...

I have a real love-hate thing going with Comcast. Their good CSRs and techs are really good. Their bad ones terrify me. I like that they are on Twitter. I seem to have more problems with the internet side than the TV side. *Every* time I've had an internet issue, they want to come out and replace my modem, and *every* time it has not been the modem that was the problem!

:: slightly belated mingle ::