If calling customer service doesn’t help, try the suicide hotline

image Sometime between yesterday afternoon and this morning, my computer slipped from its normal “sleep mode” and into a deep coma. This became apparent after hitting the space bar and getting no reaction whatsoever, not counting a low-pitched whirring sound that — if I didn’t know better — I could swear was snoring.

Realizing there might be a serious problem, I gathered all of my computer troubleshooting experience and, over the course of the next 10 minutes, applied that experience by hitting the space bar no less than 400 times. When that didn’t work, I unplugged the computer and plugged it back in. Tried a different outlet. Switched keyboards. Wiggled my mouse. Considered finding a different occupation, preferably one involving explosives.

I eventually realized the only thing left to do was call the “Help Line” listed in the service manual and hope someone there could either a) talk me through this or b) talk me down should our conversation move to the rooftop.

As expected, I was greeted by an automated voice telling me, in that creepy robot word-splice tone, that my call was important to “them” and to please hold until the next representative became available, shortly after his larynx has been cyber-genetically fitted for a new generation of artificially intelligent beings slowly taking over the earth.


You for.

Your patience.

Next came the music, a collection of Michael Bolton, Celine Dion, and Whitney Houston standards re-mixed — I’m guessing — by either John Tesh or Yanni to keep people stuck on hold from growing impatient. This is a little like trying to talk a suicidal jumper off of a ledge by giving him a pogo stick. Making matters worse, I was reminded every 30 seconds by that same creepy robot voice that my call was very important to “them” and to remain holding for the next available representative, but to keep in mind that my weak, carbon-based body was slowly deteriorating with each passing minute.

Again thank.

You for.

Your patience.

When my service representative, “Chaz,” broke the line 20 minutes later asking for my computer’s serial number, I was unprepared. Not just because it was the first unsynthesized human voice I’d heard in nearly an hour, but also because I didn’t have the serial number ready. That’s when I was told I could easily find the number by going to my computer and — very carefully — turning it upside down. Upon hearing these helpful instructions I cocked my head to one side and, while pinning the phone against my shoulder, fought off an aneurism. I was then instructed to call back when I had the serial number readily available, to which I replied I was “readily available” to catch a flight to Atlanta and strangle him with a USB cord unless he waited for me to flip my computer over and read him the number.

After entering the serial number into his data bank, he informed me all the hardware was still under warranty. However, I needed to pay $45 in order for the service call to continue. I thanked him for his time and, before hanging up, told him how much I was looking forward to having a glass of sweet tea once I arrived in Atlanta with my USB cord.

My next move was to take my computer to an approved repair service located 60 miles away. The up side is that I could deal with real humans. The down side is that driving there would cost about as much as following up on my threat of actually flying to Atlanta. After careful consideration I decided to stay in Oregon. That’s because, the way my luck was going, “Chaz” was probably a 260-lb Martial Arts champion whose passion for the sport began when his wife left him for a loud-mouthed humor columnist. Even if I got my computer fixed, what good would it do if I had to type everything with my tongue?

So, as of today, my computer is still in the shop. According to the repair guy they’re just waiting for a new “logic board” to arrive which, well…

Makes sense, I guess?

In the meantime, I’ll continue working on a back-up computer that is too old to handle things like getting on the Internet in less than 10 minutes or multi-tasking any functions, such as simultaneously opening a document and remaining on. I hope to have my computer back in a few days. Until then?


You for.

Your patience.

(Ned Hickson is a syndicated columnist with News Media Corporation. His first book, Humor at the Speed of Life, will be released this December from Port Hole Publications. Contact Ned at nhickson@thesiuslawnews.com, or at Siuslaw News, P.O. Box 10, Florence, Ore. 97439)

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Ned's Blog

I was a journalist, humor columnist, writer and editor at Siuslaw News for 23 years. The next chapter in my own writer’s journey is helping other writers prepare their manuscript for the road ahead. I'm married to the perfect woman, have four great kids, and a tenuous grip on my sanity...

87 thoughts on “If calling customer service doesn’t help, try the suicide hotline”

    1. That is a fantastic idea! It might be the only way I’ll ever finish reading the classics on my bucket list of books to read before I die. I might even get through all of them in one phone call.

                1. Thanks for getting that reference! There are probably 3 people my age in the entire western hemisphere that would get that reference, so I appreciate reminding me that I’m not as obscure as I fear.

        1. oh you could employ has been actors to do the readings. Please stay on hold and enjoy this reading of Stephen King’s “Tommyknockers” read by The Hoff.

  1. I’ve been trying to decide whether Muzak or ads for the place I’m calling are worse (it’s usually a combination). The scariest message I’ve received is “based on the current queue, your wait time is 20 minutes.” If they are willing to admit to 20 minutes, how long would it really be? After waiting 30, I called back later. They won.

    1. I wonder if there’s a place in Las Vegas with a giant switch board showing all the customer service calls, allowing gamblers to bet on how long each person will wait? I have a feeling The House always wins…

  2. I hope your good friend ‘Chaz’ somehow gets to read this. In fact, let’s assume he moved in with his mother after his wife left him and that his mother uses this blog as a bedtime story. Sweet dreams, Chaz.
    Awesome post btw!

    1. That gives me some measure of comfort, Arend. Although the thought of his mother using my blog for bedtime stories is more frightening than being confronted by “Chaz.”

      Thanks for the kind words. Btw, I’m glad you stopped by because I thought I was already following your blog. Apparently, I wasn’t. I’m fixing that…

  3. Very, very funny. I love the $45 extortion charge. I always feel like they’re just trying it out to see if they can get it. I could almost picture Chaz on the phone with his manager looking over his shoulder as he makes his pitch and if you agree to pay the fee, the barely audible high five exchange slap with the boss. When I die, the only job I want is to work the door at Heaven so I can be there when esteemed leaders of the customer service industry cross the earthly plane and are shocked to hear about the $45M cover charge and two thousand drink minimum…

  4. There is something about malfunctioning technology that makes me feel like I should retain a full-time anger management consultant. I can’t tell you how many times the exact scenario you described has happened to me, including the Celine Dion, as if I wasn’t already miserable enough!!

    1. Exactly. I don’t know why, in addition to not resolving our problem within the current millennium, they must punish us with Yanni remixes. There has to be something in the Bill of Rights about that.

  5. Don’t pick on Celine. Seriously, her heart just goes on and on.
    You know I find reading your comments as entertaining as your writing. Have you ever thought of doing stand up?

  6. One time I stayed up all night long on hold or talking with people in the Philippines and India only to be told in the early morning that the computer couldn’t be fixed. I bought a mac. I had to wait several days to get it and in the interim I had to (horrors!) write everything down. It was tedious and I was freakin’ out because it was all work related stuff that could have been disastrous but I survived and the accounts balanced and we lived happily ever after. I will never buy another Dell. I’m very patient but I hold a grudge.

    1. I’m assuming the people you spoke with in the Philippines and India were customer service people and not just random calls because you couldn’t sleep, right? Either way, good call on getting a Mac.

      The only people who can use Dells effectively are farmers…

      ….. (waiting)

      That’s right! Farmer in the Dell! (Thanks for your patience)

              1. I can send you a bread starter….and you can share with your friends and their friends and their friends’ friends….OMG you would be the envy of everyone. The first bread orgy. See what a lil yeast can do…

                1. But it’s a special bread. I used to work in a cajun restaurant and made a special bread — extremely large and round — with the olive spread and tons of meat. I guess I have a strong stomach…

                2. so…………muffuletta………

                  i use to date a guy whose license plate read…”mufdiver”. I swear I never knew what it meant. i know, dumb.
                  He looked identical to the lead singer of Alabama. I was the envy. I honestly dont know why I needed to bring this up…. the license plate had moe to do with olives and pickles than any large mounds of meat… well, you know…

  7. Interesting how your post elicited comments about Jesus and Celine. Anyhow, you need to find a really smart computer geek that makes home visits – if the 5 year old boy doesn’t work out. Find the right geek and he can do in one hour what the Geek Squad can’t do in five days.

  8. looks like your first responder skills kicked in while trying to revive your old yeller, using ‘strong compressions’ while slamming down on the space bar repeatedly, and trying to breathe for it, only to find yourself on the line with chaz, which is where the whole operation took a turn for the worse.

  9. ksbeth above has it! As everyone else has said, “I feel your pain.” and “It sucks to be you.” Ned, you so ably wrote of the perils of reaching out for help, you made my day! Thanks!

  10. Calling tech support and calling an insurance company are the two things that I dread the most. Argh, it’s awful!

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