I’m glad the computer ‘Help Line’ doesn’t handle suicide prevention

Frustrated_man_at_a_desk_(cropped) Sometime between Sunday afternoon and Monday 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.


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 on-hold from growing impatient. This is little like trying to talk a suicidal jumper off the ledge by giving them 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.

Again thank.

You for.

Your patience.

When my service representative 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 30 minutes, but also because I didn’t have the serial number ready. That’s when “Chaz” told me 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 when I got 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 and actually flying to Atlanta. After careful consideration, I decided to stay here. 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 loudmouthed 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, updating my blog, or performing any function in under 10 minutes. I hope to have my computer back in a few days.

Until then,


You for.

Your patience.





This has been an excerpt from Ned’s book, Humor at the Speed of Life, available from Port Hole Publishing, Amazon Books, Barnes and Noble or the trunk of Ned’s car!

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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...

24 thoughts on “I’m glad the computer ‘Help Line’ doesn’t handle suicide prevention”

  1. You did that very well for being forced to use that old computer. But I would so loved to have read your follow-up post after that trip to Atlanta – maybe you’ll get there yet?

  2. I work in a building that has spotty Internet service (it’s sustainable construction and apparently could get up and walk away if it wanted) because the signals are sometimes blocked. Not having our technology working properly is so annoying. Makes me cringe when I think about how dependent we are, though.

    Btw, how did that trip to Atlanta go? 😉

    1. Hahaha! I’m picturing those giant trees from Lord of the Rings walking around with business people inside. My work computer is so old it was the “cutting edge” computer Jack Black’s students were using in “School of Rock.” Seriously…

  3. Oddly enough, I went through almost the same thing last week. Mine was due to malware. If it helps, the repair shop did manage to make it work. Hey, it can frustrate us, but it can’t take away our sense of humor.

  4. I dread hearing how important my call is to them. It only means they’ll try anything to make it last as long as possible, beginning with Yanni interrupted by Star Wars androids.

  5. Yes, been there, done that and then called the guy who build my computer. Poor guy!

  6. When I finally caved to my computer’s constant barrage of “Get Windows Ten FREE YES FREE COMPLETELY FREE” and initiated blue screen of death, I discovered that my computer had been sending information to… somewhere. And that information said, “I like who I am and where I am and what OS I use… so if they try to install windows ten initiate spinny thing of perpetuity in… perpetuity. And then, after two days of trying to fix it myself, my handy dandy tech guy clicked the power button and it immediately came up with the option of “go back to the way things were when your computer was happy y/n”. Whatever the look on my face was, he just slid it back across the table and mumbled no charge. In person is definitely the way to go if you want someone to really believe that you’re going to do something with that power cord that the tech person will really not appreciate.

  7. You certainly have a way of telling a story Ned. Again you had me in hysterics, mostly because I can sooooooooooooooo relate to those ‘help lines’ and because I’ve had more than my fair share of computer woes. 🙂

  8. You know me, right? Calm, kind, easy-going…until my computer crashes. I have developed such an aversion to the non-help desk, that I’m on their ‘no call’ list. Most of the time, I end up walking the person on the other end of the line through the troubleshooting guide.
    Nothing reduces me to lizard brain tendencies quicker than a locked keyboard and the blue screen of death.
    Oh yes. I have seen very bad things.
    Call me if you need to commiserate or drink something. I truly feel your pain.

    1. Hahaha! I think we should start our own help line support group. A place for people to call and commiserate about there help line woes. And just like the help lines, there’d be no actualy help. Just whining. And drinking.

  9. Glad to hear he didn’t ask “Have you tried turning it off and on again?” or my other favourite (after spouting all the things I’ve tried, being computer literate enough to cover the basics on a hotline myself) that nearly resulted in me hopping an elevator to the 37th floor with a USB cord…”Is it turned on?”

    I feel your pain…

    1. Lol! They must have a checklist of things to start with that are meant to make people want to hung up. I have a feeling most help line people started as telemarketers.

  10. Oh lordy. I feel your pain Ned. mine wouldn’t go on the internet for 1 1/2 months. I had 5 different techs look at it and take everything apart – no luck. Turned out it was a circuit breaker in the basement that was feeding the building router that was worn and only putting through partial voltage even though it looked OK.

No one is watching, I swear...

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