Southern Fubar

Dear AT&T

Today, Wednesday September 14, is the fourth day I have been without a telephone service of any description. It appears that the service began to fail intermittently from about Friday 9th until the morning of Monday 12th, when it became permanently inoperable.

Have any of your organization’s administrators attempted to navigate the AT&T website to lodge a repair request for a land-line telephone service? I suspect not. Neatly laid out it may be, but the typeface chosen for the introductory page is an obscure one and on my computer – a Macintosh running the latest-but-one operating system – is rendered so small and so pixelated as to be unreadable without risking permanent eye damage by peering at the screen from a distance of about half an inch.

When I did decipher the instructions, I was directed to a video that showed me how to troubleshoot the problem. I did so, even though I risked using up the laughably small download allowance that my overpriced, technologically backward and pork-barrel addicted ISP begrudgingly grants me. Nevertheless I persevered, ascertaining that the problem was, as I suspected, with your organization’s infrastructure. Back to the website.

I followed the instructions to the pixel and found myself having to register my details in order to get a “job ticket”. To do this, I was told, I needed to be issued with a secret code number, which I could obtain by a simple telephone call to my friends at AT&T or by emailing them, in which case I would in two days or thereabouts receive the required information via the US Postal Service. Though I am sympathetic to the financial plight of USPS and use their excellent services by choice, I would have much preferred to call the problem in, but of course I couldn’t. Do you see my problem here? My phone isn’t working.

No, I couldn’t use my cell phone. You see, though I live not 20 minutes by road from the State capital, about the same distance from the adjoining County Seat and on a bad traffic day about 45 minutes from our second-largest city, the Horse Capital of the World, I do not have cell-phone coverage. Neither do I have access to cable or truly high-speed Internet, having instead to rely on overpriced satellite services, one of which provides me with an Internet service I might find acceptable if it were still 1995. I realize that you are not aware of this personal and, in the grand scheme of things, insignificant tragedy; if you were you’d stop sending me letters printed on faux art paper telling me how much you value me as a customer and offering me TV services with the same lousy satellite provider I have now, and even bigger, brighter and speedier smartphones linked to plans you say are just the best in the nation. While I’m on that subject, could you get whoever is responsible for your mail-outs to remove me from that particular list? You see at times like this, instead of being grateful for your wish to provide me with the best of all possible worlds, I am only able to see the bitter irony in the situation. But back to my immediate problem.

Next followed a brief keyboard exchange with one of your website’s “technical consultants”. He was very helpful. First he gave me the telephone number I needed to call to resolve my problem. I suggested he read my question. He did, and professed his empathy with my problem and sorrow at the inconvenience to which I was being subjected. Then he told me he was an Internet specialist and couldn’t really help me, but if I would just go to the website, I would be able to register a complaint. I was loth to do so – I confess to being just a little prickly by that time – but ignored my baser instincts and opened the “complaints” portal, where I typed in a polite, though terse, outline of my problem. What was I thinking? A little message popped up telling me that the software acting as a proxy for AT&T’s complaints department couldn’t respond to any requests but would use my comments to continually improve the website.

Now I am not one to complain. I am a man of mature years who knows that though the world is a perfect place, the humans in it are less so. However, I do have a couple of medical issues that have not yet been resolved and was expecting a phone call from a specialist to give me the results of the latest round of tests. Of course that worthy will not have been able to reach me and, given the punishing schedule that in-demand persons seem to have these days, may not bother to keep trying.

My problem is not thought to be life-threatening, but sometimes the pain is bad enough to bring me to a standstill and perhaps one day I will need to call emergency services. Who knows? I suppose I could email – or even write a letter – to summon help, but it is, after all, 2011 in this, supposedly the wealthiest, most powerful nation our planet has ever known and I’d like to think that there were other alternatives.

I did manage to get help at last. My partner called AT&T from her workplace on Tuesday morning. She did not call sooner because even as late as noon on Monday I was optimistic that I may yet be able to resolve the problem without her needing to resort to using her employers’ time and telephone to rectify a problem that is not theirs. However, as I pointed out at the beginning of this letter, I still have no phone service.

I may be wasting my time writing – may even have acted hastily in beginning this letter – because I didn’t bother to check your website to see if you have an address that is serviced by USPS, the organization you suggested I use to facilitate the issue of a code number. Still, I was ever the optimist.

Yours in wistful hope,

Frank Povah

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Frank Povah

Frank Povah

Arriving in the USA in late 2008, Frank Povah moved to Stamping Ground, Kentucky in mid 2009. Passionate about the written and spoken word and constantly bewildered by non-verbs and neo-nouns, Frank trained as a typesetter - though he has worked at many things - and later branched out into proofreading, writing and editing. For many years he has been copy editor, consultant and columnist with a prestigious Australian quarterly along with running his own editorial and typesetting business. His other interests are many and include traditional music, especially that of the south, folklore, natural history, and pigeons.