Monday, June 28, 2010


When I recently received an e-mail from AT&T telling me that my Internet service was going to change due to a new joining of forces with Yahoo, and that the transition would be effortless, I reached for the Rolaids.

Past history has taught me that change, especially when it comes to things I enjoy and am comfortable with, rarely is a good thing. I am a creature of habit. And I don’t like to have my habits disrupted.

For instance, I prefer to use a program called Outlook Express to send and receive my e-mail. When I clicked onto Outlook Express on the day of the changeover, I immediately sensed that something wasn’t right.

“That’s strange,” I said to my husband. “We have 115 e-mails from John and they’re all exactly alike!”

“Maybe his computer’s ‘send’ button is stuck,” he said. “Either that, or he’s been putting brandy in his coffee again and can’t remember what he’s already sent.”

“Well, then your sister must be hitting the brandy, too,” I said, “because we just received 50 identical e-mails from her!”

By the end of the day, I’d received over 500 e-mails from only six people. The faster I deleted them, the faster they poured in. As much as I hated to, I called technical support.

A recording told me that the wait for service was heavier than usual, so perhaps I should call back at another time. I called back after 10:30 that night. I figured that by then, most of the other customers had given up and gone to bed.

The woman who assisted me was friendly and, to my relief, had only a slight accent. Usually when I call for technical support, I can understand, if I’m lucky, only every third or fourth word the technician is saying. I remember one guy whose accent was so thick, when he told me to “click on internet options,” I’d thought he’d said he was “sick and nauseous.” He must have thought I was a real weirdo when I told him that ginger ale would settle his stomach.

The woman helping me this time said she was in the Philippines. She was very professional and polite…until she asked for my e-mail address. When I said it was “sillysally,” for some reason it really struck her funny and she started to giggle. Then she giggled some more. But in between all of the giggling, she actually managed to fix the e-mail cloning problem. I breathed a sigh of relief.

The next morning, I woke up to 277 e-mails. The computer was spewing them out like slot-machine quarters (unfortunately, not like any slot machines I’ve ever played). I called technical support again. This time, I spoke with a male in India. When he had to keep pausing to look up the answers to my questions, I had the feeling I was in trouble. My feeling turned out to be right. He transferred me to what he referred to as the “more advanced” technical-support department.

The technician there informed me that Outlook Express was a Microsoft, not an AT&T problem, so I should speak with someone who was familiar with Microsoft. He said he could connect me to a specialist in the field who would fix the problem for me…for only $29 for a 25-minute session.

I looked at my computer screen. The 75th copy of “Buy Viagra now!” had just popped on. “I’ll pay the $29,” I said.

The first 15 minutes of my 25-minute session were spent downloading some program the technician said would enable him to get into my computer and see what was wrong. I found myself wondering what kind of program it was…one that would shrink him down to the size of a tick so he could travel through the lines and into the innards of my computer?

As it turned out, the download failed, probably because my Outlook Express program was hogging all of the space with 250 e-mails from my insurance agent.

So the technician decided to spend the last 10 minutes of my session without the assistance of any diagnostic programs.

Nothing he suggested, however, worked. And by the time my 25 minutes were up, he’d accomplished nothing. I not only felt defeated…I was $29 poorer.

When the technician heard the disappointment in my voice, he said, “I think I have the solution to your problem.”

I perked up. “Great! What is it?”

“Just don’t use Outlook Express any more!”

For the first time in my life, I was speechless. I had spent $29 for this guy’s expertise and that was his solution? Heck, I know as much about computers as I do about piloting a jet plane, but even I could have figured out that one for myself…and for free.

So I’m not using Outlook Express any more.

I did, however, take a peek at it the other day just to see if it might have straightened itself out. Immediately, 25 copies of an e-mail featuring photos of a muscular male stripper – a joke from my friend in Oregon – poured in.

You know, sometimes getting duplicate e-mails isn’t all that bad.