Machines Hate Me
Saturday morning the machine we use to process credit card transactions
broke down. Its little dot matrix printer stopped working. The machine was all
aglow and operating, it just would go through the motions of processing a card
only to display (after all that button-pressing) "printer error."
The Frat-Boys From Bombay
A call to the 24-7 helpdesk was answered promptly (by someone
named "Erik" who sounded more like his name ought to be "Mahmood" - no biggie -
I'm certain the other credit-card processing banks now outsource tech support
overseas; as does AT&T and myriad other companies). Erik supplied a number of
software-related fixes that he suggested I try. I tried 'em, although I was
pretty sure we should've, sometime before the third try, cut to the chase and
taken the printer module outta the machine and tried hardware-related fixes.
I asked Erik if, indeed, they *had* any hardware-related fixes. He told me to
first try completely uploading the machine's software (a 25-minute process);
just to be certain that we'd exhausted our software-related options.
Once the thing started cogitating, he told me what to do when the "finished"
screen was displayed, and very kindly told me that I could call back at that
time if I needed any help.
I put a big piece of paper on the machine and wrote on it "do not touch." The
moment I took my eyes off the thing one of my waitresses moved the paper and
swiped a card. When she couldn't get the answer she wanted from the machine (it
just kept cogitating), she pressed "cancel." Then, and only then, did she
come to me for assistance. She'd cancelled the software download. It took every
fibre of my being not to physically assault her at that moment.
So I called the helpdesk again and this time got "Chip." Chip's voice was
much deeper than was Erik's. Chip sounded like the knight in shining armor who
comes to rescue the female lead of a Bollywood film from her captors. Chip's
English was so hard to understand I was tempted to ask him whatever was a nice
guy with a name like Chip doing living in a place like Delhi. But I digress. I
told Chip that my software download had been aborted by someone other than I and
would he please just give me the codes and help me start over. This was not
gonna happen. Every time I heard him shuffling the papers of his tech-support
manual in the background I said, "go to the part of the book that tells you what
codes to give me to start the software download?"
When it finally occurred to Chip that I'd gone through the previous,
half-assed steps (re-cycling the machine, clearing the batch, etc.) he asked me
to tell him who told me I needed a software download, anyhow? I told him it was
Erik. He told me "There's no Erik working here!" That's when I hung up
the phone. Were it not that I had a problem to solve, I would've called the
David Letterman show and given them the number for two excellent replacements
for his characters "Mujabar" and "Sirajool" (or whatever their names are).
My third call was answered very promptly, by (get this) "Nathan." It took all
the restraint I could muster not to blurt out "Nathan, this is unacceptable."
I asked Nathan if Erik was there. To make a long story short, it took me 15
minutes to convince Nathan that this wasn't a personal phone call for Erik, but
that he'd started me on a software download and I needed to repeat the process.
While I was speaking to the boys in Kashmir, or wherever; it occurred to me
to remove the printer module myself and play with it. I took it out, then put it
back in again - it made a sickly buzzing sound but wouldn't feed any paper. I
pulled it out and looked for obstructions - aha! A bit of cloth had somehow
insinuated itself into the workings of the machine. A needle nose and some
tugging got the cloth out. Now the paper fed a little bit; printed a couple of
test lines; then stopped. The darn thing had burnt out.
When the second software download was completed successfully, and the printer
still failed to work, I called back and begged my next victim, "Michael" (whose
real name I am certain must've been something like "Farshid" or "Mukbar") to
provide me with any sort of hardware-related advice that he or his supervisor
could find. They told me to do what I'd already done; remove the printer and put
it back (inspecting for offending material). I gave up.
Tomorrow, I'll have to hand-enter the hundreds of credit card transactions
taken over the weekend. They were imprinted on one of those old hand-operated
machines that actually make use of the raised numbers on one's card.
krenseby says re: May 30, 2007, I wonder why the call center people can't just use their own names.. I heard they force to pick American-sounding names in order to avoid pissing off bigots...." — I agree; If your name is "Gupta" or "Vindaloo" or even "Mergatroid" why not use it? Do these companies think that a person who sounds just like the fellow-from-India-you-buy-your-cigarettes-from-at-the-convenience-store accent named "Erik" is really so transparent that intelligent people won't get it? I think not.
Please be aware that I'm using East Indians as an example herein and have no problem with their accent, so long as it's not so thick I can't understand it. Believe me, when doing business with some of my Chinese vendors, my troubles with the help-desk dudes pale in comparison. And it's my fault, because my command of Mandarin is so poor.
The Dance of the Waters
The next machine didn't just sit and smile at me; it actually pissed on me.
The ice maker wasn't making ice, they said.
Far be it from me to follow the directions and shut the thing off
before attempting servicing, I removed all of the covers, grilles, and
insulating parts around the works of the machine. The moment I removed the
insulated part that covers where the ice is made; I was showered with cold
water. The thing had iced over (due to someone playing with the defrost
settings) and was a mass of ice. The water, which was to have been pouring
nicely over the grid that makes the cubes, was instead splattering all over this
After I shut off the machine, the same waitress who'd foiled my first attempt
at fixing the credit card machine came around the corner, pointed at me and
laughed "you all wet - what you do? Take shower now?" I do believe at that
moment the water began to boil and steamed off of me.
20 minutes later, the ice maker was good to go.
The Straw That Broke The Camel's Back
Driving home after fixing the ice maker (on Memorial Day - my day off) it
occurred to me that I have pretty bad luck with machinery. There's a word for
those people who make street-lights turn off when they come near, but I can't
recall. Maybe I'm one of them.
I thought of the elevators I ride regularly during the week in the course of
business in the downtown area. I put my complete faith and trust in them without
thought - I press the button and expect them not to break down. Given my luck
with mechanical things of late, I'll treat elevators far more respectfully than
I have in the past.
Oh, one last thing. I pressed a glass against the ice dispenser on my
refrigerator door when I got home. There was some cheap scotch waiting to be
cooled. The thing made grinding noises - but not a cube was to issue forth. I
reached into the freezer and pulled out a few cubes myself. Just as I started to
pour the scotch, I was scared out of my skin when the refrigerator let loose
with no less than a half-gallon's worth of ice, right on the floor.