posted by Jeanne Munn Bracken

I'm nobody's idea of a tech weenie. Oh, sure, if it's on the internet, I can probably find it faster than the average bear, but when it comes to making computers do what they're supposed to do, I'm sunk. Deep.

At my library job, I'm often asked to help patrons with their computer problems--usually printing or e-mail. I can figure out most of it, and for some of the rest I have my boss Bobbie the Tech Goddess on hand. From there we go to Chuck, the town's IT guy, and if he can't fix it, he hires somebody. If it's a network problem, we have Bob at Central Site and the folks at Verizon and Cingular. In short, we're not on our own at the library.

At home, it's a whole different story. I don't have Bobbie the Tech Goddess or IT Chuck or Network Bob to fall back on. When computer issues arise, I'm on my own. My first line of attack is the "Help" button. So that's where I went when I couldn't receive e-mail. I re-configured the "properties". Didn't work. I finally manged to receive e-mail but no way could I send any. Bummer. I ignored the problem, working from webmail, which was okay temporarily. One bright day I hunkered down determined to fix it. First thing I clicked on "Troubleshooting" in the (oh, let's call it) "Horizon" help screen. Everything checked out. The next option was "contact us" by e-mail. I tried but kept getting kicked back to the same "Troubleshooting" page that had already failed.

I remembered with dread the time I was on hold with another company's tech support for two hours and 45 minutes before I got a person. After he helped me, he said I should call back and report how it worked. As if. (Luckily, the new part worked.)Computer_2

More recently, I have been trying to get my mother's simple e-mail-only device to work. It's been three months now, and four of us have been making calls to "Moonlink's" amusingly named "Help" people. We've gone in circles, system-wise but also struggling with the thick accents of people halfway around the world. I'm no Xenophobe, but I have to be able to decipher whatever they're saying beyond "Yes, Ma'am" and "No, Ma'am." Polite but ineffective. They just don't get how impossible it is for an 87-year-old woman living in very rural New Hampshire to take their @@#$%^ device to a distant repair facility. She still doesn't have service.

But I had no choice. To the phones! I called the number on the Horizon screen, waded through several levels of voice mail, and eventually reached a dead end. I dug out my Horizon bill, called the "Customer Service" number, waded through another several levels of voice mail, plus a few sessions of "hold" listening to a suggestion that I go to their website for help. Did I really want to continue on the phone? Press one... I pressed one. More levels, more "hold", Did I really, really want to continue? ONE. After a few minutes, I got a person--not someone who could help me, of course, but someone who knew the the secret number of the actual human tech support people. And (this is key!) she gave me the number rather than forwarding my call. Maybe they figure a percentage of people just quit at that point. Not me.Scream_cut

I called the number. I got a voice mail suggestion that I check their website, or press....ONE. Shortly I was connected with a real person called Lou. English was her first language. She did that nifty thing where she takes over my computer and looks at the settings. She found the problem right away. The "troubleshooting" didn't mention that, besides having the settings right, the "authentication" box should also be checked. Simple as that.

I wasn't surprised, because the Horizon tech support people had been very efficient and pleasant, not to mention patient, the other times we'd had to contact them. The trick is getting them. I now have the secret number posted on my monitor.

For a minor financial consideration, I might be willing to share it with you.

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