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The valley of the dogs

July 10, 2009

If you're scared of thunder, My Home Town is probably not the place to be this summer. And if you're terrified of thunder, it's definitely not the place to be.

Unfortunately, my dog Jake is terrified of thunder.

Unable to watch any longer as he shook, shuddered and drooled his way to cardiac arrest, I finally had the vet prescribe valium for him.

I wondered if it really worked, and didn't have to wait long to find out. Right after I picked up his meds, the heavens opened up and thunder and lightning rent the sky asunder.

As expected, Jake went into his horrors. I immediately gave him a pill, and an hour later, much to my surprise, he was cool. A little nervous, but not the terrified ouch-bag he used to be. He could even eat - something he'd never done when scared.

Good stuff, the valium, I thought, and the night ended with peace at last reigning at La Casa del Dopo. It was, however, short lived.

The next day, I got up, fed the dogs, made my coffee and, completing my morning ritual, checked my e-mail. When I did, a pop-up suddenly appeared, telling me that since I hadn't used my Verizon Security Suite for a month, all its services were inactive.

Inactive? My security services were inactive? How could that be? And what was that nonsense about not using it for a month, when I'd just run a spyware scan the previous day?

My computer's about as old as my VW Beetle, but that's all right, since I'm computer-inept anyway. So when I saw that notice, I hit the panic button, thinking I'd done something wrong to have my services turned off and was now about to get invaded with every worm, virus and spyware known to computer-kind.

What to do? I did the only thing I could - I called Verizon and told the operator my problem.


Dopey boy in computer land Part I

"All right," she said, "let me connect you with one of our computer staff."

After a minute or so, a faint voice with an accent I've never heard came on. His name sounded like it had seven syllables and no vowels, and for some reason, I assumed he was in Moldavia or Montenegro or maybe even the Maldives - one of those little-known countries that begin with "M." His English was fluent, but I had a hard time hearing him due to the poor phone connection.

After I told him I had a computer problem, he asked for my phone number so he could call me back if we got disconnected. This did nothing to reassure me, since I figured the phone company should know how not to get disconnected in the first place, Silly me.

After I told him what the problem was, he told me to get the security suite on the screen, which I did.

"OK," he said. "Now put the services on."

"How?" I asked.

"Click on 'Inactive' and then click on "On" when it comes up."

"I've already clicked on 'Inactive,' I said, "and every time I do, nothing comes up. It just stays "Inactive."

"Just a moment," he said.

The moment passed and he came back on.

"I've just checked and your services are on, even if it says inactive," he said.

"Yeah," I said, "but if it says they're inactive when they're active, how can I tell if it said they were inactive and they actually were inactive?"

"Ah yes, sir," he said. "I see your point."

Another moment passedthen he came back with more suggestions, none of which worked. Then more suggestions from him, more clicking from me, and no change whatsoever.

I checked my watch - we'd been doing this dance for almost 40 minutes and no improvement - especially with my disposition.

Finally, in the middle of another futile attempt, I heard a distinct click. But this one wasn't from my mouse it was from the phone: We'd been disconnected.

Dumbly, I stared at my phone, as if looking at it would bring Mr. Multi-Consonant M. back. It didn't.

Then I remembered he'd asked for my number so he could call me back if we got disconnected. Coolly, I waitedfor the first 20 minutes. After another 20 minutes, realizing I'd more likely get a call from Sheryl Crowe than him, I called the Verizon main service number and again gave my plea for help.

"Wait just a moment, sir," said the operator, "and I'll connect you with our computer people."


Dopey boy in computer land Part II

I waited, as ordered but she didn't connect me with anyone. Instead, I got to listen to a recording telling me all their operators were busy and they valued my patronage and I'd be switched to the next available operator.

Hey, I thought. I'll just wait. And wait I did, listening to the recording telling me how much I was valued by those gonifs and I'd get the next available operator and blah blah bladdy blah blah. And all the while I'm listening to music that's supposed to be romantic, but instead is a drecky combination of computer-generated redundancy and heavy breathing.

Then another recording comes on and tells me my wait is now under 30 minutes.

Then more drecky music and more recordings about how valued a customer I am and on and on.

Fifteen minutes later, another recording comes on and tells me my wait is now under fifteen minutes. My spirits pick up I see daylight at the end of the tunnel.

Fifteen minutes after that, there's another recording. This one tells me my wait is now under 30 minutes. Fifteen minutes ago it was 15 minutes and now it's 30?

I'm grinding my teeth and listening to the music and recordings for ten more minutes, when another "under 30 minutes" recording chimes in. And right after it does, I hear another chime a high-pitched "plinky-plinky." At first, I'm not sure I heard it at all, let alone heard it right, till it comes on again and then again. It's the warning that my phone battery is dying.

"Oh no," I say aloud, half in anger, half in supplication. "Not that, please, not that."

Then, at last, I hear a human voice.

"Hello, my name is Sanjay. How may I help you?"

"Well, Sanjay, old man -- " I say, and suddenly my phone is as dead as disco.

Carefully, I put the phone back in the cradle and go to town, figuring I'll give it time to recharge and me time to calm down and then I'll try Verizon one more time.


The last cyber-straw

After a couple hours I return, grab my newly-jazzed phone and call Verizon. This time I get some character who sounds less like a phone operator than the winner of a Tugboat Annie sound-alike contest. I give her my info and my tale of woe.

"Did you know," she says with a voice that could drill through granite, "we offer a premium security internet service?"

"Uh, I've already got your security service," I say.

"No," she says. "You've got the basic one. You've only got virus protection; the premium one gives you many more areas of protection."

"Look," I say, through clenched jaws, "your basic service is already driving me crazy. So I really don't wanna pay more to be driven even crazier by your premium plan."

"Very well," she says abruptly. "I'll connect you with our computer people."

A few seconds pass in silence, then I hear a distinct click. I've been disconnected again. It's a perfectly lousy end to a perfectly lousy day.

I sit back in my chair, close my eyes and breathe deeply, trying to calm my trip-hammer heart and king hell of a headache.

Minutes pass, with me still doing my deep breathing, eyes closed. My pulse has slowed a bit; my headache has gone from blinding to merely agonizing. I give thanks for not having any weapons or poison in the house.

Finally I calm down enough to open my eyes. When I do, the first thing I see is Jake, lying on the couch, grooving on his Valium buzz. He's not unconscious -- instead, he's awake and aware, loose and laid-back, with what I'd swear is a smile on his face. I look at him and all I can think is this: Whoever coined "a dog's life" as a term of disparagement had no idea what he was talking about.



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