Monday, September 02, 2013

Can't live with it, can't live without it

I hate technology.

OK, so I don't remember with any real fondness the days when writing a book meant writing every word longhand, then rewriting it with all the changes that had to be made, then getting out the typewriter and typing it with a carbon, keeping a bottle of correcting fluid for all the mistakes, and then sending it expensively by post to the publisher and then getting back a letter with all the revisions to do and repeating the process until your editor was satisfied and your fingers were worn to the bone. I'm grateful for instant corrections and cut-and-paste, I admit it.

But a couple of weeks ago I decided to change my internet provider. British Telecom assured us that it would be a simple process; an engineer would call and fix it all up in half-an-hour on Monday.  Sounded good and we even nodded sagaciously on Monday morning when our internet connection didn't appear, obviously a sign that the changeover was imminent. Unfortunately, the engineer didn't appear either.

After hours on the phone, we established that the whole system was so complicated that the technology that should have alerted the engineering department, hadn't. And it was so complicated that it couldn't immediately be put right, apparently, perhaps because much of it was being handled from the Indian subcontinent and no one could just pop down the corridor and talk to Joe.

Then we discovered, quite by chance, that they had managed to change our phone number without telling us. We were cut off from the outside world and my agent and my editor who were trying to get in touch with me were convinced some terrible disaster had befallen me – an earthquake in Edinburgh or something.

Eventually the engineer appeared on Friday to connect us up. It didn't work. Cue hysteria, foaming at the mouth, threatening emails to the CEO and after a week we had the connection back and our old phone number restored. Of course we couldn't actually SEND emails, but at least they were arriving.  And since all their 'engineers' were just working from a sheet of instructions at the other side of the world, no one was able to do anything if it was a problem that didn't appear on the sheet. At last we gave up and got Brian, our technological wizard who lives just down the road, to come round and fix it.  It cost us, but at least after that it worked. Oh, apart from the bit when my husband couldn't get part of the promised package because the system said he was a business – on the basis that he had two telephone numbers. Yes, ours and the one they had changed it to.

Exhausted, we came away for a peaceful week of dogsitting our daughter's Dalmatian pup while they were on holiday, and were disappointed. (No, not by the dog – my granddog, like my grandchildren, is of course absolutely perfect apart from a few tiny details like a fascination with shoes, discarded sweaters and library books.) By the problems of wrestling with our son-in-law's TV set which does all sorts of clever extra things but needs the operator to have a degree in technology to switch it on. Then when you want to switch off it's like one of those incredibly irritating birthday candles that you blow out only to have it come back again. It took ten minutes last night to get it to shut up so we could go to bed. And their cooker isn't that straightforward either.

The trouble with all these systems is that they're all right until they go wrong and we get round to depending on them totally. But it's so complex that no one person could possibly hope to understand how everything fits together, so they can't pinpoint a problem and fix it.

A while ago I saw an old Peanuts cartoon where Lucy was talking about her ambitions to Charlie Brown and she ended by saying, 'I won't be satisfied until I'm too clever for my own good.' I think we might just have reached that point.


Rick Blechta said...

Very cute post. I DEFINITELY feel your pain. More on that tomorrow...

Charlotte Hinger said...

I laughed and laughed. Because it sounds like the story of my life lately. Let me tell you about my endless migration to Windows 8. On the other hand, I'd better not.