Friday, March 12, 2010

A Murphy’s Law kinda day

Today has been, to use an Afrikaans expression, a kak day.

At 5 am I discover I have no internet connection. After an hour and several phone calls, I discover that our ISP is fine but our telephone company, Telkom (aka Hellkom) has a DSLAN (whatever that is) down at the exchange in my area. They don’t know how long it will take to fix it, but they will magnanimously take a fault report from me, even though they already know it is broken. They can’t tell me how long it will take to fix it…but what they don’t tell me is that they have no overnight repair crews, so every person and business in my entire area (which includes several malls and the area’s largest casino) will have no internet at least until the first of the repair crews report for work at 7:30 in the morning.

An hour later the phone rings…it is some woman doing a survey for Telkom and she wants to talk to the person who logged a fault that morning. Much to my dismay, she cared nothing about the crap telephone tree that kept me holding while it went through ten minutes of “try this fix” suggestions that didn’t need…I had already spoken to my ISP, knew was was wrong, and just wanted to log the fault. No, what she wanted to know was whether or not the service tech with whom I spoke was polite or nice…basically the same question about the poor guy who had to take me call at 5:30 am, but not a single inquiry about the difficulty in getting to the poor guy, or their crap service that necessitated the call in the first place.

So, I go about my day, periodically checking on my internet connection…nothing. At nearly 11 I call to check on the progress and am told “they are working on it.” Not what I wanted to hear…the last time someone from Telkom told me that, it took them 12 days to get someone to come out to the house and track down the reason I couldn’t connect to the internet…twelve days! From this phone call I learn that Telkom, the telephone monopoly in South Africa, does not have emergency crews to address line faults outside of business hours…reason enough for me to switch to the first competitor that lands on our shores. How can you operate a 24/7 service without having 24/7 repair crews? I can see limiting scheduled maintenance to business hours but emergency repairs? Does this mean if that DSLAN committed suicide at 6pm on a Friday, my whole area would be without internet until Monday morning? What is wrong with this picture?

So, the day moseyed on until my maid, who likes to watch Days of Our Lives while she irons, comes to me and says something is wrong with the living room TV. Already hearing the gnashing of teeth and rending of garments when Hubby discovers his precious big screen has gone kaput after only two years, I rush down stairs. But, it turns out, that the satellite company has turned off access to the “second” TV and when I get upstairs and check the “primary” TV, I get a message that says I must have a valid subscription. This is all well and good except for one thing…our subscription does not expire until May, so we are still quite valid, as far as I know.

Midday I went downstairs and with the able assistance of my intrepid maid, whipped up some homemade bagels (what passes for bagels here is a travesty!). Returning to my air conditioned bedroom I find my computer has turned itself off Now, this is a laptop, sitting on a tray on my bed…the battery is fully charged AND it is plugged in! I have two virus/malware detectors, one scans every day at noon, the other every Monday night…so far no problems there. But when I rebooted, it gave me the screen that says Windows did not shut down properly…the same screen I get with a reboot after I’ve had to pull the battery to force a shut down after a freeze. I still don’t know what the problem was…

The second fellow I talked to at Telkom also could not give me an estimated repair time, but when pressed, said I should call back and check the status of my report after 2 pm. He was polite and helpful and actually had a bit of information…I thanked him politely and put down the phone. I waited until 3…still no internet.

So, taking a few deep, cleansing breaths, I picked up the phone and dialed Telkom again. OK, I know the spiel from the Chatty Charlie recording and wait to be prompted for checking on a reported fault…the prompt never comes and instead I am routed into the nightmare that I first encountered this morning. It was not until my third attempt that I finally got the desired prompt, pressed the “2” button and ended up with someone in a call centre in Bloemfontein, roughly 500 kms away, who doesn’t know Fourways (the faulty exchange) from a gangway. A nice enough fellow, I have to admit, but he gave me the shocking news that the fault had been “cleared” (meaning the technicians claimed it was fixed) but when he pings the exchange, the DSLAN doesn’t respond.

Eventually, after a series of resets and pings and fiddling around, my internet came back…after ten hours. The problem, it seems, is that the fault actually was cleared, but I needed to reset my router…neither of which Telkom bothered to communicate to me. If Telkom has the ability to sic that survey person on me within half an hour of logging the fault, someone kindly explain to me why they were unable to notify me that the fault had been cleared and my router needed resetting.

So, finally, around 3:30 I was able to get on the net, get my email downloaded, and get my browser back up. Just as I was going into FaceBook, however, to reply to a couple of messages…can you even guess what happened? Yup…this is Jozi, land of the disintegrating infrastructure, and my power went out.

So now it is back and I’m sitting here wondering if I dare leave the room. I am afraid to contemplate what new techno disaster may befall me, and I’m not going to hex myself by indulging in idle speculation, either!

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