Saturday, March 27, 2010

Cybil the Cyber Lady

Last week, something happened to my television stations. Any channel above twenty-five had that fuzzy thing going, just like what used to occur in the olden nights after The Star Spangled Banner. As I was forlornly pushing the up button on my remote control without any positive results, I seemed to remember a couple of voicemails from Comcast promising something like this would happen if I didn’t call them.

I hate talking on the phone.

I hate talking on the phone, but, apparently I hate missing out on which house the HGTV House Hunters people are going to pick even more, so I looked online to find a number to call. This was after I looked at the same online and found an email address and emailed the help people and got back a response I couldn’t even begin to understand.

I hate talking on the phone to almost everybody, but I really hate talking on the phone to conduct any kind of business. Here’s why. First of all, a recorded message has me pushing number combinations on my cell phone, so many that my display screen becomes filled with what looks like some kind of secret code. I’m so afraid I’m going to make a mistake with my sweaty fingers and bad memory, which will, in turn, cause me to have to start over, that I begin to hyperventilate and blaspheme all at the same time. Then, after I’ve put in all those numbers and sometimes the pound sign and sometimes not, I either get another recorded message asking for more numbers or I get a person who mumbles or talks too fast, someone making whatever the poor pitiful minimum wage is who doesn’t want to hear my problems with my channels, and who doesn’t really care that I don’t understand how all this digital stuff works.

But this time, this particular Comcast time, I was lucky enough to get a very nice, bubbly lady who seemed genuinely happy to talk to me. She didn’t mumble; she didn’t sound like she was reading from a script; she was certainly congenial. As I responded to her well-articulated questions, I made sure to enunciate my answers in a friendly way to make her life easier, to help this particular workday be a good one, because a lady this nice was sure to be heading home to a handsome husband, along with a couple of attractive and well-rounded children, for whom she would most likely need to remain energized and sunny, not beat down by irate phone customers. As you can tell, I really, really liked this woman.

I’m a bit embarrassed to admit it took me several questions and answers, more than a few minutes of affable repartee, to realize that this person I was talking to, this really nice upbeat person, wasn’t really a person at all. Leave it to Comcast to figure out a way to create a fake person who sounds so real she can make you believe she really cares about you, something actual humans have a hard time doing.

I named her Cybil, although, for all I know, her name was Mavis or Shirley, or, considering her perkiness, probably something like Kelly or Jennifer. She was so good at being human she would even say things like “hmmm” when she was pondering my response to a particular question and then “it sounds like you need a digital converter and I’ve got great news because we can send one at no cost to you.” She even knew my home address even though I hadn’t shared that information with her, which helped me continue to believe we were soul-mates and our relationship was meant to be. At the end of our conversation, I was so happy she had solved my problem so easily and cheaply that I actually thanked her and told her good-bye.

I wish this could be the end of my story, the happy ending we all desire with any story, but, alas, it is not. It took seven days for my converter to arrive by UPS, not the three to five days Cybil had promised, and, when I tried to set it up and have it activated, it didn’t work. At that point, I was without not only HGTV but also the boring channels like the ones with news and sports. I sat, bereft and feeling sorry for myself, in my old easy chair with my early bird dinner and absolutely no entertainment at all other than thinking of the obscenities I was going to hurl out my window along with my handy-dandy easy-to-activate digital converter.

After eating dinner and giving myself a good talking to, asking why I needed all those channels anyway and why I couldn’t live with basic cable like those minimalistic, granola eating, composting people I so admire and would like to emulate (if I have the time after watching the Top Chef Marathon), I steeled myself to call Comcast again. I have to say, this time, Cybil wasn’t nearly as friendly or helpful as she quickly transferred me to someone else, perhaps because of the shrieking I was doing into her fake ear. Over the next two hours, I talked to no fewer than eight real people who ran the gamut from disdainful to overly solicitous, some mumblers, some over-enunciators, all people who, I have to admit, were trying to help me get my channels back.

A low point was when one poor girl (real, not fake) had to tell me that there just might be a $49.00 charge for Comcast to come to my home to activate my converter. After I hung up on her, I sat and thought again (as I didn’t have anything else to do) and realized that I was going to have to do whatever was necessary to get the Food Network back on my TV. So, I called yet again and groveled a bit and got a perfectly nice real person (I think) who helped me set a time and a date for a real (I think) geeky electronics guy to come to my house and convert my converter, which he did today. By the way, he didn't charge me or at least I don’t think he did. I’m pretty confused at this point.

So now I have all my channels back; therefore, I must go.

The End. Happy Ending.


Melissa said...

Yes, get off your computer. You have some TV to catch up on.

Mary B Summerlin said...

Oh yes, I can relate! In my case, substitute computer for television. The repair man is on his way. I still, from past experiences, don't feel optimistic.

The Curious Lament of a Former Second Grade Teacher

  The timing was perfect.   I was 56 and looking toward retirement but not yet ready, either physically, emotionally, or moneta...