Page Three Dispatch From the Customer Service Line

Committed to My Long-Term Relationship With the DSL Help Desk

Adele Levine waits for the Verizon DSL help desk to share its typical advice for speeding her Internet connection: reboot.
Adele Levine waits for the Verizon DSL help desk to share its typical advice for speeding her Internet connection: reboot. (By Adele Levine)
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Monday, November 24, 2008

We would never suggest that a cable company intentionally would make our lives difficult. Oh, no. But we have wondered why it's so easy to buy additional services from Comcast but seems virtually impossible to subtract services we no longer want.

Last February, when I noticed a drastic reduction in Internet speed, I began the first of a series of approximately 80 calls to Verizon DSL, whose technical help desk I felt was staffed with prisoners whose only pleasure in life was to meanly make you unplug and plug back in your modem.

They tested my line, repeatedly, through many late nights. At their suggestion, I moved my computer into my living room and later back into my bedroom. I turned it on and off. I rebooted.

After a while, I knew exactly what was going to occur the minute the Muzak stopped playing and prepared myself for the usual series of Verizon Customer Stress Tasks I knew I'd be doing: carrying my hard drive and monitor to different corners of the house, turning things off and on, telling the technician which modem light was on and which was off and which one was blinking before being sent back to the Muzak Waiting Room.

In the Muzak Waiting Room, it is hard to enjoy the orchestrated version of Cyndi Lauper's "She Bop," because it is interrupted every five minutes by a cheerful voice suggesting that if you are having Internet problems, try turning your modem off and then on again.

In April, I decided I should ask for my money back. My Internet speed was a sluggish 29kbs -- slower then old-school dial-up. It took 30 minutes sometimes for a page to load, so I kept my Internet up all the time so at least I could check my e-mail occasionally.

The woman in billing was not nice like the Help Desk people. She told me that she could see I was currently on the Internet and therefore I was getting service and was not eligible for any kind of refund. Then she hung up on me.

In May, a repairman arrived.

He fixed some crossed wires and then left.

My Internet was not significantly any faster, but I noticed that my landline was now a party line. Whenever I picked up my phone, I could hear my neighbors talking into their phone. At first this was fun, then freaky, and finally just plain depressing. I knew way too much about my neighbors, and they knew nothing about me. My neighbor Catherine couldn't even hear me sigh in exaggerated annoyance when I picked up the phone and overheard her retell a story about her new haircut, which I had already overheard word-for-word an hour earlier.

In June, my friends -- sick of my Verizon DSL obsession -- began lobbying me to drop Verizon. But by now I was hunkered down and in it for the long haul. Familiar, I imagine, to how President Bush must have felt when invading Iraq didn't turn out the way he imagined.

What I didn't tell my friends was that I was starting to like the party line and the gang of characters at the 24-hour Verizon help desk. I might live alone, but thanks to Verizon DSL, I sure wasn't lonely.

Whenever I had a bad day at work or couldn't sleep at night, I'd call Verizon DSL.

Sometimes I'd talk about my frustration with their service. And sometimes I'd just talk. The Verizon DSL help-desk technicians were always sympathetic and friendly. They didn't judge me like my friends sometimes did. And I believed in their optimism. Everything would turn out okay if I just unplugged my modem and waited fifteen seconds.

-- Adele Levine, Wheaton


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