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FROM THE DESK OF SENATOR DAVID LONG

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My 15-year old son Adam wanted one thing for Christmas—a new computer. According to him, all his friends had one in their rooms. The family computer in my den was OK; its just that having his own machine to stay in touch with his friends on the internet; do his homework; and watch DVD movies—well, to him, that was the most important thing in the world.

Besides, my den had become his second home. Todays teenagers are addicted to instant messaging, i.e. the ability to chat back and forth between a number of friends over the internet. Adam's homework would be done in there (with the TV and Computer off, however); he would watch TV in there during his free time, just to be near the computer in case there was either an ongoing discussion or a message would be sent to him. Basically, he had taken over my home office. So there was some incentive for me to break down and buy him the computer.

My wife and I decided, however, that if we did this, he would have to pay for part of it. It wasn't just the high cost of a computer; it was the idea that he comprehend that a computer in the bedroom is a luxury, as well as his getting used to paying his own way in the world.

So—I set about to find the right computer. After much research, and a few discussions with our company's Information Technology (IT) manager, we decided on a Dell. According to the IT guy, this was clearly the best, most reliable machine on the market. Also, there were truly some great deals to be had just before Christmas. Dell does no selling through retail stores. They are strictly factory direct. You order the computer directly from them (usually over the internet) and they build and ship it to your home.

Well, Dell sent the computer; it came to my office so it would remain a surprise for Christmas. We wrapped it up, put it under the tree, and figured it was as good as we could do. When Adam opened it up, however, it wasn't long before Adam discovered that there wasn't a DVD player on the machine. Whoops! Now what to do? Adam was delighted with the machine, but his visions of playing DVD music and movies dissolved. At first, I just said you'll have to live with it, but after a few long looks from my wife, I relented and said I'd look into it. I asked Kevin, the IT manager, and he said, "...just go to Best Buy and purchase an internal DVD player. They won't cost more than $60.00 or so, and you can put it in yourself". OK—I did just that. Picked up a DVD player on sale with the highest possible speed for $54.00. Not bad!

Now, to install it. I opened the box and found, much to my delight, that there were no instructions. None. I guess they figured the only person putting one of these in would be a computer geek who understood the inner workings of the darn thing. Recovering quickly, I reverted to Dell's instruction manual, and sure enough, there were several pages devoted to installing a DVD device. At least, it got you into the computer. But, of course, the specific means of hooking up the key power cords and other power devices was conveniently missing. It seems that Dell makes its own DVD players, which apparently come with their own instructions, so woe to the dummy who buys a competitor's DVD and tries to install it. After an hour and a half of trying to figure this out on my own, I decided I needed help.

I called the 24-hour technical support number for the DVD's manufacturer. I got a recording telling me that due to the "heavy Christmas load of calls", they would just have to take my phone number and get back to me. Translated: "Good luck pal, you're on your own!"

Undeterred, I dug through the computer manual until I found the 24-hour Dell technical phone center, and made the call. It was now around 11PM, and I had spent too much time to admit on trying to get this #%mce_markeramp;* DVD player in to the computer. After sitting on hold for a serious amount of time, I was connected with a gentleman with a strong middle eastern or Indian accent. Together, we began a torturous, 75-minute marathon help session during which he patiently stuck with me while we "looked" into the guts of the computer and attempted to hook up this miserable little DVD device.

The biggest problem was that I just couldn't understand him very well; his accent was quite heavy, and I wondered why in the heck they couldn't just hire someone who was more fluent with the English language. Nevertheless, he was patient to a fault with me, guiding me through one explanation after another. He repeatedly complained that he had a bad connection, and finally asked for my number so he could call me back. I figured he'd lost his patience, and this was his way to get rid of the moron on the other end of the phone. I hung up, fearing the worst, but he called right back. He was in for the long haul! Finally, a breakthrough: he figured out that I was trying to use the power cords and cables that came with the DVD. The problem was there was no place to plug in another power cable. Now, he figured out why I was so perplexed. "You take those cords and cables and toss them away—you don't need them"! Huh?

Patiently, he guided me through how to use Dell's power cord coming from the CD Rom player, as well as several unidentifiable, colored wires, to plug into the DVD player. I had to take apart a few cords and cables to do this, so I gave the phone to my wife, who was also patiently watching the ordeal, no doubt rolling her eyes behind my back. She struck up a conversation with the man and quickly found out that he was from.....India. Not only that, but at that moment, he was talking to us from India! Yup, Dell is truly world-wide, and when it is late at night in the states, their international group takes over the technical support for all the dummies in the western hemisphere like me. Melissa told him we were from a Midwestern city with a population of a little over 200,000. He laughed. She asked him how big his city was, and he said, give or take a few people, around 45 million! Turns out he's from the Bombay area.

To make a long story short, around 1AM or so, after several more trips around the DVD player, CD Rom player, floppy disk player, etc., and a few extra pushes on the power cords to make sure they were plugged in correctly, we had SUCCESS! I thanked the man repeatedly, he gave me his e-mail to stay in touch with him personally if anything else went wrong, and we parted company. I'm sure his opinion of the Midwestern American male has been greatly diminished, though my wife managed to charm him out of believing that our household was completely hopeless.

The reward: my son, who had given up and gone to sleep in the guest room around 12:30AM, came bounding into our bedroom the next morning, whooping "The DVD works! Dad, you're the greatest!"

I felt like Einstein! Mission accomplished.

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The Waynedale News Staff
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