Dude, you got a New Delhi

It's often said: "To err is human, but to really mess up, you need a computer." To that adage I'd like to add: "And if you want to go crazy, call overseas for technical support."

Recently, my desktop computer's CD-ROM drive stopped working. I tried to fix it myself. Unfortunately, most recovery programs require -- you guessed it -- use of the CD-ROM drive.

After sweating over this Catch-22 for an hour, I called my computer company's technical support number. After the requisite 15 minutes of voice mail options and canned music, I got a real live person on the phone.

This person was in India. No surprise there; we've all heard about the "outsourcing" of customer service jobs. Didn't bother me that the guy was halfway around the world. He seemed perfectly nice and I thought, if he works for the computer company, he surely knows more about computers than I do. (Though that's not saying much.)

However, we had trouble understanding each other. The phone connection was jerky, and he spoke with a heavy accent, so it sounded like he was talking through a bad case of the hiccups. I don't know how I sounded to him, but clearly he had problems with my Southern accent.

(I grew up in Arkansas. I normally don't have much of an accent, but the South tends to rise again when I let down my guard. Pour a few drinks in me, and I sound just like Bill Clinton.)

Our conversation quickly degenerated into repeated use of the word "What?" Over and over, back and forth, stress steadily building.

Under such pressure, I drawled more and littered my language with "ain't" and "y'all," which stymied him. Frustrated, he talked faster and louder, which made him sound like a taxi driver in rush-hour traffic.

It was a relief when he put me on hold. I tried to let the canned music soothe me, but it seemed loud and foreign, too.

He came back on the line to inform me my warranty had expired. (Heck, I could've told him that.) If I wanted technical support, he said, I'd have to pay $40 and there were no guarantees they could fix anything.

"But you keep the money?" I drawled.


"Even if it's still broken, you get paid?"


"Never mind," I shouted. I gave him my credit card number and, after more confusion and canned music, he said we could proceed.

But I wouldn't be talking to him anymore. He wasn't Technical Support. He was The Guy Who Takes Your Personal Information and Makes You Pay Up Front.

Back on hold, I told myself it couldn't get any weirder. Then Tech Support came on the line. A woman. She had an even stronger accent. Plus, she spoke Computerese, which meant it was all gibberish to me.

We spent another 20 minutes on the phone, shouting "What?" and speaking gibberish and putting the computer through its paces. When we were done, she confirmed what I had come to fear. It was a hardware problem, and I would need to take the computer to an Authorized Service Center for repair.

In other words, my CD-ROM drive was broken. Which is right back where we started.

I hung up the phone, $40 poorer and no better off. My shoulders ached with tension. My head hurt. My ears were tired.

But, hey, I figure I did my part for International Understanding. And won't the folks in India be surprised when my broken computer arrives in the mail?

It's marked, "Postage Due, y'all."


Barbara said...

Have you seen "Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World" with Albert Brooks? Brooks has an office in a New Delhi building-down the hall from a call center. Every time he walks by the call center we hear something incredibly hilarious.

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