Friday, May 24, 2019

tempering the temper

One of the most pleasant discoveries I have made in publishing my periodic essays is the number of relationships this process creates. And often I do not know it is happening.

My last missive was on Sunday. I told you about my almost-nil electric bill as a result of my new solar array and that a guest had just arrived from The States. Then, everything went black. At least, on your end.

I have received several email from readers; some not disguising a very worried subtext. Had my health issue, that I wrote about last week, taken a turn for the worst?  Had I encountered an Agatha Christie plot twist where my existence had been reduced to a chalk outline in the library? Had the Air Force finally figured out who the true Assange mole was?

All of those would be far more interesting narratives than the one I am about to relay. Truth can be stranger than fiction. But it is usually simply far more mundane.

Something woke me up early on Monday morning. I can’t tell you exactly what it was. Maybe the sound of the computer clicking off and almost immediately clicking on again.

We have a lot of those micro-outages here -- even those of us with solar power. The only way I know they occur is because my oven clock reverts to a new winky time.

The inconsistency of our power supply is extremely rough on the electronic equipment attached to it. Our fluctuating voltage can fry the inner workings of appliances over time. That is why I have both voltage regulators and high-quality surge protectors on almost everything that plugs into the wall.

When I got up on Monday, I went through my usual routine. I read The Oregonian, practiced my Spanish for an hour, read an article or two in The Economist, and turned on my computer to catch up on my favorite blogs.

But there were no favorite blogs – because there was no wi-fi. The modems we receive here from Telmex (the provider of internet services through my land line) are, to put it politely, not the sturdiest equipment on the digital highway. An acquaintance, who is far less fastidious with his characterizations, calls them “garbage.” Imagine a Prius designed and manufactured in North Korea, and you get the picture.

I performed all of the recommended triage on my non-responding patient, and slapped a DNR on its medical records. The procedure is familiar. In eleven years of living here, this is probably my twelfth or thirteenth replacement modem.

Because Omar was home, I asked him to call Telmex in Mexico City and order a new one. That is now the required procedure. Not the Omar part. The calling Mexico City.

When I moved here, I could drive to Manzanillo and exchange my dead modem for a new one. Then, the procedure changed slightly. I had to call and obtain an incident number. With that, I could drive to Manzanillo and get a new modem.

I guess that was too easy because Telmex briefly changed the drill. A call would generate an order for a technician to show up at the house to install the new modem. But, even that was short-lived.

During the last two modem tangos, I was given the option of having a technician bring my modem or I could have it delivered. It would take a technician two weeks; delivery would be in three days. Or so I was ytold. I chose delivery. It took two weeks. Both times.

On Monday, Omar selected the three-day delivery option, and received an incident number. It is now Friday and no modem is at the house.

For some reason, I knew it was not a good idea for me to call. I often lose patience in dealing with the Telmex bureaucracy. But this should have been a very simple call. Here is my incident number, where is my modem in the delivery process?

Omar was getting ready for school, but I asked him to make the follow-up call. It was a good choice. I could tell by his repetition of the incident number on the telephone that something was wrong.

He then started going through all of the steps Telmex puts a customer through before allowing a new modem to be ordered. He had done all of them on Monday. I kept muttering in the background: “We have a number. Where is our modem?”

Even though Telmex had put him through all of the same paces earlier in the week, he performed them again without once letting a hint of frustration enter his voice. As if this was simply his lot in life.

When he hung up the telephone, he told me Telmex had no record that we had ever called, but the modem would be here in an additional three days. An additional three business days. I am assuming that hoping that will happen by next Wednesday is just plain wishful thinking.

I say it was a good idea to have Omar call --  that my patience would have been tried and found wanting. But I know how things work around here. Allowing myself to get frustrated and striking out would simply have impeded my receipt of a new modem. Knowing that, I would have gritted my teeth and imitated my son’s demeanor.

I have started looking into the possibility of buying a backup modem. A number of people here in the village have told me they have purchased modems on mercado libre. But no one has yet told me that the modem actually connects with Telmex’s service.

My brother and I tried to get a northern modem with the same specifications as a Telmex modem to connect to my system last year. It wouldn’t. Adding a northern router to increase range did work -- but only with the Telmex modem.

I have seen several discussions on message boards in gringo-heavy Mexican communities. Most of those boards are filled with information that appears wrong on its face. But several people with obvious computer backgrounds contend that Telmex adds customized firmware to its modems. If that is true, that is probably why our non-Telmex modem was not responsive.

So, for the next week or two, I may be a bit sporadic in posting. I will have to search out places with available wi-fi as if I were a peso-pinching tourist. But I know that routine. I have been one.

At least, you now that that Colonel Mustard did not commit the murder in the kitchen with the pipe wrench.

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