OK, spoiler alert: I didn’t really get eaten by bears. What actually happened was that I spent thirty minutes on the phone with the Army’s Computer Help Desk which, as customer service experiences go, is less excruciating than being mauled by grizzlies in the Kodiak. But not by much. Given the opportunity again I’d take my chances with the bears. I swore a lot before it was all over.
I got to work tonight to find that I couldn’t log on to my company email. No one could. Apparently my supervisor had addressed the problem via email, explaining the issue and its Very Simple Solution. But of course no one could get into their email to read her email, so… well, you see the difficulty.
I called the Help Desk. After all, they’re there to help, right? The poster on the bulletin board says so! Would the Army lie? The very name “Help Desk” is reassuring, evoking images of a warm, grandmotherly type in an apron, perhaps offering you a freshly baked pie and a back rub; maybe help on your income taxes, or folksy wisdom on housebreaking your dog.
The Help Desk person who answered my phone call was not warm, nor was he grandmotherly, nor even (possibly) human. He certainly wasn’t helpful. Even over the phone lines I could sense his contempt, his utter disdain for me—this puerile half-wit who had called to disturb him with something as trivial as an entire department being locked out of their email.
For the sake of convenience I’ll give him a nickname. Let’s call him… oh, let’s just randomly call him… Dick. (I have a late uncle and a dear friend, both named Dick; lovely men. This guy was a Dick of a different stripe).
Here’s how our conversation went:
Dick answers the phone with something that sounds like “Rrmph gumph shizzle flockstrap.”
“Hi,” I chirp, “is this the Help Desk?”
“That’s what I said, isn’t it?” He doesn’t so much speak as bark, sounding truculent and supremely Type-A.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t hear what you said when you answered.” I am all sweetness. “I’m calling because no one in our department can get into our email accounts. Can you help?”
“Why can’t you get into your email?” he is accusatory, as though I am doing this on purpose to wreck his life.
I’m a little taken aback by his manner, but hey, my mother raised me to be polite. I answer in my Nice Voice. “I don’t know why we can’t get in. I was sort of hoping you could tell me.”
“What are you doing wrong? You must be doing something wrong. It’s usually the user’s fault.”
I am already wondering how many years of therapy his children are going to need after being raised by a man who “helps” like this. “It’s not just me,” I explain, “it’s the entire department.”
There is a long, disbelieving pause. “Yeah, right. The entire department. Are you entering through the OWA?”
“I’m sorry; I don’t know what the OWA is. I’m using Explorer and typing in the usual address.”
He repeats himself very loudly and very slowly, as though I am either deaf, or not very bright. “The O… W… A! Are. You. Entering. Through. It?”
I’m losing my grip on courtesy. “I have no idea what you’re talking about. What the heck is the OWA?”
There is a heavy sigh, the aggressive clatter of computer keys, and some dark muttering. I think I hear the words ignorant slut, but I can’t be sure. “Oh, well I see the problem right here. The server doesn’t recognize you.”
I wait, but it seems that’s all he’s going to offer. “Um, can you tell me how to fix it?”
Dick actually snickers, as though this is the funniest thing he’s heard all night. “Well, if the server’s not recognizing you, it’s not recognizing you. You won’t be able to get into your email.”
I say the first of many silent swear words. “Is there a solution?”
“Oh yes,” he says. “The solution is that you’d need the server to start recognizing you.”
At this point I actually hold the receiver out from my ear and stare at it. I cannot believe I am having this conversation, or that I am at the mercy of this passive-aggressive asshole.
“How,” I say very deliberately, “might one go about getting the server to recognize oneself? Or one’s partner? Or anyone else in this department who is currently locked out of their email?”
“Well,” he says, and I can practically hear him smirking, “that’s the question, isn’t it?”
I won’t pain you with more. We went around like this for quite some time and I’m afraid at one point I may have called him a “condescending jackhole.” Or maybe I didn’t actually say it out loud. But I might have. Finally my partner got tired of listening to my Rain-Man-like responses. He picked up his phone, punched in some numbers, and within fifteen seconds had the problem resolved.
I hung up on Dick and logged in to my email. Then for the rest of my night I fantasized about feeding him to the bears.
A/N: Special thanks to my soapmaking friend Kendra Cote, who posted this for me when the “gubbmint” computers at work would not let me access WordPress.