“Tragedy is an imitation of an action that is serious, complete, and of a certain magnitude; . . . through pity [eleos] and fear [phobos] effecting the proper purgation [catharsis] of these emotions” (Aristotle, Poetics, c. 350 BCE, Book 6.2).
Think of this, then, as catharsis. Not sure there was ever fear, but please pity me my personal, 21st century induced tragedy. Think of this as the purgation of one frustrated client, letting off steam that has boiled and fumed so much, it might easily explode something, most likely my head.
This is a story of inexcusable inefficiency, underscored by incompetence and a lack of even the basic understanding of what makes professionalism. True, they compensated (a little) in the end, but the story remains one of avoidable mishaps.
A few facts first. I have a very poor internet connection. GO says it does not have the infrastructure to give me anything better than 4 gigabits, though I paid for a few years for a lot more without being informed of the fact. Even that ceiling is quite stretched and hardly ever reached, but I make do and live with the hope that the promise of a fiberoptic connection by the end of the year, made on the phone (not in writing) by a customer-care official, will actually materialise.
I am always online. Think of me as part of the wired (or is it wireless now?) generation that needs to be plugged into the universe to exist. I do a lot of work online, I have persistent correspondence (with my students, my colleagues abroad, with co-workers and others with whom I interact professionally, among others), I use the internet extensively for study, for awareness, and for research – both directly and indirectly. It also keeps me in touch with my much-missed partner, who right now happens to be abroad.
Please don’t think I’m exaggerating if I compare what the internet means to me, to the drip needed for life support of a hospital patient. Remove the drip and he might not die, but will be severely debilitated and terribly harmed.
So when I came back from a long stint abroad on Wednesday 16th September, very late at night, and found that what little internet I usually had was now intermittently switching itself off, my heart sank and I phoned GO customer care. I think it must have been one o’clock in the morning. Their 24 hour support service is to be commended. And I commend it. Which is one of the few good things I have to say about the company and its workers in this blog. It’s also manned (and womanned) by quite courteous people who really make an effort to help. There, I think I’ve exhausted any warmth I might have had left in their regard.
They said that my phone line, much maligned and very accident prone throughout its short life, was probably faulty. I phoned again the following day, when the intermittent interruptions continued, and it was confirmed that the line had pretty much had it, and a report lodged with technicians to work their magic and fix it. GO called me back a few days later to tell me that the magic would be worked on Tuesday early afternoon, when I was given an appointment with one of their technicians. My internet had come and gone a zillion times in the meantime, and though I was managing to work, it was in fits and starts, and the customer-care gentleman was really gentlemanly and offered me extra gigabytes of mobile internet that I could use to bolster my failing connection. I thanked him profusely and used his gift with relief.
But at one point, something happened and the hotspot I was using to link my computer to the phone suddenly stopped working. In any case, I still had internet about sixty percent of the time, though the phone line was now fizzing like an over-carbonated soft drink, so I made do.
The technician came a few hours early. He went up a long ladder to check the box on the façade from which my line emanated. He came into my study and dismantled the connection box here. He went up the ladder again. Then he went off in his van to check something while I took care of the ladder. He came back half an hour later and told me not to worry. He said it was a cable fault and said cheerfully it would be fixed by that afternoon. He came up to my study again, fitted the connection box back together and left.
I checked the line. It was totally silent. What had fizzed and crackled before was now as dead as a doornail, and with it, just as completely dead, was my intermittent internet.
I had an errand and actually ran into the technician, still sitting in his van, planning his next visit, and I reiterated with some vehemence my dependence on the internet and that he was absolutely (ABSOLUTELY) certain that the fault would be fixed by that afternoon. He said absolutely.
It’s amazing how some people can lie with so straight a face you don’t even begin to doubt the veracity of their words. We’re used to accepting the authority of those “who know what to do” when it comes to technical matters. And that’s what I did.
He was lying of course. Through his teeth. With a smile that obviously indicated he thought I was a gullible idiot. Which is entirely what I was at that point. I will be kind and think he believed it. But it’s more likely that I wanted to believe that I’d be connected to the world again soon, so, yes, I was a gullible idiot.
Not forever, though. The mistrust of the system nagged at me, and told me to phone customer care again at around half past three. And the gentlemen at the end of the line was flabbergasted when I told him that what my poor line had was a cable fault and that I had been (categorically) told that it would be fixed that afternoon.
“Let me check, sir,” he said, and something tremulous in his voice told me I’d been had. That’s when the first gushes of red flashed before my eyes. They were to continue doing so in greater volumes over the next hours and days.
He hemmed and he hawed and he told me that a cable fault takes … erm… days to fix, possibly… erm… many days. He became more flustered as I became more distressed. And I did something I never do. I raised my voice. Shouted at the messenger because I could not throttle the person who had lied to me so blatantly. It wasn’t fair on him, but at that point GO (and he represented GO) was not being fair on me.
He offered me more mobile gigs, but I said I had a hotspot problem, so he offered me an internet key, and I said yes, but how? And he phoned their Birkirkara outlet, and their Bay Street outlet (since they were closest to Msida, where I live), but no joy. Only the Naxxar outlet had one, but I had to collect it. And it was a quarter to four and I had a meeting at University at five. And I told him so. And I said I would go there and then and would he tell them to have it ready so I could take it and run, please? And he said “certainly, sir”.
And he was lying too!
I lived through the drive to Naxxar in rush hour (in MALTA) by the skin of my teeth (and tires), parked in front of a garage, and dashed into the outlet at a quarter past four, and I told my story to the security guard, and she went to talk to the supervisor and came back and told me I had to wait in line! There were six people in the line, and three attendants, and they were drawing up mobile contracts and selling phones!
I told her I’d been told I wouldn’t have to wait and beseeched her to let them let me have the key. She was a very nice woman and knocked on the manager’s door and came out sadly shaking her head and telling me I had to wait in line.
I did (ungraciously, after moving the car to a more legal spot, with the security guard nicely keeping my place in the line) and waited for forty minutes till it was my turn and the lady there fiddled with a sim card and filled it with gigs for me and I paid 50 Euros deposit and told her that I had a Macintosh and she said “no problem, sir, it works on all computers” and I grabbed my USB internet key, and my contract and dashed out of the outlet at five to five and made it to University by ten past five (and found the meeting had been cancelled unbeknownst to me, but that’s another story altogether!)
Went home a bit later, and tried to set up the key. And all it did was yield a pdf with instructions that could not be followed. I have a vague knowledge of networking on a Mac, so I followed my own whims and nearly got there, except for the simple, nagging point that the computer was not seeing the key. At all.
So I phoned customer care (humming impatiently through gritted teeth to the ear-worm music they play as you wait with boiling blood to be talked to by a human), and the human finally came on and he tried to walk me through the process.
Only what he was talking about was a PC, not a Mac. I said I had a Mac. He asked if I’d told them at the outlet that I had a Mac. I said I had. And he said … erm… that key only worked… erm… on a PC.
So the woman at the outlet was also lying. Either that or she was so totally incompetent that she actually thought the useless thing I’d nearly died half a dozen times to get really worked on a Mac.
The poor customer care guy who was getting a large bit of my (rather sore by this time) tongue and being screamed at in abject frustration, offered me yet more gigs on my mobile, but found I had been given enough, so I rang off and scrambled to get the hotspot to work again. A struggle later, I did, after fighting a bit more with the key, finding it incredibly difficult to believe that I had been led wrong yet again!
But I had been!
And that was that. My line remained silent, like a grave that’s been buried in marble for centuries. It was silent all of Thursday. It was silent on Friday before I went to work.
And at two o’clock GO customer care called.
“You have reported a fault on your phone line, sir.”
“Yes!” and gave a digest version of the story.
“Well, sir, the technicians called at your house, but you were not there.”
“Yes, sir, earlier today, and you weren’t there.”
“People WORK, you know? They don’t stay at home! Did they call me before they rang my doorbell?”
“No sir. You weren’t there!”
“I know I wasn’t there! I’m at work! Did they fix the cable fault?”
“Yes, the underground fault has been fixed, but…”
“I still don’t have a line!”
“No, sir, you don’t. I’ll have to give you an appointment for the technician to come fix your line there.”
“The earliest I have is Tuesday afternoon…”
“But I’m working Tuesday… never mind, I’ll manage.” And gave him a time and he repeated it and said he’d note it for the technician. And I vented my frustration and anger a bit more, and was offered more mobile gigs, and rung off!
This might not have been word for word (I did not repeat above that he started by saying that he would be recording the phone call) … so the transcript might be slightly off. But not by much!
Honestly, I’m quite soft spoken normally. I do not, almost ever, raise my voice on the phone at anybody who’s doing his or her job to the best of his or her ability. But my nerves were now fraught to the point of fraying and I’d had enough! It was one ridiculous, idiotic thing after another.
GO did realize they’d messed up pretty badly, and, again when I was at work, I found I had a missed call. I returned it and found that a technician had actually gone to check the work, but, of course being unable to go into my home, he could not fix it. Again.
All a bit ridiculous. So much time and effort wasted on the off chance that the disgruntled client is home, when it’s clear that nine cases out of ten, the client works for a living and therefore isn’t.
And I’m not convinced they will come on Tuesday when I’m home waiting for them, or if they do, I’m not convinced they’ll fix my line.
All the above was written on Friday in a dire mood. Since then I’ve worked in very limited fashion using my mobile hotspot, but my beloved landline remained dead to the world. The way the story ended has mellowed me a little. Not a lot, because I still had to go through hell, but at least, at the very end (much too late, if you ask me) there was a major effort by the contracted technician to finalise the story. And one more happening made me think a little better of GO personnel.
He came on Tuesday at the appointed time and had to use two very long ladders (two storeys, at least … one of the two boxes set on the walls of the blocks were I live was meant for a time of giants…) just to find out that the cable link to my line had been sent up to a box from which I could not get a connection, because it would need to cross roofs of unfriendly (let me not use the correct adjective) neighbours who had already cut and dumped my phone line off their properties twice. Trying to find a way of patching the line to the correct box proved dodgy. Two hours worth of dodgy. Two hours worth of going up and down very long ladders (at his own expense, since he did contractual work) giving me ample reason to forgive him his trespasses of the past. He really (really) tried hard to give me my lifeline back!
But at the end of those two hours, my line (and my life) remained as silent as Marcel Marceau in his heyday. At least I had the promise of a return the following morning, Wednesday (today, 30th September), two weeks after my first report, with a colleague to help coordinate the effort, since there were two boxes that needed synchronising. I was late for work (had popped home for a few hours while he worked) and did not argue.
True to his word, he and friend came first thing this morning and fixed the fault in half an hour (after much clambering on ladders again). The dulcet sounds of a ringtone never sounded so melodic and I felt like popping a champagne cork in jubilation.
The colleague (upstairs to check it all worked) noted that I had a very old modem and that it took ages to come on. He suggested I exchange it. And since I had to go to a GO outlet to return the useless internet key and get my deposit back, I decided to do what he recommended.
Went, key was handed in, modem was exchanged for a modern one, technicians there set it up, and I was told it was plug-and-play and I came back home to plug and (not play, but) work.
And all hell broke lose again. When I plugged, the phone line went. When I unplugged, the line came back again.
So I called GO customer care again (go on, count the number of times I’ve said I did that in this blog! I dare you!) and on explaining about what had happened, I was asked to wait and told (I couldn’t believe my ears) that a technician would be with me in my home very soon.
And he was. An affable chap who checked the cabinet of wires (Dr Caligari take note) and fixed something before turning up. And in his capable hands both my internet and my phone worked. Simultaneously, too! And he didn’t stop there. He stayed and waited till I tried all the tricks, the cable in the back of the Mac, the router… one by one, and they all (HALLELULJAH!) WORKED. He went the extra mile and checked the port to which my internet was connected, and found a glitch there. He contacted the engineer and had it rectified. He really deserved the mug of tea I prepared for him as he worked. Yes, I was, at that point, magnanimous enough to offer refreshments to representatives of a company I felt like dumping unceremoniously not many hours before and for two weeks before that.
A happy ending? Doubt it’s a lived happily ever after situation. Not for as long as the infrastructure remains antediluvian. Not till fiberoptic solves my speed problem, and probably creates tragedies and the need for catharsis all its own.
But GO needs to take a good long look at itself. Some of its areas (not least its customer care) work well, but those bits of it that are old and tired define it, and mine is not the only story of gnashed teeth and abject frustration that I’ve heard.
Let me enjoy my internet in peace for as long as it’s there, and sing an occasional chorus from Handel’s magnum opus to ease the clenched, nervous stomach brought about by my trials and tribulations. It keeps on telling me something else will soon go wrong and I’ll be in a vacuum again, whirling in the dark nothingness of the unconnected.