Sometimes you go through these phases. A dark patch. It's nothing serious, but it drapes your day in shadows and makes the night seem abundant with frustration. You need to talk to someone, even though you know it really won't solve anything. Before you write me something about low testosterone, A) BACK OFF PAL UNLESS YOU WANT AN ARTISANAL KNUCKLE CIABATTA, and B) I'm talking about the abiding sadness of … a slow Internet connection.
As problems go, this is small. As small problems go, though, this is big. Step one: You're watching something on Netflix, and the picture pauses every 37 seconds, displaying a circle that seems to represent the passage of time. Is this an arty French movie that addresses the omnipresent sense of mortality by superimposing a clock over the lives of its characters? No, it's a "Transformers" movie. The circle means your wireless connection is slow. Well, let's go to the Internet provider's HELP page. You learn that certain things can block Wi-Fi, including "walls, pipes, paint, air and the lingering aroma of last night's fish dinner." Hey! You had cod. Open a window. Doesn't help.
You consult the list of available networks, just to make sure you're on the right one, and get a list of your neighbor's Wi-Fi names. One of them is called 3923 Thermostat; it's unsecured. Hmm: Someone installed a Nest thermostat, it seems, and left the door wide open. The thought of channeling your movie through a neighbor's thermostat is tempting, but antisocial; you don't want your neighbor to get up in the middle of the night, shivering, check the thermometer and hear the theme from "Making a Murderer" playing softly from the unit. No, it's your own network.
You run a test on the computer connected to the modem — not Wi-Fi, but the straight feed coming into the house. You're supposed to get 20 MPS. You're getting 4. This is like paying for a Sunday Strib with all the ads and comics and getting a piece of notebook paper folded in half with a stick figure over which someone wrote "This is Charlie Brown." Something is amiss, so you call technical support. Again.
"Thank you for calling TrickleNet LinkSystems. Your call is very important to us, which is why we've outsourced it to a building in a Mumbai suburb filled with people who regard your problems with boredom and contempt. Due to heavy call volume arising from a squirrel eating through the twine that carries 35 percent of our Internet traffic, you may experience longer than normal wait time. Your call will be answered in: (robot voice) 'six years.' If you cannot connect to the Internet at all, please visit our trickletnet.com slash help slash info slash wrists. Press one to repeat this message. Stab 0 repeatedly in the vain hopes of getting a human."
Then you get the hold music, which is interrupted every 17 seconds for a description of all the wonderful things you can do with high-speed Internet. If you had it. Eventually the music stops — that dramatic moment when you sit up and prepare for battle. The conversation, if performed honestly, would go like this.
"Hello, I have been assigned the name Alan, which is written phonetically on a Post-it note on my monitor. How can I find a way to work around your ignorance to give you a semblance of closure today?"
Yes, my Internet is slow. It's like cold-snail-on-glue-covered-sandpaper slow.
"My script requires me to express great sorrow over that fact, but in truth your problems will evaporate from my mind the moment we are done. May I start by asking for the account number you already punched into your phone for no good reason? Thank you, Mr. James, if I may use your first name to establish a false sense of servitude combined with familiarity. How can I give you the illusion of success?"
Could you pretend to reset my modem and then escalate this to a service call I will later cancel because the problem resolved itself for no apparent reason?
"Of course, Mr. James, I can do that. First I have to ask you if you turned your modem off and on, because experience has taught us that most of you are idiots who regard the most obvious solutions as something akin to magic."
I hit the main circuit breaker and plunged the house into darkness for an hour.
"Thank you, Mr. James. I am sorry for your patience and THANK yousorry THANK yousorry THANKyousor …" (buzzing sound, then silence as Alan's programs reload). "Let me transfer you to someone in Tennessee who, between calls, watches YouTube compilation videos of people fighting in Burger King parking lots. He will assist you with your service appointment."
Thank you for a reasonable pretense of compassion.
"I regret that you did not embark on a baroque oration of profanity I could have put on speakerphone for my co-workers to enjoy. Is there anything else I can fail to do for you? No? Please hold, after which you will be arbitrarily disconnected."
I can't wait to dump my Internet provider. Fiber is coming to my neighborhood, and I intend to get it. No more calling technical support because I'm only getting a quarter of 20 MPS. Soon I'll be calling to complain I'm only getting half of 100 MPS.