What it takes to be a techie

By JOHN HOWELL
Posted 10/15/20

A Cox technician in Kansas finally provided me with the answer why I'm clueless when it comes to my cell phone, or to most technological things for that matter. I have last Wednesday's brief but severe storm to thank for that. There had been sporadic

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What it takes to be a techie

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A Cox technician in Kansas finally provided me with the answer why I’m clueless when it comes to my cell phone, or to most technological things for that matter.

I have last Wednesday’s brief but severe storm to thank for that.

There had been sporadic downpours earlier in the day, so I thought little of the overcast sky when I left the office before 6 o’clock. There were a few drops on the windshield, and as I looked up I spotted rolling black clouds that could have been the work of a demented artist. They were so dramatic, they looked surreal.

I figured they weren’t coming my way.

That was a mistake. As I pulled into my drive, the wind hit with such force that I had trouble opening my car door. Had I been facing the other way, it probably would have taken the door off its hinges. Getting inside wasn’t easy, and once there, Carol suggested I go back out and check the grill. Ollie seemed to know what was going on. He looked at me quizzically and retreated to his crate and refuge.

“Do you know what’s going on out there?”

Carol looked out the window to see leaves flying and the bay whipped into a white frenzy.

Then the lights went out. They came back on just as quickly. The process was repeated several times before the house went dark. Just as quickly, the wind subsided. It was over, but many Rhode Islanders were without power. Fortunately, we have a gas stove, so dinner wasn’t interrupted and dining by candlelight was a nice touch. We missed the VP debate and turned in on the early side.

Carol was up before midnight when the power was restored and the house was suddenly ablaze. It’s then that she discovered we had lost our internet connection. Thankfully she waited until morning to give me the news.

Indeed, she was right. In one respect I felt blessed not to be faced by a deluge of emails, and on other stressed knowing they would catch up with me in an avalanche. I tried different browsers. Nothing appeared on my screen except a cartoon of an astronaut floating in space and the bit of information that I already knew – I had lost my connection. So I guess was the message that I was lost in cyberspace, only I was disconnected from cyberspace.

I figured the Cox system was a victim of the storm and like the electricity, the service would be restored soon. That didn’t happen.

On Thursday night, I called Cox. I wasn’t surprised to get a series of prompts – no real live person – and the information they would remotely reset the system. That was going to take about 15 minutes, at which time I should unplug the modem and router to reboot everything. Now that I could handle. I followed instructions, but that little cartoon astronaut was still floating in space.

I picked up the phone to report the status only to discover it was now dead.

The cell was my fallback. I called and finally talked to a real person. They said they would text me once they had an answer. Sure enough, I got a text reporting there was an area problem and thanking me for my patience. With no developments by Friday afternoon, I called again, reaching who I believed to be a technician in Texas. I went through my full story and he confirmed that I had already called several times. Somehow the conversation got off track and he lamented that all there was to eat were tacos and what he missed most was southern fried fish. But he was going to help me by sending someone to the house.

“Don’t worry,” he assured, “you’ll get a call by the end of the day.”

There was no call. On Saturday I reached out to our company IT guy, Dave. He had me text him photos of the modem and router. From the light display he said they were working and the problem had to be at the Cox end.

Finally, in frustration I called Cox again that evening. This time I got a guy in Kansas. He was a sleuth from the start. I didn’t pass the first test when I told him apples are a favorite food. He wanted to know what kind, but Macoun didn’t fit the bill. Then it was on to the last four digits of my Social Security and my street address.

I told him Dave believed it to be a Cox problem. He checked that out and confirmed there had been a neighborhood problem but that was fixed now. It had to be in the tangle of wires and boxes at my end. But what and where?

He suggested I start with the phone. Did a wire lead from the phone to a box in the wall or to one of the boxes with a round black cable? He was excited when I told him the box with a cable.

“We’re going to try this,” he said coaching me through the disconnecting and reconnecting of wires.

I picked up the phone. I had a dial tone. He was excited. He gave me a call on the landline and now I had him on two phones.

“It’s the router,” he said assertively, but you won’t be able to get that until Monday.

What about internet service on one device, could he do that?

There was a pause. “Let’s try it,” he said.

Some more coaching in wiring and that was working.

I had to ask, “where did you learn this, did you go to some tech school?”

His answer was sincere.

“I play video games.”

Now I know why my grandchildren are so adept at technology.

I grew up with pinball machines and accustomed to kicking and jostling them when needed. Don’t try doing that when you can’t get on the internet. Instead, reach out to the wizard in Kansas.

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