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Archive for Monday, March 20, 2006

Troubeshooting printers, marriages

March 20, 2006

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If I ever split with husband Ray - after lo, these many years - my grounds for divorce will be six little words: "What did you do to it?"

He recently uttered those words after our 3-week-old, large-screen TV lost its sound. It happened abruptly while I was innocently lying on the couch (like the potato I am) watching a rerun of "Seinfeld."

He said those exact words several years ago when we were driving down the highway. I was behind the wheel, which meant I had already used up all of my miracles for the day (he likes to be in the driver's seat), and I'm sure that is why the car began to sputter, lose power and coast to a stop. Ray, who was sitting within 18 inches of me looked at me coolly and inquired, "What did you do to it?"

I gave him my most fierce look. "I guess I HEXED it!" I hissed through gritted teeth.

And he's not the only one who thinks that if something isn't working that: 1) I caused it; or 2) I am not correctly following the instructions. The latter occurs any time I call a help line. Troubleshooting line is more like it. They give me trouble, and I feel like shooting them.

For those of you who haven't already figured it out, I'll share what I have discovered: The people who staff those help lines don't know any more about fixing the problem than we do. They are reading from a script! Son Ray Jr., an IT coordinator who knows a lot about computers, has been forced on occasion to call those lines only to have someone hang up on him when he or she doesn't understand what he's talking about.

It's a more level playing field for them when I'm the person calling in for assistance. My satellite TV service has a simple fix for anything that goes wrong: unplug the device, count to 30 and plug it back in. I once went through five levels, talking to a smarter idiot each time, and every single one of them had me unplug the receiver box. When it didn't work, I was bumped up another level. A woman at one level insisted on a variation; I must unplug the plug from the wall, not the back of the receiver.

Like a dutiful dummy, every time they told me to unplug it and count to 30, I did. But that was before my friend Martha told me that she just pretends to do what they say and then tells them, "No, that didn't work."

At the last level, the man purporting to assist me insinuated that I wasn't performing the action correctly. "Hey!" I said, "There are only so many ways you can unplug and plug in a plug!"

Now my new printer is giving me trouble. It prints text colors perfectly, but prints black line drawings and grayscale photos in bright green. Even when I check the little box that says "print colors in black," it still prints them in green.

I decided against dealing with the frustration of someone reading a script to me over the phone, so I e-mailed my problem to Epson's customer service department. I reported everything they needed to know, including that it didn't matter what program I tried to print from, line drawings and photos that weren't green on the screen printed in green. I also added that the ink cartridges printed text perfectly.

I don't know what I was thinking! The reply suggested that I clean the print heads and told me in excruciating detail how to do it, beginning with, "Make sure the printer is on but not printing." Duh!

It's pretty obvious that someone just plugged in a reply without reading my report closely enough to understand the problem ... sort of like your congressman's aides do when you write to him.

On a happy note, when the young man who installed our TV brought another TV to replace it, he checked to ascertain that our TV was defective. It seemed to be until, while testing the VCR, he got sound from the TV speakers. He made a quick trip to his truck for a cable, hooked it up and diagnosed the problem. It was the brand new receiver box. Never mind that our satellite service representative told me when I called that it couldn't possibly be the receiver "unless the connections are loose." (They weren't.)

It was an easy fix. The installer simply unplugged the receiver, counted to 30, plugged it back in and, voila, we had audio along with our video.

My marriage is also easily fixed, so I'll probably stick with Ray. Why? Because he has three little words that trump six little words. Those words are "I love you," and he knows how - and when - to use them.

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