The Loh Life is writer/performer Sandra Tsing Loh's weekly take on life, family, and pop culture in early 21st century Southern California.
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Date with Babul: Paying for it--part 3

Sandra Tsing Loh finally has her IT date with Babul.

Call me old-fashioned, but I BELIEVE if you BUY a brand new PC with a printer? You SHOULD be able to type and print OUT a document without PURCHASING tech support.

No one would BELIEVE the problem wasn’t me. Never mind that I have a degree in physics from Caltech and I have owned PC’s—and downloaded their various ridiculous printer DRIVERS--for 30 years. I understand how to hook cables together, how to type in ISP destinations, even how to shatter a laptop when flinging it against a wall – but that’s a story for another day.

So I was TRYING to EXPLAIN all this over an 899 number to my Hewlett-Packard tech SUPPORT person. His name he insisted, in his clipped Indian accent, was not Babul, which I’d heard FIRST, but Bob. Fair enough--I wanted to establish a rapport, because I felt he would only CHARGE me if he felt I hadn’t tried hard enough. But no. Bob blandly SAID he could easily HELP me, but he’d need a VISA number. The charge--$20 for two weeks of unlimited PHONE support.

I first BALKED, but THEN thought, “WAIT a MINUTE. Two weeks? Of UNLIMITED phone support? For just 20 bucks, Bob will be my SLAVE. Heck, I could CALL him at 2 in the morning next Wednesday to CHAT with him about stuff that is not even Microsoft RELATED!”

So I GIVE him my VISA number, there is an awkward PAUSE as he validates it and then, with the hushed INTIMACY of a MASSEUSE, he asks, “Sandra? May I take control of your computer?” “Yes,” I say, and click open the portal.

In fascination, I WATCH as my POINTER—newly INVIGORATED by Bob’s EXPERT ghost hand—floats over my desktop. It clicks open a printer driver menu, makes a selection, laconically hits install EXECUTE and--? Like an EXPLOSION, a big red X appears. The pointer hovers unmoving, as if in shock.

“Sandra?” Bob says, a bit more tightly. “This may take a few minutes, you may want to go do something else—

“Oh no, Bob,” I say, clicking open a beer. “This is absolutely fascinating!”

The pointer begins swirling ever more frantically over the screen. Various HP INTERNET sites are visited, menus are pulled DOWN, line items CLICKED-- Big red X’s appear, one after the other -- He puts me on hold, consults with his BUDDIES, and confesses, with palpable ANXIETY, that he is going to build me something called “a software patch.” I don’t feel reassured.

Bottom line—TWO HOURS AND FIFTEEN MINUTES LATER? I can print. At which point Bob weepily apologizes and—guess what--reverses the charges! Best therapy I ever had.

What we’ll talk about on our phone date tomorrow, I don’t know. But you know what, Bob? Bombay OR California time, my portal will be open.