fragments of humanity adding up to an impersonal machine
Thursday, August 10 2000
I've been trying to get my home DSL working, because, without an internet connection, there's not much to do at home except watch television (thus the Big Brother commentary in yesterday's entry). Aside from Salon printouts made at work, I don't even have any text to read; Kim took nearly all the books, including a few belonging to me. Mind you, this is not to say that I ever really had any good books out here with me in California; I've been living a mostly post-book existence. Perhaps it could even be considered a post-purchase existence. The only durable items I've bought in the last two years were a dozen or so expensive electronic gadgets. It's now pretty clear that Kim was the one who did all the buying of things, because with her out of my life, I have practically nothing. Now, as for Kim's books, they were uniformly about subjects of absolutely no interest to me. I haven't picked up a good book in a very long time.
The problem with my DSL is that the DSLness of the phone line is still somehow tied up with Kim's Earthlink account, which is scheduled to be switched to her new Venice phone line three weeks from now. In the mean time, it seems, there is nothing I can do to seize control of this line for my own DSL purposes. But I didn't find this out until after a long maddening run-around this morning at the hands of the various employees of Earthlink. On the phone these people sound, predictably enough, overworked and underpaid. The fact that there is a routine wait of at least fifteen minutes before one gets to talk to anybody indicates that Earthlink is dreadfully understaffed. More galling, though, is the defensive willingness on the part of the live people on the phone to transfer customers to other departments almost without warning. This inevitably leads to yet another fifteen minute wait. Such waits are punctuated at the most infuriating possible frequency with a recording of a woman saying "All of our broadband support staff are currently busy helping other customers. Please stay on the line..."
At the beginning of this process, I'd ask the sales staff to sell me an account. They'd check my line and tell me it wasn't available for DSL and I'd correct them and say that yes it was, that it was provided via subcontract with GTE (excuse me, Verizon!). They'd say "Oh, wait a moment while I check some things." Five minutes later they'd come back and say "It shows here that you're all set up for DSL." "But I'm not!" I'd insist, "I can't log in, not even with my old girlfriend's account." So then they'd want to transfer me to Customer Service, but I knew that was a dead-end and I'd plead for them not to. Customer Service, you see, can't do a damn thing to Kim's account unless Kim is also on the line. So, basically, I get no DSL until Kim gets her DSL (though I doubt I'll even get it then, given how thoroughly fucked up they are: for example, they've sent us two DSL modems and have yet to ask for either of them back).
The problem here, I think, is that they have this large rapidly-growing organization segmented into very small parts, each with extremely limited responsibility. The few people with any knowledge of the big picture are removed as far as bureaucratically possible from customer service, so there's no way for me, the lowly customer, to reach anyone rational enough to do the rational thing, which would be to sell me a DSL login and let me use my DSL-equipped phone line. The fact that the people on the phone are performing such limited tasks cuts them off from the possibility of helping anyone with an issue that is in any way extraordinary. Their inflexibility confers upon them an inhuman, mechanical quality. It's yet more evidence that humans are gradually giving up their bodies and moving their essences into machines. If you do it all workday long, you've done it for most of your waking life. The machine, it seems, is devouring us headfirst. Try to picture a vintage IBM minicomputer with kicking businessperson legs sticking out of the sixteen-inch floppy drive slot.
I went on a ride through the alleys of the nearby upscale neighborhood of Brentwood in search of some discarded furniture with which to furnish my home, but it was an entirely fruitless exercise. It turns out that the sort of people who live in Brentwood are not the kind who pile up their disgarded furniture in alleyways. There sure are a lot of sweaty joggers huffing and puffing up and down San Vicente. This is in stark contrast to the absolute absence of joggers on the streets and sidewalks of my West LA neighborhood. Like West LA, I get the feeling that the people of Brentwood are paranoid and impersonal, holing up in their (decidedly larger) castles instead of facing the possible threats of the streets. I'm sure that all the Brentwood joggers carry pepper spray. I could never live in Brentwood, even if I was a wealthy aging football hero. The place reeks of second-generation noveau riche, the blood of Nicole Simpson and her killer who, as OJ so shrewdly observed, "is still out there somewhere."
At the Brentwood Ralph's, I bought some peanut butter, a broom and a box of Constant Comment tea. Can you believe that Kim actually took all the tea when she moved out? That's right, first Bathtubgirl had a policy of interrupting my baths and then, when she moved out she stole the only tea of Vodkatea boy! (At least she didn't take my vodka.) As for brooms, I've never bought one before. They cost about as much as a cheap ethernet card. I bought the traditional kind I remember from my childhood; those cheap-looking plastic brooms are actually more expensive.
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