Dear Diary...It's Me Mitch
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Dear Diary…It’s Me Mitch

Life has its challenges and can be difficult at times. But, it’s all we’ve got, I guess. So, we’d better make the best of it.

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Dear Diary,

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I know we haven’t spent much time together over the last few days, and I apologize. But, I assure you there is a good reason.

What reason could be good enough?

How about this: Life Sucks!

OK, so it doesn’t REALLY suck…It’s just impossible. Well, maybe not impossible, just hard!

I don’t know why, but that’s just the way it is…or, at least, the way it’s been for the past few days.
Maybe it’s because the moon is full…you don’t have to look: It is! Maybe it’s because the planets have all aligned themselves in some strange way…you don’t have to check: They have. Or, maybe, just maybe: Life really does suck!

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Oh, so you want to know how crazy things have been? OK, then, I’ll tell you! Humor me and this will serve as a kind of passive psychotherapy. Or, maybe, it’s just psycho and we should leave it at that!

Let’s start with early Sunday afternoon, when Dana — you remember my daughter Dana — informed me she could not access the Internet through her computer and our wireless network at the house. If you don’t remember, you can reference previous entries beginning circa 1978 for background material.

I went online and found that she was correct: we were cut off from the great “info-net” that envelops the planet; isolated and alone. Lesley (reference: wife — lots of entries beginning July 1968), who uses a computer solely to access the Internet for the occasional e-mail once a month or so, started to panic — an interesting reaction for someone not tethered to the blogosphere.

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With no way to access the Internet for her  e-mails — infinitely more e-mails than her mother is ever likely to receive — Dana was already there. Both of them looked at me and, at virtually the same moment asked: “What are we going to do?” which in either “Wife” or “Daughter” speak roughly translates to mean: “What are YOU going to do?”

Outnumbered and drowning in estrogen, what you do is go through the laundry list of things that normally cause Internet access to disappear. You recycle the modem, check and recycle the router, check phone filters, phone lines, Internet connections, network connections, banking connections, social network connections and just about anything else that might prevent access. Why? So you won’t have to make that dreaded support call to Mumbai, which will ultimately force a conversation with “Tammy,” or “Brent,” or “Robert,” or some other fictional and wildly unlikely alias!

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With my luck and the kind of week it’s been, I’d probably get the “chai runner” from Slumdog Millionaire who won the 2 million rupees, and instead of me telling him to go to hell, he’d tell me!

OK! I wouldn’t really tell him to go to hell. But, I would tell him that I couldn’t understand a damned thing he was trying to tell me! And, I would tell him there is no way I believe his name is really Blake!

Nevertheless, I called, I had to. And, after waiting 30 minutes for the next available support professional, I told the “technician” what I had already done and that as far as I could tell, it looked like a high-speed, DSL modem failure.

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After an hour or so of following a mindless script instructing me to do just about everything I had just done, I was told I would have to move to the next level of support. I’m not sure, but I think the model for outsourced, off-site support is patterned after the seven levels of heaven leading to Nirvana — which has to be Internet access and support that actually works!

Just for the record, I looked up “support” in the dictionary, and I can tell you for a fact that what I was getting was not at all consistent with the definition I found there!

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Unfortunately, we had to leave for a while and the call to second-level support had to wait until we returned home. This time it was two-and-a-half hours of rechecking everything we had just checked and a heartfelt apology for having to send me to senior-level support. In all honesty, I was beginning to feel as if the only positive that could possibly come out of calls like these would be an increased ability to tolerate frustration and disappointment!
Note to self: Do NOT try to run the shop this way. You WILL go out of business!

I called senior-level support. However, by the time I called they were closed…I wonder what time it is in Mumbai?
Called the next morning at 6:00 a.m. Went through another hour-and-a-half of following a different script, only to have the tech tell me that he thought it might be the modem. I’m not sure whether I felt validation or relief. Maybe I should consider a career that requires observational skills, analysis, evaluation, critical thinking, inspection and testing? How about automotive technology? What do you think?

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Presented with the choice of purchasing a new modem, having them “give” me a new modem at no additional cost along with the same quality of service and support and a service contract for an additional 18 months, and finding a new high-speed Internet service provider, I have opted to switch.

After spending another 10 minutes explaining why I didn’t want a new modem, I left for work, only to have things get worse.

No, really, they did!

How? Easy…

As a Russian immigrant we once had working for us in Santa Monica some 35 years ago used to say:
“Kra-zee Peeple…!”

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The first “Kra-zee Peeple” was an older “gentleman” with a Check Engine light that would not go out.
“Can you do something with that light?” which translated to mean: “Can you: A. Find out what’s wrong with it, B. Turn it off, C. Put some black tape over it or remove the bulb or D. All of the above, so I don’t have to stare at that damned light anymore!”

My response was, of course: “Nope! We’ve either got to fix it, or we’ll have to pass!”

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OK, I didn’t say it quite like that. But you get the idea.

After further discussion, it was decided that for a fixed dollar amount we would look at the vehicle, scan it for DTCs, do some preliminary inspection and testing, document our results and then get back to him. I created a repair order  — he signed it — and I gave him a lift to his daughter’s place of business so he wouldn’t be trapped at the shop. We did the initial inspection and testing and discovered a P0411 Secondary Air Injection problem code, along with a failed part that was not supposed to be installed on this particular vehicle, making it infinitely more difficult to find and then condemn.

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Somewhere in the middle of all this, another client appeared in the driveway with a Ford Excursion. He had just been in for brake service on his Expedition a few weeks ago — he evidently has a “thing” for Ford trucks that begin with “Ex.”

The first time he came to us, he needed a complete brake job and new front rotors. Up until then, most of the service he’d had done was “quick service” with little or no attention paid to anything that couldn’t be seen from under the hood or from under the vehicle. Outside of the occasional tire rotation, the wheels had never been off the vehicle. The result was a horrendous grinding noise with jagged canyons torn from the surface of both front rotors.

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We did a service on his vehicle and explained how we do a 30-point courtesy inspection including removing the wheels, rotating the tires and checking the brakes on every service. He loved us to death and couldn’t thank us enough for the care and quality he received while in our care and custody! And, he insisted that we would forever be his “garage of choice” from that moment on.

Yeah…yeah…I know. Heard it all before…

He asked how much a “normal” service would be for his Excursion and we told him that “all things being equal,” it would be the same price. He said, “Great!” and made an appointment to bring the Excursion in. Well, when it showed up, all things weren’t equal. The Excursion was a turbo diesel with a crankcase capacity three times that of the Expedition requiring a higher grade synthetic blend oil and a more expensive filter at three times the original estimate.

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He went outside for a few minutes to speak to his wife and when he returned informed me that while he still “loved” us to pieces, the dealer was willing to perform the same service for slightly more than half our estimate. He urged us to meet or beat that price, but, when we would not, off he went.

He called back later on that afternoon to let us know that the service at Ford was just $20 less than our estimate and since we make it a practice to estimate high, it would more than likely have come out to the same amount or less. See, Diary: Life does suck at times!

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By that time, the first “gentleman” called back demanding a guarantee that the component we had diagnosed as failed would be all he needed to purchase in order to “fix” his 17-year-old, 130,000-mile, low-maintenance pickup.
Just as I was going to call him back to explain that I would not and could not do that, my “First Call” parts supplier called to let me know that payment for their most recent invoice had been declined by the credit card company…That’s right: Declined!

I know…I know…I may have overreacted slightly, but I went berserk!

Having the charge declined was impossible. I don’t owe anyone any money. I have a healthy balance in my checking account and a healthy balance remaining on the card. In fact, I can buy a car, A NICE CAR, with the balance left on that card!

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Having the charge declined was not only unacceptable, it was just plain incomprehensible!

Switch back to the “guarantee guy.” The next thing I know, he’s in the office with his wife — the Bride of Satan, herself — demanding that we release the vehicle and accusing us of trying to rip them off.

Question: How can you rip someone off when you haven’t asked them for any money?

Back to credit card hell. Turns out three checks got lost somewhere between the post office where they were hand delivered and dropped in the mailbox, and Southern California Edison, American Express and I.D.E.A. Go figure…

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So now I’m in the process of changing phone and ISP service — more about that as the adventure unfolds. The bank, vendor and credit card issues have all been taken care of. The pickup owner and his demonic wife have left, hopefully, never to return.

The Excursion owner will probably think twice before choosing the “lowest bidder,” only to find out that’s not the way things actually turn out. And, there are cars in the bays, people I actually like in the office, money in the bank, blood pressure that is at least close to normal, and it’s Wednesday! Just three more days to go til the weekend! Yippee!

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OK, so life doesn’t really suck!

It’s challenging, you bet. Difficult at times, unquestionably! But, it’s all we’ve got, I guess. So, we’d better make the best of it.

More later, but until then: thanks for listening!

Yours truly,
Mitch  

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