Who’s Spending Your Time?

I’ve just had a new economy experience. For a while, I’ve wanted to connect to the Internet using my IBM ThinkPad 600E and my Motorola Timeport mobile phone. I tried to find out if this was possible about six months ago. I vaguely remember getting caught up in a data fog somewhere between telesupport and Web site confusion.

In this wonderful, progressive, technology-laden world, I have developed a basic belief system. One of my beliefs is that if you don’t find the information you want by asking someone, you turn to the Web. If, within 5 or a maximum of 10 minutes, you have not found the information you require, give up. The information may be out there, but the time you will spend finding it is just not worth the effort.

Now, you might say that’s a very cynical way to view our bright, shiny, and hugely efficient new economy. Me, I’m jaded. Behind the sheen is a massive swamp of inefficiencies — a dark, foggy, sticky maze of unending paths to nowhere. Out there in that soggy, brown, and slow land are millions of disinterested hands reaching into your pockets, lazily spending your time.

With its right hand, technology promises you products that are faster, better, and cheaper. With its left hand, it steals your time. In the new economy, time is your most valuable resource.

But, hey, I’m an optimist at heart. Once more I was willing to believe that “Support” was actually about support, and not some torture process intended to alienate and disturb.

I visited the IBM Web site. It’s a very good Web site. I searched for the ThinkPad 600E. I found its home page quickly. But after visiting a few sections, I couldn’t find an answer to my question.

So, I rang up my local IBM dealer. After about three minutes, a friendly voice answered. I explained my situation. “Oh, I’ll direct you to our Internet support,” she said hesitantly. Yes, there was something in her voice that made me feel that she hadn’t quite grasped what I said to her. Anyway…

Could it be true that record companies and telesupport companies have signed a secret alliance? If not, they should. After 10 minutes of listening to pop music, it struck me that you could combine calling Support with checking out what’s hot on the charts. Now and then a pleasant voice interrupted my music listening.

“All our agents are busy. Please hold the line,” it intoned. Maybe embedded in this otherworldly voice is a subliminal message encouraging us to join some sort of religious faith. Because it had that numbing mantra feel to it. Yes, I believe. Yes, I will hold the line.

Finally, a human voice appears over the mix. Ah, someone who can help me! Someone who can answer my questions. A sense of relief fluttered within me… and died. The agent didn’t have a clue what I was talking about. He was almost incredulous that I should be asking him this sort of question. He muttered that all he dealt with was billing and lost passwords.

“So, who do I call?” I pleaded.

“You have to call Microsoft,” he stated, with a fundamental certainty.

I paused. “Thank you,” I said.

“You’re welcome,” he replied.

I put down the phone.

Microsoft?

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