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Confessions of an Internet Junkie

Michael Hillman

I've been spending so much time on the Internet recently that my wife recently asked if I loved it more then her. Unfortunately, I was in the middle of downloading jokes at the time and asked if I could get back to her when I was done. Needless to say, I didn't complete the download.

In spite of its lure, at first I was successful in limiting my time on line. Actually, it wasn't that hard, especially since I didn't have a computer. But, the minute my mean, sleek, Internet machine was delivered, all bets were off. Logging into the Internet for the first time is like shooting heroin. Once you do it, there's no going back.

I had no sooner establish my e-mail account, when a chime announced the arrival of my first e-mail, a welcome aboard message from my Internet service provider, Ads-R-Us. "You may not know it," the e-mail stated, "but your importance in the world is proportional to the number of e-mails you receive a day. Let us help you increase your importance. Just click the 'Always trust us button' and we'll take care of getting your name out to world. I clicked yes, and the next day was barraged with 422 e-mails. Most of them from sites like 'Anna's House of Midnight Delights' or 'Paul's Passion Pit of Pain.'

I eventually managed to remove my name from most of the seeder mailing list, albeit only after offering up the e-mail addresses of five friends per list. Now I averaged 25 e-mails a day, 90% of which are jokes. I have to admit I love the ease with which e-mail allows me to be in touch with old friends, even if it only is to pass along stale jokes.

Over the holidays, I was looking forward to breaking out of my e-mail box and doing so real exploring on the Internet. While my wife was preparing gift lists, I was preparing a list of must see sites. The day after Thanksgiving, however, I began to notice that my computer was having trouble connecting. By early December, it was taking at least three attempts to log in.

While I was concerned, I wasn't too worried, after all, the news had predicted an avalanche of on-line Christmas shopping, and my Internet provider was giving all expense paid, month-long, vacations to Tahiti for anyone who signed up. I figured it was just temporary server congestion.

Two weeks later, however, it was taking five tries to get connected. A few days later, it was ten. By Christmas, I was clicking on my e-mail icon so fast that my mouse would scamper off its pad and hid when it saw me approach the computer. When I did connect, the speed was often so slow that snail mail seemed a better alternative. Soon the server congestion theory began to wear thin.

After three hours of unsuccessful connect attempts, I called my Internet service provider. "Thank you for calling Ads-R-Us Internet. If you need help connecting to the Internet, our customer support page is loaded with helpful hints. If you're having trouble staying online, consider upgrading to our 'double ads in half the time' package. If you want talk to a customer representative, please go to the customer support page on our web site. Click on customer support and enter your question. A real live customer representative will e-mail a response when they have time. Thank you for choosing Ads-R-Us Internet. Good-bye."

I sat dumbfounded listening to the dial tone AND wondering what had just happened. Eventually I did get through to a real person at Ads-R-Us, but only after I lied and said I wanted to sign up for new service. "I'm sorry Sir, but I only handle new accounts."

"Yes, I know, but can you transfer me to someone who can help me get connected."

"Get connected? Have you check out our web site yet? It's loaded with helpful hints, have you tried it yet?"

"I would if I could, but, since I can't log in, I can't get to your site to figure out why I can't log in!"

"Well sir, I'm not supposed to transfer anyone until they try everything on the web site first. Otherwise, we would waste all our time giving out answers that are already posted. You understand don't you? Please call back when you've run through everything on our site, and thanks for using Add-R-Us Internet. Good-bye."

Since I was obviously getting nowhere, I headed over to a neighbor to see if I could steal his latest free CD from some Internet provider. You know, the type you receive with each package of toilet paper or in specially marked cereal boxes. I figured if I could log onto the Internet with another provider, it would at least rule out the modem as the problem.

I arrived just as he was pulling out of the driveway with his family. "Believe it or not, this time tomorrow I'll be sitting in Tahiti, soaking up sun and drinking Mai Tai's 'til I can't see straight. All I had to do is sign up for Internet service with this company called Ads-R-Us. Every hear of them?"

I cringed. "Um, yeah. By any chance have you tried using them?"

"Yep, just did a few minutes ago. Got in right away, 56K connection, they were blazing fast. Well, got to go. Surf's up! Oh by the way. I understand we're supposed to get a lot of snow this week. Would you mind shoveling my walkway why I'm gone?" I found myself wishing him a case of sunstroke as he pulled away.

The fact that he could log in and I couldn't meant only one thing. My modem was obviously failing. It was time to call Fast Talking Computers, the builder of my computer.




"ID Number? What Id Number?"

'It''sthenumberthatwaswrittenonthebackofyourinvoiceinvisibleink. Wecan'thelp-yourwithoutyourDnumber."

"Um, excuse me, but is it possible to speak to someone who speaks a little slower?"

"Iamtheslowesttalkerhere. CANYOUUNDERSTANDMENOW" He shouted.

Obviously, it was not going to be my day. So I gave up and just began to explain my problem.

"SoundslikeyouhaveaproblemwithyourInternetprovider. Haveyoucalledthem?"

"Yes, they told me to call you."


"You don't seem to understand. I can't get on the net. If I can't get on the net, how can I log into your site?"

"Hum.Maybesomethingiswrongwiththesoftware.Letstryremovingthemodemndthen-lettingWindowsdetectitagain. Ready?"

I eventually managed to step my way through the process to remove and re-install the modem, thought it wasn't pretty.


"All right, but I only have one line, so I'll have to call you back." Unfortunately, the fix didn't work, and, reluctantly, I once again called Fast Talking Computers.


Not again I thought. "Um, I just called a couple of minutes ago. Can I talk to whoever just helped me?"


Once again, I methodically recited my connectivity tale of woe.

"Hmm.Soundslikesomethingiswrongwiththemodem'ssoftware. Letstryremoving-themodemandthenlettingWindowsdetectitagain?"

"I just did that! That's why I'm calling back! It didn't fix the problem!"

"Wellmaybeyoudiditwrong,Tryagain.Ifitstilldoesn'tworkcheckoutourwebsite-forothertroubleshotinghints. Bye."

Once again, I found myself listening to a dial tone. In spite of my better judgment, I once again visited the add/remove hardware icon and stumbled my way through the process of removing my modem and then allowing windows to redetect it, meeting with the same results as the first try. As did the third, the fourth, and the fifth. With each failed attempt, the nagging feeling that I would never again be able to connect to the Internet grew and grew. Soon it consumed every moment of thought, and, before long, I was desperate for a solution.

"Thank-you for calling FT Computers, can I help you."

"My apologies, I was trying to reach Fast talking Computers. I must have dialed the wrong number. Let me try again."

"No! Don't hang up. This is Fast Talking Computers!"

"Are you sure? I can actually understand you!"

"Strange, you're the twenty-fifth person today to tell me that. I just started today and I'm on probation 'til I can speak 500 words a minute in proper techno-babble. Anyway, how can I help you?"

Once again, I explained the situation.

"I'm sorry sir, but I don't know much about modems. Can I have one of the other technical representatives call you back as soon as they are free?"

"We'll I'd rather not, but I guess I'll have to wait. Do you have any idea when that will occur?"

"It should be no more than two hours."

Two days later, at 11:15 P.M., my call was returned. After I not so politely informing them that there were two Washington's in the country, and that they had just managed to waste my last Viagra, they quickly agreed to send me a new modem.

Installing the new modem was fairly easy, after all, I am a nuclear engineer. Figuring my problem was solved, I confidently clicked on my e-mail icon and awaited the avalanche of jokes that had accumulated since I last logged in. But the new modem proved no more successful in connecting then the old one. With each unsuccessful login attempt, I become more and more convinced the problem lay not with my computer, but with my Internet provider.

"Thank you for calling Ads-R-Us Internet Corporate headquarters. Can I help you?"

"Yes, can I talk to someone who knows something about modems please?"
"Modems? I'm sorry sir, but we're an Internet provider. We don't deal with modems. If you have a modem problem, please contact your computer manufacture. Have a nice day." Once again, the line went dead. I went and poured the first of what would be a long line of drinks.

Eventually I got through to someone who knew something about modems. "Well I'm not sure what to tell you. Our servers aren't having any problems. Have you logged into your modem manufacture's web site to see if they have posted any new drivers? We update our server drivers fairly frequently so you might be dealing with a driver issue. If that doesn't work, have you contacted the phone company yet? You could be dealing with a line issue."

I was fairly confident that it wasn't a line issue, after all, the wiring for my old farm house has worked well for 50 years. As for the drivers, that was another story. As far as I knew, I was still working with the set that came with my computer. Downing another drink, I called Fast Talking Computers.
"Hello, Fast Talking Computers. May I help you?"

My god, I thought, how lucky can I be? I got Fast Talker's slow talker again! "Yes, I need to get the latest drivers for my modem."

"All the latest drivers are posted on our web site. If you give me your account number, I'll tell you what driver to download." I was just about to launch into a tirade about how imbecile it was to tell someone having difficulty logging in, that the solution could be found by logging in, when she caught herself. "It seems we made a mistake. You should have received a CD with the latest drivers with your new modem. I'm sorry for that mistake. I'll send them out right away. Better yet, because it was our mistake, I can send out the newest modem we just got in today with its drivers. Would that be O.K.?"

I felt like an idiot. I had spent hours preparing to do battle, but instead of giving me a fight, the technician was bending over backwards to help me. I accepted the new modem offer. The way I figured it, if I was still having problems after installing a different type modem, Ads-R-Us Internet would finally have to 'fess up and admit they were the problem.

As I waited the arrival of the new modem, I got the whimsical idea to listen in on another telephone as modem dialed into the server. Figuring that if the modem was dialing out correctly, it would be one more indicator that the problem was with Ads-R-Us's server. To my surprise, the modem connected on the first try. The connection speed was horrible, but for the first time in two weeks, I was online again.

I repeated the exercise several times. Every time I had the phone off the hook, the modem connected. With the phone on the hook, the modem dialed in vain. Being a good engineer, I knew I was onto something. After several tries, I once again managed to reach Ads-R-Us's modem guru. "Wow. That's a new one on me. Have you checked your line yet?"

"Why should I do that?" I said. "The line has worked well for 50 years, and when I jury-rigged the outlet for the computer connection, I only had to splice the line six times." As I hung up, as curable an optimist as I am, even I had to admit that my defense of the [them? line?] was bordering on the ludicrous.

The next day as promised, it [the modem?] arrived, and much to my chagrin, it too was unable to connect to the Internet. I sat dumbfounded for what seemed like an eternity. Slowly, but surely, I began to plot my attack on the telephone company.

With snow blowing all around me, I peeled back the box covering the old telephone connection. Debris, dust, and dead bugs of all shapes and sizes poured out. As I pulled away the cover, I came face to face with the biggest, fattest spiders I have ever seen. Based upon the number of fried bug carcasses at the bottom of the box, this spider liked his bugs barbecued, and, as far as he was concerned, the telephone jacks fried them quite well, thank you.

After evicting the spider and cleaning out the box, I set about running a dedicated line to my computer jack. In the process, I also removed nine old derelict telephone wires whose installation could undoubtedly be traced to the days of party lines.

As I stood in front of the fire to warm up, it occurred to me that a good nuclear engineer would try logging in before he sealed up the box. To my amazement, the modem connected on the first ring, and at the best connection rate I ever had to boot.

An hour and twenty-five minutes later, the downloading of back e-mails was complete - 622 jokes, 245 ads, 56 Internet newsletters, and one e-mail from my neighbor in Tahiti, raving about the warm water, hot sun, cool drinks, and bikini clad natives. I bundled up and headed out to shovel snow, cursing the spider all the way.

Read other humor stories by Michael Hillman

Read other stories by Michael Hillman