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Why I Love My Computer but Hate Technology

Published in ChicagoNow, January 10, 2019

On Sunday, I cried in the Apple Store. I’m sure I was not the first or last person reduced to tears there, and, in my defense, I was still sick from a trifecta of bronchitis, asthma, and a sinus infection. I had also just learned that, after a week in the computer hospital, my beloved iMac was on life support and it was time to pull the plug.

My journey through tech support hell began when I grew frustrated with how slowly my 2013 iMac was running. That colorful spinning wheel all Mac users dread was showing up every time I tried to open a window or app. The final straw was its refusal to open Word. For a writer, that was beyond acceptable. I took the computer to an Apple service provider in my neighborhood, for a diagnostic. Fingers crossed that it was fixable. Well, it was and it wasn’t.

Despite my belief that Macs were somehow immune to viruses, I learned this is totally untrue. They are just less prone to becoming infected because there are so many fewer Apple fans than Windows users. Thus, it’s much more satisfying for hackers to spread cute viruses in the Windows world where they can hurt the greatest number of innocent people. Evidently, some folks who enjoy targeting Macs tricked me into putting malware on my computer. Know those pop-ups that tell you to upgrade to the latest version of Adobe, for example? Ignore them and wait to be told to upgrade when you are actually using the Abode app. That’s just one example of how I may have allowed my computer to be infected.

Once the computer was germ-free, it was still sluggish. Now here’s where things get a bit tricky. If I replaced the conventional hard drive with a solid-state drive (SSD), my tired old computer would be peppy and happy for several more years. As a sick woman who wished she could have a new hard drive to improve her overall performance, this option really appealed to me. Yes, let’s do it. Next day, when I called to ask what time to pick up my totally great computer, I receive bad news. It crashed. It could have been a bad SSD drive, so they would try to put in a new one. Tomorrow, I would have that computer back for sure. Except the next day, with another new SSD drive, it crashed again. The problem was deeper. The patient was gravely ill.

At this point, you may be wondering why, even in my sickly state, I desperately needed to get that desktop computer back. What I learned in the days it was hospitalized was how challenging it was for me to depend on my iPhone for news and correspondence. The calendar is too small and my phone lacks the shortcuts I depend on to get to my favorite websites. I can’t use Word on it. I can’t do any of my photo projects. What my phone does best, aside from making actual phone calls, is to bother me with texts, useless emails, telemarketing calls, and Facebook updates. It takes great photos, but it doesn’t enable me to do what I love best, to write and be creative.

Sunday, things hit rock bottom. The tech who had been trying his best to get my old computer up and running, came in even though the store was closed to discover the second SSD crash. We met him there, sat Shiva for the dearly departed iMac, and concluded my best bet was to purchase a new one and have him transfer the data. He was such a nice guy that he let us order a new one from Best Buy (to avoid having to go to the insanely busy Apple Store) on the store computer.

Now here’s where technical support took over my life and crushed my soul. Efforts to make this purchase failed because Capital One decided to deny the charge and freeze my account. I get it. They were trying to help. When their technology noticed a large charge from a strange computer, it was protecting me by saying no. Just wish they would have texted or emailed (no one expects an actual phone call these days) to ask if I approved the charge. I decided to go directly to the Apple Store where I was certain the computer I wanted was in stock. Then I got too clever. Rather than deal with the craziness of that store on a weekend, I would call ahead and give my credit card information to the store so when I arrived, it would be good to go. Don’t worry, my husband was driving.

Little did I know there is no direct phone number for an Apple Store. The one listed rerouted me to a central number where someone somewhere put through my purchase. Once again, the credit card was denied. While Charm (yes, that was really her name) from Apple held on, I used my husband’s phone to call Capital One to unfreeze my account. This technical support person was in India. While Charm waited, he took 30 minutes with all sorts of verification requests to put through the charge. Then Charm assured me I would get an email confirming the sale and my new computer would be waiting for me when I arrived at the store.

That never happened because 1) she typed in the wrong email address, 2) the charge hadn’t gone through despite all of the help from my Capital One friend in India, and 3) it takes the store up to two hours to process the request. The folks at the Apple Store shook their heads. It was impossible to fix this mess. Three strikes and I was out.

What I learned from the entire ordeal was that in-person human beings can fix what helplines and technology can’t. When I started to cry, which exacerbated my cough, a very kind man named David came to my rescue. While my husband worked to get the credit card unlocked, this time by someone who spoke English but insisted we had purchased the machine in Canada rather than in Skokie, Illinois, David unraveled our issues and actually sold me a computer in short order. He probably bent some rules to do this, but what a mensch. I am deeply grateful to him for his kindness and patience. Maybe I reminded him of his grandmother?

What characterizes a real mensch? First, he or she must believe it is important to treat people well and do the right and honorable thing. Literally, mensch is Yiddish for human being. In the world of online technology and phone support, it often takes a kind human being to cut through the chaos and offer help to a woman like me who just wanted to write a blog post and finish making a 2018 photo book on her computer. Facebook, please stop texting me that my “fans” miss me. I’m back.


by Laurie Levy
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