Life advice from Earthlink Customer Support

Granted, I'm too attached to my internet connection, but I think that's excusable when the people who give me my paychecks and to whom I deliver my work are half a country away. Not to mention the friends with whom I stay in touch. So it's not unexpected that I become displeased–even agitated–when my internet connection fails. Even more so if it seems a computer problem. Thankfully, my internet connection seldom fails. It did fail, however, a week or so ago and I'm still thinking about it. To be more correct, I'm still thinking about how it came to be fixed.

It stopped working about midnight, just as I was shutting down my computer. I tried everything in my meager repertoire of computer problem-solving strategies, but I couldn't figure it out. What's more, a couple never-before-seen ominous error messages appeared on the screen. I went to bed worried that something bad had happened deep inside my new computer system, or at the very least, something was going to take a lot of my time to get it going again.

First thing in the morning I called Earthlink customer service. A very calm voice came over the line asking how he could help me. I spilled the scenario of events surrounding my computer internet "crisis." His response, "OK, here's what we'll do." Then he proceeded to tell me what to do. "First, turn off your modem. Now, unplug it." Step-by-step, he guided me. At each point, he assured me "I'll wait" as I searched for the right button or cord. After methodically going through each step, the problem was solved. I watched with relief as a web page loaded. He received my profuse thanks and was about to hang up when I said I'd like to make sure that my e-mail worked. Instead of disregarding this unnecessary check and hurrying on to assist his next caller, he said, "Yes, let's do that. I'll wait." Of course, all was well.

Why am I still thinking about this incident a week or so after it happened?

Maybe it's because it is such a blessing and relief (and rarity) to ask for help from a customer service line and then be helped so quickly, effectively, and graciously.

Maybe it's because I wish all problems could be resolved this way--a call to someone who sees the way out of the problem and will wait with you as you follow his or her directions from point A to point B, from point B to point C.

Maybe it's because I think there's a model here for how we could be more helpful and patient with the people in our lives who are trying to navigate difficult issues.

Maybe it's because the solution to the computer/internet problem may be a bit more universally applicable than just within the arena of hardware and software. What the Earthlink support technician had me do was turn off and unplug everything. Wait a few minutes. Then methodically–one thing at a time–plug everything back in, turn everything back on. He explained that all the components needed were to be reset and to do that they all needed to be shut down. I'm thinking that's not bad advice for system overload and malfunction in people....Time to reset....Unplug....Be still....Bring everything back to core position....Start up again, slowly, with order....Have someone nearby waiting calmly.

Furthering an interest of a friend

While on a work-related trip to Barcelona a couple years ago, I fell in love with the mosaic tilework in the architecture of Antoni Gaudi. The picture you see here is a close-up of the tiles in the curving benches of Park Güell.

Fast forward to last week.

My friend and I went to an open house at a center for artists. I'm not sure what to call the place exactly. It was a large warehouse sort of building that is being refurbished into separate artist studios. During the open house, people could roam from one studio to the next looking at each artist's work and what he or she had for sale. The studio that most intrigued me was that of an artist who decorated tables, frames, pots, and bowls with mosaic tiles. She told us how she scours flea markets and yard sales for dishes with interesting features and desired colors and then breaks them up with a hammer.

As much as I like mosiac tilework, this is not the point of this post.

The point of this post is what just arrived in my mailbox. My friend, with whom I'd gone to this artists' open house, sent me an envelope in which she had included an article on mosaic tilework. How to do it. Specifically, how to transform an old table or pottery pot into a mosaic masterpiece. She had written a quick note on the article, something to the effect that she knew she had seen an article on this recently and here it was. This isn't the first time this friend has done this. She has often sent me articles or copies of something that she knew I'd be interested in. What a gift, to get a tangible piece of paper in the mail that acknowledges and furthers a personal interest. That's part of friendship, part of the concept of "iron sharpening iron" between people.

Six things I learned/relearned at my college reunion

I had a wonderful time at my college reunion. The main attraction: old friends! Lots of talking at parties and late into the night, actually into the early morning hours. The parents of one of my college friends have a house a couple blocks from the school and were kind enough to vacate the premises, turning it over to a large group of us for the weekend. My high school senior son groaned at the thought of a slumber party for moms.

Coming home yesterday, I thought about key things that stood out for me from the weekend. Here they are.

Six things I learned/relearned at my college reunion:
• Everyone eventually grows up.
• Everyone has amazing stories to tell.
• Everyone has problems and a complex life to live.
• It is very hard, if not impossible, to predict with accuracy the path of a person's life, especially from the starting point of age 18 to 22 years.
• Friends that share a common spiritual faith can go to deeper levels faster than friends who don't share a faith.
• Deep friendships that stand the test of time are rare, precious, and worth holding on to.