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.