The defective computer monitor (Subtitle: ‘I’m sorry, Dave. I can’t let you back into the airlock’)
Friends who are skilled with social media marketing strategies, and much more clever than I, have been after me for months to expand my social media “platform.” Writing essays and short stories and posting them on a blog is fine as a hobby, they say, but if I want to be noticed in the virtual universe I must promote myself and my writing through a Facebook page, Facebook Live, tweets, podcasts, and YouTube videos.
No one is going to read your blog, or buy your books, they told me, unless you raise your online profile. Get noticed.
To do that, I needed more computer equipment, including a monitor that was larger than the tiny screens on my Kindle and laptop. Reluctantly, I went online shopping and found a Dell 27-inch monitor for about $120, plus shipping, from a company called Adorama.
Adorama – someday that name may be ranked with Chernobyl, Mount St. Helen, the Titanic, and the Chicago Fire. Comparing it to the Black Plague would be too severe. Probably.
The Dell monitor arrived via UPS on a Monday afternoon. I did not unpack and test it until Monday evening. Certain things looked suspicious: there was no user’s manual, the box looked “repacked”, and the monitor and accessories were in plastic wrap that did not appear “factory.” I assembled everything and attached it to my laptop; the monitor screen did not come on. Figuring I had botched the set-up (and it being after my 10 p.m. bedtime), I decided to resume the next day.
Mid-morning I moved everything to the Clubhouse over the garage and assembled and set up the monitor again. I plugged its cord into the proper port on my laptop and felt confident I was on my way to a few productive hours of manuscript editing and page formatting. On the second or third press of the monitor’s “on” switch, three-fourths of the screen lighted up with lines and bars, some horizontal and some vertical, some black-and-white and some in colors, that pulsed and moved slowly left to right. I immediately recognized this display at the sonar-radar-sonic tracking screen of the U.S. anti-sub frigate in “The Hunt for Red October.” The lower left quarter of the monitor was blank and black, obviously being jammed by the Russian sub’s counter-tracking technology.
This was not good, and there was little chance I could fix it.
To understand my relationship with computer equipment you should know that I believe electronic circuitry and digital technology reached their acme with Buckaroo Banzai and have been in an uncontrolled tailspin of decline ever since. (The same could be said for the quality of Hollywood action movies, but that’s a topic for a different blog essay.) When the art and science of repair with a soldering gun went out of fashion, my tinkering with electronics ended.
Realizing I could do nothing on my own to correct the monitor’s misbehavior, I called Dell customer service. After a series of “If you want… then press number…” transfers through the company’s automated telephone system, I was connected to a polite and efficient young man who asked me to describe my problem. (His speech patterns suggested he was working from Brazil, but he may have been in northern California; I get those accents mixed up sometimes.)
He asked me the serial number of the monitor. When I read it to him, his voice was an exact match of the doctor’s tone last year when she told me, “There’s nothing we can do about your eyes’ macular deterioration.” Apparently, this monitor was marketed and distributed through the United Kingdom branch of Dell, and certain of the English people are still angry about our rebellion here in the Colonies. The monitor was defective and was apparently acquired by Adorama and refurbished, he explained, and there was no possibility of Dell repairing it. He suggested I call Adorama and ask to return the monitor to them for a refund.
After a brief “If you want… then press number…” chase through Adorama’s telephone system, an even nicer young lady, who may have been working from India, listened to my description of the faulty monitor and expressed her sympathy with my frustration. (It annoys me that people educated in India have better command of the English language than I do, not even counting all the technology jargon they speak fluently while I know only a few simple phrases that contain non-techy words like “fuzzy” and “jumbled.”)
After reading back to me my high-tech description of the defective monitor screen – “all jumbled and fuzzy and stuff with up-and-down and sideways lines that flicker and move across the screen except for the lower left part where’s it’s all blank” – she sighed and said, “I’m afraid I can’t let you back into the airlock, Dave.” No, she didn’t say that, she actually said Adorama would accept the return of the monitor and consider reimbursement, if I followed all the steps in an email message she would send me. But, she said, Adorama would not pay the cost of return shipping. I was expecting that since, like the astronaut in 2001 – A Space Odyssey, I had virtually left my space helmet in the pod bay.
She asked if I would like to be connected to the sales department to purchase a different monitor. I said not at this time.
I hung up and opened my email to find a lengthy message from Adorama customer service with links to two pdf files. The information contained in those three documents reminded me of parts of the investor contracts for a casino in Atlantic City. Especially since the return item must be shipped to Elizabeth, N.J. I attempted to print out the forms and discovered the ink cartridge in my desk jet printer was empty. (Technology’s minions gang up on me whenever they can.)
Eventually the paperwork was all filled out, and the monitor and accessories were repacked in the shipping box. Our local UPS office opens at 4 p.m. to accept packages, and I was at the door a 4:01. Immediately after, I went to the bar for stress relief medication.
Halfway through a second glass, I sent a text message to selected techy friends: “Tell me again why expanding my social media platform will be good for me – in a mental health way, I mean.”
More stories about life in the North Country are published in my three collections of essays and two novels, all available through Amazon.com at Jerry Johnson Author Page