How I Spent My Morning

Creative Commons License photo credit: tuppus

But first, let’s go back to Saturday afternoon.

My grandfather calls and says the following:

“A friend of mine gave me something to put on the computer. Where you click things and things come up. So where should I put it on the computer?”

Now, anyone who’s ever taken a similar call knows that this is a minefield. Is there a CD with software that needs to be installed? Is there a thumb drive with a file that needs to be dragged over? Is it compatible with my grandfather’s Mac? Have I just lost my entire Saturday?

But before I could stop shuddering at the possible implications, the phone cut out. And when I called back, I got a message saying that the phone was temporarily out of service. (Meaning, at least, that it probably wasn’t a medical emergency causing the problem.)

So I basically forgot about it.

This morning, he calls again.

His phone is a pay-as-you-go cell phone, and he needs to top it off. He’s calling from the lobby of his building. Would I please call the phone number and top off the card using his debit card?


He gives me the phone number to call. He gives me the debit card number. I am savvy enough to ask for his cell number, which I assume I need to top off the account. I am savvy enough to ask for the expiration date of the debit card. After he argues with me about whether such a thing exists, he finds it and gives it to me.

Slight foreshadowing: I consider asking for the security number on the card, but figure that’s overkill.

Call #1: 800-387-7255

“You’ve reached a number that’s out of service.”

Retry, retry, retry, give up.

Grandpa checks the number. Reads part of it out, then puts on his glasses for the second half of the number. It occurs to me too late that this is the wrong order to do things.

Call #2: 800-387-8255

Sex line.

Grandpa checks the number, then gives a me completely different number, in no way related to the first two:

Call #3: 888-322-1122


But the automated jerk on the phone needs the security code of the card.

So I say, screw this, I’ll use my own card. In order to use my own card, I need the phone account’s PIN, which I don’t have. Argue with live rep about this for a frustrating 40 seconds.

Grandpa gives me a person’s name and says that the name is the PIN. I’m supposed to type the PIN into the phone, so I ask for a numeric PIN (even if it’s just the name translated into the corresponding numbers on a phone pad).

He gives me a numeric PIN that is unrelated to the person’s name.

Confidence level: Subterranean.

I also ask for the security number of the card. After again arguing about the existence of such a thing, he gives me the security code, so maybe I won’t need the PIN after all.

Call #4:

I get to use the credit card, I don’t need the PIN, but I need my grandfather’s billing address ZIP code. Which I don’t have. Or, I have an out-of-date one, since he recently moved.

So once again I choose to pay with my own credit card. So again I need the PIN. Wrong PIN.

Get the ZIP code from Grandpa.

Call #5: Success.

It’s topped off. The message tells me to make sure to top it off again in January. So that’s something to look forward to in the new year.

Twenty minutes later the phone rings. It’s my uncle. Apparently, he had killed half an hour on this task before Grandpa handed the baton to me.

But my uncle didn’t get a sex line, so even though I’m second-tier, I did enjoy some benefits.

Grandpa turned 96 in July, by the way.

4 Responses to How I Spent My Morning

  1. Margo October 11, 2010 at 9:05 pm #

    Wow, what a morning! At least your uncle had not already fixed the problem and you at the same time. Very funny story, and I have similiar one. So funny!

  2. BruceS October 12, 2010 at 9:46 am #

    It probably wasn’t nearly as funny as it sounds, but I laughed reading it. I thought tech calls with my dad (career engineer) were bad, but this was much worse.

    As an example of my dad’s level of tech savvy, he got a cell phone and couldn’t get it to take incoming calls. None of us (5 kids all at a distance) could help, so he repeatedly called the tech support and they kept trying. Every test they ran showed the phone as good, but as soon as they were through helping him, the phone stopped working again. Eventually, they had him go in to the local Radio Shack or similar to get help in person. The phone worked fine for outgoing calls, but not incoming. With someone watching his technique, they quickly determined the problem. He would turn the phone on, make a call with it, then turn it off. He didn’t want to waste the battery.

    The worst part of your situation is that you provided a false tonic. Now we’re all waiting for the resolution of the computer problem!

    • Kevin October 13, 2010 at 8:25 am #

      Exactly! I want to know about the thing where “you click things and things come up.” Sounds like a virus to me, so when do we get to the part where all of this effort got you to the point where you said “Grandpa, you can’t put that on your computer.”

      Nice storytelling.

  3. admin October 13, 2010 at 4:56 pm #

    Bruce, that’s a great story and I will steal it. I think your dad and my grandfather should hang out.

    Grandpa never again mentioned the thing he wanted to put on his computer. Maybe my uncle helped him with that. I sure as hell am not going to ask about it.

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