Kim Hill: Kindling my ire

by Kim Hill / 11 August, 2012
The grave new digital world contains many traps for the unwary.
Kim Hill

I was given a Kindle – such a sweet, comforting name, and a very nice present. So, why did I feel my heart sink? Just prescient, I suppose. One of the first things the Kindle tells you is to hitch it to your Wi-Fi. I knew I had Wi-Fi, because some terse and enigmatic IT bloke came and set it up ages ago. But I had no idea what the password was. Why would I? So, I phoned my internet service provider, TelstraClear. I won’t go into the details of that first conversation, which began testily, because I had to spend nine minutes listening to an orchestral version of the Carpenters’ We’ve Only Just Begun (which turned out to be very true) and ended abruptly, right after he suggested I ask one of my grandchildren to help me. I think they could use that call for training purposes, which they always warn you they might. I had to ring back, hoping to get a different young Indian man. Which I did, and after just four minutes of We’ve Only Just Begun.

During the next hour and a half, he managed to set me up with a new Wi-Fi password to replace the one I couldn’t remember and he couldn’t tell me. But then the computer crashed completely. It all got very complicated, and I can’t recall the details, but he asked questions like: “Do you have a cable connection between something and something else?” To which I replied, “Look, it’s spaghetti junction back there. I have no way of telling you the answer to that question.” And sometimes he’d just go away to talk to his technical supervisor, or so he said, but he could have been weeping. And finally he asked me for permission to go into my computer and rummage around in there himself. Well, about time, I thought. Even though I suppose that’s a humiliating thing to happen. Like being asked to get out of the driver’s seat and let else back the car into the parking space. Which, by the way, has never happened to me.

When at last I told him every thing seemed to be working again, he muttered, “Oh, thank God”, but not in a nice way. I had hoped he and I could have bonded a little in that whole time we were together. I think they could probably use that for training purposes, too. It reminded me of that time my flatmate Stephen lent me his car so I could go and visit my boyfriend a couple of hours away. The temperature gauge started going into the red, so I put some oil in, and it carried on getting hotter, and I kept putting more and more oil in, and finally a geyser of hot oil exploded out of the motor. It turned out it had just needed a bit of water. Stephen had to spend the next three months reconditioning the engine, but he was English, so he never said much about it.

Anyway, I now had the Kindle connected to Wi-Fi. Which, I was later informed, is entirely unnecessary because it’s 3G. Whatever that means. Never mind. The next thing was to register with Amazon. Which I did, and the company welcomed me, congratulated me by email, christened my e-reader “Kim’s Kindle”, and urged me to explore my Kindle Touch, which sounded definitely. Nevertheless, I ordered and paid for Magical Mathematics: The Mathematical Ideas that Animate Great Magic Tricks. I  told my order was successful thanked for it. But I couldn’t download anything. Many emails to their complaints- service people later, I learnt that I was registered with Amazon twice, and the password I was using to download was not the one that matched the purchase. But they could fix that by getting rid of registration No 1, and all would be fine. Wait, I said. Given that as far as I know I have registered only once, and have only the one password, how did I know that the registration and password they were getting rid was not the only one I knew about? And then … oh please God, don’t say the Wi-Fi won’t work if that happens?

After a certain point, Amazon seemed to run out of template email answers for the complex issues I was raising, and when I tried to follow the process of elimination method where they say Problem with device? Click here … Problem with order? Click here …, I clicked my way inexorably to a place where they needed my password – and then told me I didn’t exist. It was late now, and I was tired and a little undermined, so I went to bed. When I got up in the morning, I rang the number in America that Amazon gives you to call free if you live anywhere except New Zealand. It will be expensive, because it took a long time to explain the problem to the man with the strong Southern accent, and still longer for me to understand what he was telling me to do. “Okay, I’m in Menu now. You’re asking me to press what? Or-what? Orckay? I’m sorry, can you say it … Oh Archive!” Maybe they’ll use me for training purposes. So, I now have Magical Mathematics:

The Mathematical Ideas that Animate Great Magic Tricks on my Kindle. I wish I had ordered a more appropriate or wittier title under the circumstances, but this is after all a true story – no glib punchlines here. Is there a moral? Well, you might say that people over a certain age should be allowed to use the internet and its accessories only under supervision. Which would be a cheap shot, and clearly prejudiced, but may contain a grain of truth. Although for me to suggest that would be like claiming I’m not a brain surgeon because the system is not female-friendly. If I’m not prepared to play the gender card, why would I play the age card? You see what I’m coming to here. It’s that I’m simply incompetent. Oh. You got there before me? Perhaps now I should turn my attention to Facebook – specifically, why it closed down my page and sternly told me it took identity issues very seriously. It seemed to believe I was impersonating myself. Maybe it was the same doppelganger who registered me on Amazon. Whoever I am, I continue to get requests to be friends with people. So I just want to tell them that I probably would be their friend if I could be, but I appear to be lost in cyberspace.

Kim Hill presents Radio NZ National’s Saturday morning programme.
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