By Hannah Reich Berman

When people say they had a rough week, they are usually referring to something serious, such as a health issue or a major financial problem. But not all rough times fall into those categories. Some of us claim to have had a rough week simply because of a snafu in our daily living. Shamefully, every now and then I slip into the latter group. I’m not above kvetching when things don’t go my way. And that’s just what I did. Thank G-d, there were no monumental crises! Nevertheless, in my mind, I had a rough week.

I spent most of Monday morning on the phone with tech support to get help for problems with my cable television. And the very next day, I needed help for a computer problem. I am unable to solve any technical problems on my own and, even with help, they pose a challenge to me.

But every now and then I make some headway. After three years of not even knowing that I had DVR service, I learned that I did and I managed to learn how to use it. I am proud to say that I am now able to record any program that interests me and then play it back at my leisure. That might not sound like a big deal but, for someone such as myself, it is more than just a big deal: it is a huge accomplishment. I even learned how to change the date on the channel guide so that I can record a future program. The average eight-year-old can do the same thing, but that’s neither here nor there.

Every now and then something goes wrong with my DVR service–something that is not due to any error of mine–and when it does, I simply call my cable service and ask for help. Invariably, the problem is an internal one–the problem is in their system and not due to any misstep on my part. So some unsuspecting soul gets on the phone to help me and I do what he tells me to do. Eventually he gets the problem solved. I play no part in the solution. I’m proud just to have been able to follow his instructions. On this occasion, it took a long time to clear things up because every time we hung up, the same problem recurred and I had to call back. After three separate phone calls, it was finally straightened out. All was right with my world. Until the next day!

The very next morning, my computer decided to give me some much-unneeded grief. No rest for the weary! Once again I called for help and I was told that the difficulty was with my browser, or maybe he called it my search engine. I don’t know what it’s called and I don’t care. I know only that it’s what I use to send and receive e-mail! And I was unable to do either.

As soon as my helper’s voice came over the wire, I knew I was not speaking to anyone in the continental United States. Unlike my television cable service provider, the people who provide me with Internet service are big on outsourcing! That, in and of itself, is a hurdle since I don’t do well with accents. I never have. Based on the accent, I guessed that the man was speaking to me from somewhere on the Asian continent. He asked for my full name, asked for permission to call me by my first name, and then introduced himself as John. If this guy was really named John, I may as well have introduced myself as Mahatma Gandhi. But there was no point in challenging him. If he wanted me to call him John I would do it. His real name was no business of mine.

“John” was helpful but it took time to work things out. According to his logic, an e-mail that had been sent to me was corrupt. I wasn’t quite clear on how that ruined my e-mail capabilities, but I didn’t care. I just wanted the problem resolved. And it was. Unfortunately, no sooner had I hung up with “John” than the same thing happened again. My first inclination was to bang my head against the nearest wall but I exercised restraint. And I made a second call.

This time I found myself speaking to a fellow who called himself Keith. He too sounded as if he might be sitting somewhere on the continent of Asia. Actually, for all I knew he could have been in the same room with John. Clearly he wasn’t anywhere here in the 48. And the name “Keith” was an even more ludicrous choice than “John” had been.

Once again, after picking up on his accent, I was tempted not to tell him that my first name was Hannah. This time it occurred to me to say that I was J. Edgar Hoover. I have no idea where that thought came from, especially since Hoover has been dead for so long. I might have done it but it occurred to me that “Keith” just might know who Hoover was. And, if he suspected me of mocking him, maybe he would be vindictive and permanently mess up my computer. I couldn’t take that chance so, once again, resisting the urge to be silly, I said I was Hannah.

By the conclusion of this second tech support call, the problem was permanently resolved. It was resolved in the following fashion: I followed a few prompts from “Keith,” and then he “took over” my computer and, with no input from me, he did everything, while I sat back and watched the cursor flit back and forth across the monitor.

A few days later, when I mentioned my recent difficulties to a friend–one who is similarly challenged–she said she was impressed that I was able to get my problems solved, especially the computer problems. But, not wanting to take credit that I am not entitled to, I told her the truth–which was that I had absolutely nothing to do with any of it! I phrased it this way: somewhere on the Asian continent, a guy is probably still sitting stunned and scratching his head. The head scratching might be due to lice but the likelier scenario is that it was because of his conversation with me. It’s not hard to imagine that when he got off the phone he looked at his wife and yelled “Gevalt! You can’t imagine the dummy in America that I just had to deal with!”

Poor fellow! And I thought I had a rough week? That’s the way it is! v

Hannah Berman lives in Woodmere and is a licensed real-estate broker associated with Marjorie Hausman Realty. She can be reached at or 516-902-3733.

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