Thursday night, in the middle of something that seemed urgently important at the time, though for the life of me I can't remember what it was, the Internet went dead. My first impulse was to check the bill to make sure they hadn't disconnected me. Then, I picked up the phone, but the phone is bundled with the Internet and it too was dead. For the next thirty-five minutes I talked with a charming, absolutely efficient, infinitely patient lady computer on my cell phone. I talked on a pay-by-the-minute phone not intended for long conversations and tried unsuccessfully to explain this to her as she tried unsuccessfully to fix my problem. Together, we reset the modem and rebooted the computer twice. Along the way she used reassuring phrases like, "Very good" and "We're almost done," which took the edge off things. The truth, however, was that we were nowhere near done. With sadness, she reviewed the highlights of our conversation, apologized for not fixing the problem — she had done everything she could — and then transferred me to another female, a human female this time with a thick but pleasant accent in a place where it was already tomorrow.

She asked the same questions the computer had just asked, though the computer had asked them to speed things up. She also dug rather deeply into my personal identity, the services I pay for and my exact location, before assuring me there were no problems in my area. "Well," I said, "that's not exactly true, is it?" "Sir?" "There's at least one problem in my area." Well, besides myself, that is, there were no problems. Twice she talked me through resetting the modem and rebooting the computer — I was getting rather good at it by then — just as the nice lady computer had done. Then, with equal sadness, she informed me there was nothing she could do. My problem require a technician. But, that wasn't really a problem because she could provide me with one. After some searching, she said she had found an opening a week from Friday between 3:00 and 5:00 PM.

"Will that be convenient for you, Sir?"

"Convenient? Let's see if I understand. You're asking me if I will find it convenient to go without a phone for the next eight days, if I will find it convenient to go without Internet and if I will find it convenient to wait for a technician between 3:00 and 5:00 PM the Friday after next who may or may not show up because it's the end of his workweek. I suppose you're also asking…" "Sir," she broke in, "I think I may have solved the problem. There appears to be an opening at the same time tomorrow."

"Tomorrow… So, now you're asking if I'll find it convenient to wait between 3:00 and 5:00 PM tomorrow." "That is correct, Sir." Not entirely convinced, I said, "Perhaps I can ask you a question. If I'm here tomorrow between 3:00 and 5:00 PM, what assurance do I have that he'll actually show up between those hours?" "Well," she replied, "the technician will always do his best. For one thing, he will call to let you know that he is coming." "Call… How exactly will he call?" "Why, on your telephone, Sir." "On the phone that doesn't work?"

Long pause.

"Sir, I have made a special note for the technician to call you at the phone number you are currently calling from."

"Wonderful," I said. "And if I wait but he still doesn't come?" "Sir," she replied rather cheerfully, sensing she had reached a conclusion, "waiting is not a problem. The service representative will usually call before he comes. Of course, if he has an unforeseen problem of some sort, he may not call. If he does not call, it means he is not coming and you need not wait."