My Kingdom for a PIN

The past 30 years have flown by. Though I admit to being middle-aged, modern science hasn’t raised life expectancy to the exaggerated point where I am still smack-dab in the middle. It seems like last month I was in my twenties, dreaming of a future, but that future has occurred, and has been replaced by other dreams of other futures.

I promised myself I’d never stop dreaming, and I haven’t, but I also promised myself that the aging process would never get the better of me where mundane tasks are concerned. I’m slipping on that one even though I have the latest technology. I long ago accepted the fact that customer service phone calls would be handled by an automated voice. I giggled from the next office when I heard an older colleague screaming “RE-PRE-SEN-TA-TIVE!!!” into the receiver over and over. I could only imagine what the inhuman voice on the other end of the phone had asked when he shouted, “I NEED A GASTROINTEROLOGIST…NOW!!!” I would never be that way.

I'm no dinosaur, but modern communication has its occasional challenges.
I’m no dinosaur, but modern communication has its occasional challenges.

The only problem is that technology has advanced to the point where the inhuman, automated voice doesn’t even want to speak to us. Our Internet service was no longer working as well as it should so I blocked out a morning to reach someone. See? I already knew it would take hours to get a question answered so I had adjusted to the times. Since it was a telecommunications company, the call went as follows:

“Thank you for calling XYZ customer service. The average wait time is forty-five minutes. Please hang up and visit us at http://www.XYZ.dum\we-don’t-care-if-we-ever-speak-to-you-as-long-as-you-pay-us.”

Even though I was calling because the Internet was not working properly, I stayed on the line while attempting to get through on their website. The first thing to greet me was a request to enter my PIN. What PIN? I’d never had to visit their site before, but I attempted it. No PIN registered. Would I like to register? Sure, why the hell not? Okay, then enter the e-mail address associated with the account and a password. I tried this, but was told that there was no e-mail address associated with the account. I picked up the phone to see if it was still playing The Essential Robert Goulet album, which was an indication the company knows full well it’s telephoning customers belong to an earlier generation. I learned my wait time was 42 minutes, which I think was an attempt to persuade me to hang up so the telemarketing team could take an extended coffee break.

I reviewed the website to see what could be done about associating an e-mail address with the account so that I could come up with a password to create an account to log in to examine the options to find the representative to answer my question and fix my Internet, which was working on their site, strangely enough, but moving at dial-up speed elsewhere. This experience was quickly devolving into that song about the old lady who swallowed a fly.

“Hi, my name is Chip! I saw you on the page and wondered if you needed help.”

Where did he come from? Some little text box in the corner had appeared and apparently he was the Good Samaritan of XYZ who had found me wondering as I wandered, and I was so glad to have a live person that I didn’t bother to question the invasion of privacy as he had watched me move my cursor and click on various links for however many minutes.

“Yes, thanks, I do need help.”

“Great. Who am I speaking with?”

He can see my screen, but has no idea who I am? I identified myself and stated my case.

“Great, now go to http://www.XYZ.dum\you_have_no_idea_what_you_are_doing_because_you_were_born_before_1990. When you get there, enter your PIN and the e-mail address and password associated with the account, and then let me know when you’re signed in and I’ll be glad to walk you through the steps.”

“I don’t have any of those things, and I just typed to you that is why I was searching the website.”

“Sir.” (This was surely typed in that condescending way he would’ve said it to me in person because I’m obviously too old to live, am no longer a productive member of society, and the jewel in my palm has long ago gone dark.) You must have it somewhere, but if you are unable to find it, you’ll need to call 1-800-XYZ-HAHA.”

“I called that number. I’ve been on hold with them for 25 minutes.”

“Wait times are especially heavy at this time of day. Perhaps you can call back between the hours of 2:00 and 4:00 a.m. on Sunday where our customer service representative [singular] will be happy to help you. Can I assist you with anything else?”

“You haven’t exactly assisted me now.”

“Great. Thanks so much for using XYZ. We really appreciate your loyalty. Have a great day! :-)”

There was not an emoticon to express my feelings.

30 minutes later, Robert Goulet was interrupted by someone identifying herself as Betty Ann Walker though I suspected by her accent that she went by Betty Ann Something Else at her home across the sea. I was able to tell her my story, explain my frustration calmly and beg her assistance. She provided me with a number where I could speak to someone to link my e-mail to the account so that I could get that password, obtain a PIN and finally find the person who could adjust the Mbps on my Internet account since Betty Ann was unable to assist me or find the person. If she couldn’t find the person, what chance did I have?

I phoned 1-800-XYZ-HELP, which must be a secret number since it never showed up on the company’s website. I felt that Betty Ann had provided me with inside information, and now I was going to get to the bottom of this nonsense. It rang three times, and an inhuman voice asked me to speak or push buttons to indicate the purpose of my call. I pushed buttons so there would be no confusion.

“My records indicate that you have selected option four. Is this correct? If so, please press one for yes, and two for no.” I pressed one to confirm I wanted four. “Thank you. You pressed one to indicate that you wanted option four. If this is no longer correct, press the star key to return to the previous menu. Press the pound key if you would like to return to the main menu. If your choice is correct, please hold while we connect you. In the meantime, be sure to have your PIN handy so that our representative can assist you.”

I was placed on a brief hold, and then the phone buzzed to signal that I had been disconnected. Like a panicked bird flying into a closed window until it is thoroughly concussed, I placed two more calls, hoping to find help. I was cut off each time. I glanced at the television, and divine revelation occurred. There was an ad for another Internet company. I switched my service in about 12 minutes, and they did me the kind favor of letting XYZ know exactly where they could PIN their account.

© 2015 by Patrick Brown

Visit my author page at to learn about my books “Moral Ambiguity” and “Tossed Off the Edge.”

5 Replies to “My Kingdom for a PIN”

  1. Ah, Wilderness! Thank You, Patrick. Thankyouthankyou — THANK Yew! Negotiating the Internet has become as dangerous and questionable as traversing the Alps in mid-winter with or without a PIN. I shudder to think what our Cyber world will demand of us in 5, 10 — 20 years!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Perfect! I am not afraid to tell your readers to stay away, stay far, far away from Comcast. Clearly the worst!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I about fell out of my chair with laugher. In this day and age, I think we all have had those kind of experiences. I spent 84 minutes the other day getting my iPhone to receive emails. Cableone changed their entire program and I had to re-do my cell phone. I tried to do Rick’s but could never make it take any of his information. Insanity was just a step away for me……I’m glad you survived that ordeal. Great story and so true.


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