by Thomas Wailgum

The Two Most Dreaded Words in Telecommuting

Jun 21, 20065 mins

This is why it sucks to be me right now.

Regular readers of this blog (OK, my mom, dad and occasionally one of my brothers) will already know that I work out of my home. In past entries, I’ve gone on an on about how much I love it.

So we moved recently to another town that’s within the same state of New Hampshire. No problem there (besides the fact that we had to stay with my in-laws for 10 days of “close quarters.” I’m kidding. They were great. Seriously. For the most part.)

Anyway, setting up the “remote IT infrastructure” at the new residence has not been fun, and I wonder if IT staffers themselves who often work at home and those who have to manage their companies’ remote and telecommuters have had similar problems. The vexing issue, it turns out, didn’t end up being about me and my technical abilities so much as it was my reliance on other people to get me up and running. (As an IT person who can troubleshoot anything, you must hate that.)

First off, Verizon was supposed to set up my DSL connection (along with two other phone lines) by last Tuesday (June 13th), while I was on vacation and working on the new house. After a couple of mildly confusing visits by two Verizon technicians, who tried their best to explain to me why my DSL connection was going to take “a lot of work” to get up, I soon realized that I wasn’t going to have my DSL connection for my first day of work in the new home office on Monday, June 19th. A follow-up conversation with a customer service rep yielded no better answer than what I could interpret the problem to be: the phone lines and network up here in New Hampshire are old, and they’re trying to upgrade them, and adding a DSL account isn’t like adding a phone line, even though (with much fanfare) they offer the service for my new town on their website and in their literature, and, above all, the customer service rep before said that Verizon could have the DSL up and running by June 13th so that I could enjoy my hearty Internet connection. I pressed the second customer service rep for an exact date of when it would be up. “I can guarantee you that it won’t be up before June 26th,” said the sort-of friendly Verizon representative. Well, at least we got one thing straight! Thanks!

Of course, you know what all of this meant. I was now staring at two of the most dreaded words in a knowledge worker’s vocabulary. A pair of words that have been smushed together and are so awful and scary that the combined term, used in a certain context, can send fully grown executives and salespeople into a state of cardiac arrest on the spot — now be sure to channel Darth Vader’s voice when you say these two words — Dial Up. Awwwwwwwwwwhhhhhhh! Noooooooooo!

And that’s where I’ve been living this week, with a remote connection that’s so slow that I can barely send and receive even the most miniscule of messages. I bottomed out at 28.8kbps this morning. I haven’t even seen the 50’s this week. It’s been that bad. (What adds even more frustration and cruelty to the situation is that because I had to get two new phone numbers, those fresh, ripe digits went out into the shark-infested world of telemarketers, who could smell the blood dripping off our unprotected numbers. I quickly registered the numbers Monday morning — it takes 30 days for it to fully take effect — but I’m still in awe of how fast and furious the telemarketers started calling. Relentless is a word that comes to mind. Sufficed to say, I won’t pick up the phone unless I know who’s calling me.)

Through my own personal hell, what I’ve learned won’t shock you, but it is so apparent to me now: We are living in a broadband age, and if you don’t have it, the Internet is utterly and completely useless. (During one of my low points I thought about faxing some documents.) I can’t even get onto most companies’ webpages or load any of the big media site’s front pages. It’s pointless. And my inbox is filled with many e-mails that are too big for me to attempt to open.

So is it my fault? I don’t think so. I gave Verizon plenty of time to get this up and running. Of course, while they are doing whatever it is they are doing to their network, I’m left here watching the sands of the little grey and white hourglass icon. I imagine the pixilated sand inside cascading down, down, down, down, down, down, down….

I need another vacation. Send me an e-mail with your thoughts, but don’t make it so big or attach anything. Please! And if any of your users run into this same situation, please be kind to them.