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VOL. 37 | NO. 40 | Friday, October 04, 2013

Age of instant communication has 3-day lag time

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Bummer! I drove in from Tulsa a while ago. No big deal that my teammates and I suffered an ignominious defeat on the golf course this morning.

No big deal that I opted to not listen to the football game on the radio during the drive home, which might have made the drive seem briefer.

I’d set the TV at home to record that game. Susan and I planned to watch it after dinner. But when I sat down and turned on the set an hour ago, the dreaded “No signal” message floated across the screen.

After rebooting a half-dozen times, to no avail, I printed out the Sunday New York Times crossword from the computer and called customer support. From experience, I figured I could solve half the puzzle while on hold.

As I went to print out the crossword, I noticed the computer was without power. It was then that Susan told me there’d been a brief outage earlier in the day, a matter of seconds. Just enough to require a resetting of all the clocks, mess up the sprinkler system, and – fry the TV?

My helpful technician, Roger, spoke very good English. But his accent plus the need to have him on speakerphone, so I could follow his instructions, presented issues. He had to say several things more than once.

Roger talked me through what seemed to be tantamount to a reboot – times three. Before calling him, I’d unplugged the main cord from the wall, waited 30 seconds, then plugged it back in. He had me disconnect the power cord from the [company’s name omitted] “box,” count to 10, reconnect the cord, then look for three dots on the TV screen.

“I found them!” I shouted excitedly the first time.

“OK, disconnect the cord again.” After I did this three times, Roger said, “Now we wait three to five minutes.”

By the end of the fifth minute, I’d finished the crossword. On the screen was the company’s logo, with a little circle that, ominously, was not spinning. That’s when he gave me the news that he was going to ship me a replacement box. “It should arrive on Tuesday.”

“You’re kidding me, Roger. Right?”

“No, Victor. I am not kidding.” He said he must load my unique information into the new box. This procedure, he said, “must take place here.”

I didn’t ask where “here” is. It’s enough for me to know “here” is not where I am. Where I’d been hoping to watch golf and football and “Breaking Bad” and “Masterpiece Mystery” tomorrow. And something else on Monday.

“Roger,” I said, “your company has stores in Arkansas. Why can’t you transmit that data to a box at the West Little Rock location, where I can pick it up tomorrow?”

“Victor, I agree with you. But it is not done that way.”

Checking online, I saw that my football team blew a big lead in the fourth quarter, losing a heartbreaker. An appropriate end to the day.

“Goodbye, Roger.”

Vic Fleming is a district court judge in Little Rock, Ark., where he also teaches at the William H. Bowen School of Law. Contact him at vicfleming@att.net.