‘You’re probably excited about your new service and keen to start using it as soon as you can,’ said the email from BT, not quite taking the words out of my mouth.
I’m sorry to be difficult, but I just want Wi-Fi. I don’t want to get excited. I’ve been excited numerous times over the years and it was, quite frankly, over-rated. I’m getting to the age when I really could do without excitement altogether.
I would like to send some emails. And I’d like a land line to telephone my mum of an evening. I just don’t want to get stirred to the verge of hysteria about it. But no matter, because the next line of the message cautioned me against getting carried away with my emotions: ‘As you can imagine, it’s really important to get set up properly first.’
So important, in fact, that BT doesn’t offer you any help to set up properly first other than an online troubleshooter and a web chat. Which, if you can’t install your broadband hub, is about as much use as a slap in the face with the virtually signal-free iPhone you’re reading their email on.
I had been hoping there would be a number to ring or even an engineer who could come and help me set up Wi-Fi in my new home. Instead, there was just the email, which trilled: ‘To get going, find the set-up instructions in the box we sent you. As you read them, you’ll see how quick and easy it is to get things up and running.’
Yes, I might. But then again, I might have already read the instructions in the box and extracted scant comfort from them. I scoured the email again. Nothing. Just a line at the end saying: ‘If it’s still not working, use our online troubleshooter to diagnose the problem.’ If you can’t get online, go online. Can they hear themselves?
The only thing I’ll be diagnosing is post-traumatic stress disorder.
Sky agreed to cancel my TV and broadband after I promised to be a customer again when they quote me a price I can afford, or when the earth collides with the sun, whichever is soonest. A few days later, they debited £79 from my bank account for the month ahead anyway.
Classic error. Always cancel your direct debits. Don’t assume that because you’ve cancelled a service, the company involved in not providing it any more is going to stop charging you.
So I launched Operation Contact Sky to demand my money back. That agreed, I got on to the business of enlisting BT.
The hub arrived in the post, no problem. But it then sat on my dining-room table for two days as I stared at it like it was a box of dead rats. The builder boyfriend made no attempt to open it either, saying he would ‘see to it tomorrow’.
When tomorrow never came, I had to prise it open. The instructions were just as terrifyingly obvious as I’d feared.
BT doesn’t do life coaching but if it did I have no doubt it would advise: 1.) Remove self from womb; 2.) Exist; 3.) Cease to be. Its instructions for broadband installation were: 1.) Plug in hub; 2.) Press button; 3.) Do some other stuff.
As such, I decided to 1.) Make coffee; 2.) Stare at hub; 3.) Call builder boyfriend and remind him he has to deal with this.
I could sort out other administrative matters while I waited: chiefly, a reminder from the DVLA to tax a Volvo V70 that was written off four years ago. Naturally, there was no obvious place on the form they sent me to write ‘Vehicle stolen, used as a getaway car then crashed into a field and written off in 2013/sent you the forms explaining everything then/why in the name of everything holy are you contacting me now?’ So I dialled the number: ‘If you want to tax a vehicle press one. If you want to Sorn a vehicle press two. If you want to speak to someone in Welsh press three.’
That was it. No other option. Just tax it, Sorn it, or start speaking Welsh.
In a way, you’ve got to admire the audacity of it. I sat for a long while at my desk wondering whether everything might one day be boiled down to those three simple instructions. And if so, would it make any less sense than our current attempts to order society?
In the meantime, there was only one thing for it, I would have to plug in the hub. Relatively speaking, the worst that could happen with that was probably going to be better than the best that could happen if I tried to explain to the DVLA why I hadn’t taxed my stolen Volvo.
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