It started Saturday night, when my friend Barry convinced me that actual backup software would work much better than my current method of backup, which consists, basically, of trying to remember to either copy important files onto the external hard drive or to burn them onto cd, but in reality rarely doing either. So the next day I went to the Dantz site and paid for and downloaded Retrospect Express, but apparently missed the screen with the sixteen digit license code needed to activate the software. No problem, I think, I’ll just wait for the confirmation email.
It never arrives.
There’s no one in their offices over the weekend, so I wait until Monday morning and call up and explain the situation to a very nice woman who says, “Oh, you’re the second person I’ve talked to this morning who had this problem.” Great, I think, so you’ll certainly want to make it up to me, the customer, and get me a code right away, yes? Well, no, as it turns out, we simply can’t do anything until the online order has migrated leisurely from one computer system to another, like a flock of geese slowly making their way south for the winter, because that’s, you know, how the system works.
But her supervisor will call me back in five minutes.
An hour later, I am of course still waiting for the phone call.
I could go on and recount the battle in tedious detail, but long story short: four phone calls to Dantz, one to my credit card company, and it’s four p.m. before I finally manage to extract a license code from these people for software I’d paid for and downloaded some thirty hour earlier. Despite their acknowledgement that their system had screwed up somehow, their primary concern seemed to be the possibility that I was some sort of latter-day Frank Abegnale, running a complicated scam on them to get a license code so I could, bwah ha ha ha ha, use their backup software for free! And until they saw some proof that I had actually paid for the software, proof which was not forthcoming because their computers are apparently powered by hamsters running around in little exercise wheels, then it was just: I’m sorry, sir, there’s nothing we can do!
What’s that old saying? The customer is always a potential criminal to be treated with extreme suspicion at all times?
When Dantz finally managed to confirm my purchase with my credit card company by calling the latter on the telephone, at my prodding, since their own computers never did get around to acknowledging my existence well, at that point they were abjectly apologetic for having wasted so much of my time and energy, and offered me a free upgrade on the software in compensation as well a coupon worth twenty-five dollars off my next purchase because the last thing they wanted out of this experience was an unhappy customer
Ha ha. I joke, of course. They treated it like the end of any other transaction that happens to last thirty hours and requires the customer to beg, plead, cajole and scream before he is allowed to, you know, use the item he has paid for.
So you can imagine the mood I’m in when I take the dog out for a walk and discover that my car has been stolen.
We have well, we had an old hand-me-down Buick, given to us by my wife’s parents. A nice, reliable car, whose primary duty, apart from hauling the odd piece of furniture around or dropping the dog off at the kennel, consisted of trips down to Pennsylvannia to visit those same in-laws. Otherwise, we mostly left it parked out on the street; weeks would go by and the only time we’d use it was when we had to move it on street cleaning days.
But we wanted to see a movie on New Year’s Day, and since it was raining ferociously, we decided to drive. And when we got home, we parked the car in a spot two blocks from our building, made note of the street cleaning hours, and didn’t think about it for a few days.
And at some point between New Year’s Day and yesterday evening, the car vanished. All that is solid melts into air.
So: the car’s not where it’s supposed to be, and there’s a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach as I hurry home, but I’m still hoping that maybe my wife has moved it without telling me and in a few minutes we’ll share a good chuckle over my needless anxiety.
She has not, and we do not.
I start trying to figure out if it has been towed a laborious process in this stupid goddamned mess of a city, where there are at least three or four different agencies you have to work your way through and a few tow yards you have to call before you can be absolutely certain that the city probably didn’t tow your car but hey, there’s no telling, why don’t you try back tomorrow.
So then it’s time to call the police. Wait for them at the scene of the crime, per their instructions, on this cold snowy evening. A cruiser pulls up, and I repeat my story once again. They ask if I’m sure that I don’t have any outstanding parking tickets. I tell them that I’m as sure as anyone can be, I mean, of course there’s always the possibility, and they tell me to wait right there, on the corner, they’re going to drive off and check one of the tow yards, they’ll be right back. Fifteen minutes, standing around in the cold. They come back, tell me to keep waiting there, while they check another tow yard. Ten more minutes. They come back, tell me to get in the back of the cruiser so we can drive around the neighborhood looking for my car. They’re not thinking that the thieves have stolen the car and parked it a block away, of course they’re thinking I’m another absent-minded yuppie who forgot where he parked his car. And I’m wishing they’re right. But they’re not. So we finally stop and fill out the paperwork, me sitting in the back of the squad car with that metal grillwork they have between the front and back seats and maybe six inches of legroom, at a generous estimate, and I’m trying to fill out these forms using my leg as a desk, and the only light is coming from the dome light which is on their side of the grillwork, so I have to hold the paperwork at just the right angle or I can’t see a goddamn thing…
I spent well over an hour with these guys, and I don’t think they ever really believed the car was stolen they kept reiterating that it just wasn’t a very desirable model to thieves. Which had always been my assumption, which is why I have no theft insurance I figured within a few years, I would have paid more in premiums than the car was worth, and my thirteen-year-old Buick just wasn’t the most obvious target in a neighborhood full of newer and more expensive cars.
A calculated risk. I lost.
We didn’t use it that much, but I really liked knowing that we had a set of wheels out there if we needed them. And now we do not.
Oh, and did I mention that I got a form letter from the City of New York yesterday informing me of some obscure business tax I apparently haven’t been paying?
I must admit that I am growing weary of this place.