Wednesday, July 18, 2007

It's Not Easy Being Imaginary

Yet again I find myself prefacing a blog entry with "I don't usually use this as a place to rant and rave, but...", and I think it's definitely justified this time. Over the weekend, as some of you may be aware, Cingular completed its metamorphosis from Cingular to another arm of the multi-tantacled AT&T conglomerate; they've been advertising this change for about a month, but over the weekend, the network got a big ol' tweaking that resulted in a not-very-comfortable transition--at least, for me. On Friday, I began noticing an unusually high number of dropped or failed calls--all the calls I made on Friday were either dropped or failed to go through, with the exception of a call to a cell phone in NC. By Saturday, I could make calls to cell and landline phones without them failing or falling through the cracks in the ether, but the people I was trying to reach couldn't hear a word I said, which led to a lot of "Hello? Hello! HELLO?!" from both sides. On Sunday, the people I called could either hear crackling static with the occasional word here and there, or nothing at all. On Sunday evening, Mom--who gets to use my cell for making long distance calls--was convinced it was a problem with the phone, and told me I ought to look at getting a new one. Monday, I didn't even try making any calls, but I was so fed up I called Cingular to demand an explanation; I was told the system was updating, and had been updating since Saturday, and that the updates had originally been anticipated to end much earlier... even though they were still going on, and could I please either call back in at least two hours or the following day. Grrrr.
Which brings me to the main part of the rant: My physical address appears not to exist, which apparently means I don't either. This must really leave the folks at the local utilities scratching their heads, because we get water, electricity, telephone service, and DSL, and none of them have ever questioned the validity of our physical address. We also order things from Amazon, and from a number of other online retailers (YARN!) without any trouble. These purchase are handled and shipped by the United States Postal Service, which, as if the employees don't have enough to deal with, is now responsible--according to the twit at Cingular--for verifying people's physical addresses. I asked one of our local postal employees if this was true. She said not, and told me it falls to the county's emergency services to make sure people's physical addresses are properly recorded and verified, and that, since we do not get mail delivered to the house, it was unnecessary for the USPS to be involved. You have no idea how many times I've had to try to explain this to people in the past four days! So, yesterday, I called the county. It turns out the number on our house is wrong, but the nice lady at the County Assessor's Office has now fixed our records and verified our address for us. Which means, theoretically, I can now give the idiots at Cingular the correct house number.
I tried a couple experiments today with this in mind. First, I went on Amazon--which has NEVER had any trouble sending us anything, either by USPS or by UPS--and filled out all the appropriate forms as though I were signing a new contract with a cell service provider. And I was promptly told that my physical address was invalid! How very strange. I then went to the website of a cell service provider and filled out all the same forms. And the same thing happened. Which leads me to believe that the system is extremely flawed, and that it needs to be fixed. I can't imagine that in the whole of this sleepy little town, where almost all the inhabitants have an extra organ known as the cell phone, no one has a valid physical address, or that every single customer of a wide array of service providers all get their cell phones shipped to their places of employ instead of their post office boxes. Bearing this in mind, if the mail all goes to PO boxes, then why is one's billing address required to be a street address? And WHY is Cingular outsourcing its customer service to Canada? I don't believe the Canadian emergency services use 911 addresses--or, indeed, 911--to find their way around, so it stands to reason that the little cucumber I spoke to would have no idea what the answer to "So, you want the 911 address, then?" would be.
So, yes, like George, I am a figment of someone's diseased imagination, and do not exist at my own cell phone number. Nor, apparently, do I exist at my own physical address. It's so hard being imaginary!

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