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From the Vault of Art Shay: Modern Technology

By Art Shay in News on Sep 28, 2011 7:20PM

Truncated Urlacher, paintbrush lost in the melee, marveling at the Jackson Pollock composing itself on the gridiron. Half a Jackson Pollock in real life is worth about $300,000. (Art Shay)
Surrealism, as the apiarist art dealer observed, is in the eye of the bee holder. Or if life serves you a lemon - make lemonade. Any number of aphorisms might apply to an angry ex-SI photographer turning on his brand new Samsung television to watch the piecemeal immolation of the Bears by the Packers last Sunday.

The night before I had watched a minute of something one might have titled "Saturday Night Dead." The new TV performed perfectly but, a few hours later, here I was getting half an Urlacher, and a magically explosive Bear offense being decimated by a Near East unidentified frying object. So I got a genuine imitation Picasso of Big U as he closed in for a miss. I'm sure Daiter Gallery's Paul Berlanga can sell one of my accidental impressions for big bucks.

I assumed the culprit was my cable input but my wife's set a few rooms away showed the ongoing tragedy in perfect color and form. So I called the cheery AT&T analysis machine. This hapless myrmidon - whom every U-Verse subscriber gets to hate - didn't quite believe the phone number I was calling from. "I'll just check that," he said, exuding a string of electronic farts.

I'll spare you the interruption of his rigmarole by the sweet blonde voice interrupting his spiel and slowly advising you to turn on channel 401 and get help all the way to the end of your problem. Or, "turn your computer to AT& and get FAQ to help you." Then a long pause and five minutes by the game clock, which was the only clear thing on screen, I was subjected to a piecemeal litany of how great AT&T was at everything but producing a human ear to hear of my woe, or to accomplish anything but bid me to have a good day and hang-up. Which they had just made impossible.

I made one more phone call and was assured my problem had been heeded. I was then mechanically advised to "push the on button on the left front of your TV set." There was a pause presumably for me to do this, but when I couldn't find the left-side non-existent button, AT&T started its spiel all over again (wondering, I'm sure, how stupid I was).

At Best Buy, amiable salesman Kevin successfully tests my set on two of the four channels Best Buy uses for their TV arrays. (Art Shay)
I was stupid enough to schlep my 32-inch set back to Best Buy for what I thought would be service. A pleasant young man standing in front of a Geek Squad sign said the Geek Squad could not handle my problem because I'd flunked the height requirement by 10 inches. They only fixed sets 42 inches and up. Kevin plugged my set into two of his four store inlets, a manager showed up to assure me no Samsung had ever waxed surrealistic. "It must be your carrier."

"Could you get a human person on the line from AT&T, using your Best Buy big box clout?" Two or three of Kevin's associates laughed. "That would take an hour," said one. "Why don't you try it from home? " Kevin said, " We have a 30-day return policy. You could get your money back at that counter or get a new Samsung over there in the TV theater department." He shook his head. "But the chances are the new set would do the same thing. You've gotta get AT&T involved."

A half hour into waiting for his headquarters to produce a human, Hugo patiently talks yet again to a machine on my behalf. (Art Shay)
His parting shot saved my day. "Why don't you go to the AT&T store in your ZIP code? They must have a direct line to their service people." Sounded like a plan. With my too short set laying forlorn on my rear seat like a dead capsized turtle, I found the AT&T nexus on Lake Cook Road.

There a compassionate sales man named Hugo heard me out and laughed at the exploded Bears and my half of an Urlacher. "I have no direct line," he said."I just call the same number you did." He shrugged his shoulders at the mystery of the world above his counter.

Would you believe that after a mere hour on hold the amazingly patient Hugo finally got a human woman who tried to shuck him off saying I had to go home and call them so they could tell me how to adjust my set? He caught her before she hung up and gently explained I had been there and done that. She asked to speak to me and since I didn't have a bill with me containing my number and, deducing my number from my phone number was beyond AT&T's capacity. Her voice brightened. "I have you on my screen. You called earlier," she reminded me. "Do you know your four letter code or your password?" No. "How about my mother's maiden name?" "No," she said, " Who is your favorite actor?" "Marlon Brando ?" I said like a Jeopardy loser.

AT&T repairman, at 9:30 p.m., discovers that the original connections on my Samsung were not tight, accounting for the Picasso-Pollock effects. He quickly fixed it and reduced the number of my remotes to one from two. A great convenience but it looks like he terminated my surrealistic football period. (Art Shay)
"Right! Can you get home in half an hour?" My addled mind limped ahead. I had no idea if I could get the turtle righted and up the stairs in time for surgery." We have an opening." It was 6 p.m. At 8:30 p.m. David D. called and by 9:15p.m. he diagnosed the problem as having been caused by "loose connections."

He pushed these tight and scoffed at my having needed two remotes. He set me up with one remote and refocused my wife's Samsung recommending a rewiring to get rid of her antediluvian connection. I gave him one of my Animal books in gratitude and he laughed at my picture of a monkey descending from 12 men on a long ago frozen day at Brookfield when the simple task was to get the monkey off the outdoor rocks and into a heated cage for the winter.The monkey had no way to talk back either except with his nimble legs.

Segue to this morning when a cheery follow-up AT&T machine asked me how my repair man had done. I gave David D. the highest marks possible. Then the device made the mistake of allowing me a 30-second comment.

If you can't wait until this time every Wednesday to get your Art Shay fix, please check out the photographer's blog, which is updated regularly. Art Shay's book, Nelson Algren's Chicago, is also available at Amazon.