Sorry, Wrong Number
By Emily Parke Chase –
The error message blinks on my screen like an avenging warrior. For the third day in a row, I am unable to connect to our internet service provider.My husband Gene and I have been living in the dark ages. Since we both have access to high-speed service at our jobs, using a dial-up connection at home has made sense. Until now. With a sigh, I call the company to report the problem. The phone rings several times before a recorded message informs me, “The number you have dialed is no longer in service.” I call the local number listed in our paperwork and find that it too is disconnected.
Is it possible that this national internet provider doesn’t have a customer service phone? The next day, using his computer at work, my husband searches the company’s website. Ominously, no street address is listed, but Gene locates a toll-free 800 phone number. He dials it immediately. A disembodied voice reports, “Error message 3950. Your call cannot be completed as dialed.”
Who knows what Error 3950 might be? We try the phone company. A recording informs all callers, “This call may be monitored for training purposes.”
Good thing. After punching our way through a myriad of meaningless options, we are ready to say a few things that might need to be monitored. At last a real person comes on the line.. The man looks up our account and informs us, “The reason you can’t get through is that you don’t have a long distance carrier.”
“It’s an 800 number!”
“Yes, but that number is in Florida and you don’t have long-distance service.”
My husband has more patience than molasses. Instead of arguing, he quietly asks, “Do you have long distance service there?”
“Of course! We are a national phone network.”
“Would you please dial the 800 number and see if you can get through?”
The technician puts Gene on hold and dials the number. A few minutes later, the man reports that he got the same error message.
“So can you tell me what Error 3950 means?”
“I don’t know. The message was generated by our sister phone company in Florida. Each company has its own system of numbered codes.”
“And you can’t ask your ‘sister’ what the error message indicates?”
“Sir, our company doesn’t deal directly with other companies in the network.”
Gene and I look at each other. Have we stumbled on to a family feud? What ever happened to Ma Bell’s slogan, “reach out and touch someone”? Gene hangs up the phone and shakes his head in defeat.
The next morning, our local newspaper arrives in our driveway. There, in this relic of low technology, buried in the depths of the financial page, we discover a small announcement that our internet provider has gone out of business. No one bothered to inform the customers. Worse, when our monthly credit card bill arrives, we discover no one told the credit card company to stop charging automatic fees for our non-existent service.
One of those pre-recorded phone messages echoes in my head, “This call may be monitored for training purposes.” I sure hope someone was listening, someone who knows that 800 numbers can be dialed from any phone at no charge. In the meantime, I’ve figured out what error message 3950 means: “It’s time to upgrade to a new high-speed internet connection.”
“I love the Lord because He heard my voice . . . Because He turned His ear to me, I will call on Him as long as I live.” Psalm 116:2 (NIV)
(If your internet service is working, you may visit the author at emilychase.com.)