My email is out and it feels like the world is coasting into a black hole just to the left of the Horse Head Nebula. Which is where I assume that all of my emails have gone over the last two days.
Out there somewhere, happy people are communicating via email. Business deals are being set up. Love letters are being sent out. Someone is firing off a nasty letter to customer service. Politicians are securing their future with their constituents. Pastors are sending out Covid-19 Bible Studies to those held captive in their own homes.
Email is the modern railroad that transverses the globe and keeps the wheels of life turning. But not here. Not today.
I spent a very uncomfortable part of my day online with tech support. These are the guys that live and breathe in the computer world at a level that I cannot even fathom. They speak in words of terabytes and hard drives and operating systems. I live in a world of dirt and trees and tractors.
Kevin diagnoses my problem. “For the special price of $99.99 we can fix your issue.” What’s a hundred bucks if I can get my email working again, right? I got customers calling, asking why their email bounced back.
Kevin hands me off to Steve. Steve is the technician who knows everything there is to know about Microsoft Outlook and everything that ails it. He puts me through a barrage of questions. To most of them I reply brilliantly with a confident “I don’t know.”
Steve: “What is your Outlook password?”
Me: “I don’t know. It’s been working for 16 years right up until today. I had someone else set it up for me. Is there really a password?”
Steve: “Who is the host for your email server?”
Me: “Email what? I use Outlook.”
Steve: “Outlook is not an email service. It is an application that manages email.”
Me: “Boy, you learn something every day.”
All of this takes place via live chat during a remote session where Steve has complete control of my computer. The mouse pointer is moving so fast I can’t keep up with it. He has 14 tabs open across the top of my screen. He’s digging deep into the bowels of my computer settings. He opens data files like a surgeon. He cuts and stitches. He changes numbers inside little important looking boxes.
Me? I’m just watching this on the screen like it’s a thriller movie, except without the popcorn and Coke. I’m hoping that when he’s done I won’t have an axe sticking out of my skull and I’ll still have my computer set up the way I like it. I’m old and grouchy. I don’t like people messing with my stuff. He’s using Microsoft Edge on my computer. I hate Edge. I’m a dyed-in-the-wool Google man.
Then, Steve is gone for a long time. The screen is idle. He’s either taking a beer break or he is consulting with other tech geeks sitting around him in a dimly lit room of computers and head sets.
About 2 hours into this repair session, Steve asks if he can call me. Sure, why not? This ought to be good. Seconds later the phone rings. I answer professionally just in case it’s not Steve.
“Hello Mr. Paul,” the voice says. It’s doesn’t sound like a Steve to me. It sounds more like it could be Shu Ching from Taiwan, or perhaps Atjep from Indonesia. But definitely not Steve from Knoxville, TN.
Steve explains to me that when I changed my website hosting a few weeks back that I lost my email service. I didn’t think I did anything with email. He tells me that my former email server has been shut down since I changed to a different web hosting company.
Steve (or Atjep or Shu Ching or whatever his name is) gives me instructions. “You will have to go to your current web provider who manages your DNS to have your POP3 and your SMTP and your MX settings changed over to their site. Once you do that, your new host can point all your email back to Outlook and your email should start working again. Does that make sense?”
Crickets chirping. Long pause. Me: “Uh, huh?”
The unintended consequence of being technically illiterate is stupid stuff like causing your email to get lost in the black hole of cyber space. Part of me is thinking that licking stamps and putting things in the mail was not so bad after all. Steve promises me that he will still help me make sure that my email is working again. All I have to do is get this other part done and call him back.
By this time my head hurts and my hair is on fire. I take a 2 hour break and actually do something productive with customers around the farm. I hate it when computer stuff goes haywire. It drains the energy right out of me because I don’t know how to fix it.
The world is in bad enough shape right now as it is without my email going bonkers. The virus. The riots. The hatred. The cruelty. It’s all nuts and I don’t know how to fix that either.
There are times when I think we just ought to shut it all down and take a break. Shut off the computers. Power off the cell phones. Unplug the TV. And drop social media before we all go down the same black hole where my emails went. Kind of like a Covid-19 social distancing from a tech-saturated life. Maybe we have another kind of virus.
We, and by “we” I mean the collective human race, all could use a little tech support right about now. Our SMTPs and our MX protocol files are all messed up and our brains are not connecting to the Main Server. We need a Steve to rewrite the data files in our thinking and reprogram a little more kindness. A little more common sense. A little less anger. And a lot more heartfelt human compassion for the world around us.
By mid afternoon I was back with tech support. This time it was Tom who worked out the kinks in my DNS. I had that done once with a physical therapist on my lower back. Made all the difference in the world.
I’m hoping that tomorrow my email will be back in service. I hope that mankind will reconnect to the Main Server sooner than later. And I hope that black holes are too far away to get us. I can always hope.