cross in the mail
Tuesday, August 12 2003
This morning I went to the basement master bedroom's bathroom, because that's my preferred morning litterbox. I've noticed little spots of black mold blooming across the porcelain surface of the toilet, and I've come very close to wondering, "What exactly does this mold find to eat? How many calories would I ingest if I were to lick the exterior surfaces of the toilet?"
Then I went to check up on the master bedroom's closets, which in the past have been my gauge for basement leakiness. To my horror, I saw that the lower backside of the closets were richly speckled with the same black mold that I've seen growing on the toilet. At first I feared the walls were soggy with water seeping through the foundation, and I immediately went outside and did a massive upgrade of the drainage on the southmost quarter of the house's west side. Meanwhile Gretchen was doing some internet research about how best to deal with basement mold.
On further inspection, the basement moisture problem appeared to be one of condensation, not foundation leaks. The basement is by far the coolest part of the house, and that western wall, being entirely subterranean, is the coolest wall of the house. It should come as no surprise that water tends to condense on these cold surfaces, leading directly to the growth of mold. The water forms as little beads on the floor and doesn't actually appear to be leaking in from the outside. Nonetheless, water is water, and no matter how it comes, it's still problematic.
The mold was easily washed away with a dilute bleach solution. Interestingly, most of the spots where it had formed were in the places with the least air circulation, particularly behind the few objects actually in the closets. Simply leaving the closet doors open will probably cut back on mold growth. I'm still wondering, though, if some of the worst-affected drywall (some of whose paper has come loose from the gypsum) should be replaced with the waterproof "green" species of drywall normally used in bathrooms.
Half that battle against basement moisture had been fought before I'd even had my first cup of coffee. I don't know how, but I could already tell it was going to be one of those days. The next piece of evidence confirming this suspicion came when I went to try out a CPU box I received in the mail from Tiger Direct (an order for one of my clients). Luckily I opened it up before plugging it in - because the CPU's massive heatsink and fan had fallen off the Athlon processor and careened around inside like King Kong in New York City during shipping. There was no obvious evidence of damage, but an Athlon without a heatsink is an incendiary device when powered up, so it was important that I get the heat sink back on. Even then, though, the box refused to boot up. It was acting like the motherboard was shorting out, because it would run for a few seconds and then kick off with a high-pitch squeal from the power supply. Substituting a known good power supply did no good; in fact it seemed to make the problem worse because suddenly I became aware of the acrid fragrance of burning electronics. It's a smell that tells you your electronics are no longer any good. When these electronics just arrived in the mail, it's a foolproof way to know it's time to send them back.
The problem is that I'd gotten them from Tiger Direct. I've used Tiger Direct for years and have never had any trouble with anything they ever sent me. But I've read the horror stories of people who get things that turn out to be defective and then try to return them. Like Clear Channel radio, Tiger Direct is mostly operated by robots, and getting satisfactory customer service from them is akin to honoring a virginity pledge in a maximum security prison. But what choice did I have? I wasn't going to just eat the price of a dead computer.
It turns out that when one returns defective merchandise to Tiger Direct, one first must call the manufacturer of the defective item. So I called the manufacturer of the computer, a no-name company called Cybertron located in Kansas. Surprisingly, my tech support call went through without difficulty, though I thought it was a little suspicious that the tech support guy didn't bother to confirm with me that I actually had a Cybertron computer. Some of my readers might find it useful to know that if they have trouble with their computer, all they need to do for free tech support is call 877 737-8795.
The tech support guy had me opening the box up and pulling off the cables, all things I'd already done. So I just made little tapping noises with my fingers and told him I'd done whatever he'd told me to do, and that it hadn't helped. After he'd worked through his diagnostics he tried to sell me on the idea of perhaps just replacing the power supply, but obviously that wasn't going to work and I had to go through the motions of acting like I was swapping in a good power supply before he dropped that idea. This wasn't Lowes, a place where you can return a bag of autumn leaves for store credit. No, not by a longshot. The fine folks at Cybertron really didn't want me to return my defective box, and they even managed to hang up on me during one of the phone transfers. But I already had my incident number, and that saved me from going through the tech support gauntlet a second time. Finally I got them to give me a return number, and it turned out that they, Cybertron, would be the ones handling the return, not Tiger Direct.
Then I became concerned about how long it would take them to do a replacement, since what I ultimately needed was a working computer. I'm trying to get this box put together as quickly as possible, and I can't wait two weeks while they give me their low-priority-because-you're-doing-an-exchange bullshit. But the guy on the phone (his name was Josh, x227) assured me that if I just shipped it out and called to give him a tracking number, he'd ship out my replacement and they'd "cross in the mail."
It sounded like a plan, so I went to the Hurley post office and mailed off the dead computer. I was sure to get a tracking number so I could track that motherfucker and, as Josh-x227 had suggested, make it "cross in the mail" with its replacement.
But when I called Josh back, all I got was his machine, which didn't really give me the satisfaction that anything was ever going to cross anything else in the mail. I mean, what good is the word of some guy named Josh-x227 in the Cybertron sales office?
It's frustrating experiences like this that make people buy their computers from Dell or Compaq. When you figure that the dead Cybertron computer issue occupied all that part of my day not spent battling mold, you can see why people are willing to spend a little extra to get some quality customer service, along with a brand name and some difficult-to-replace proprietary hardware.
Meanwhile my spam continues to descend beneath the usual penis elixers into the realm of straightforward confidence schemes. Today somebody sent me an email telling me that my credit card had been billed $234.65 to launder money for my child pornography operation. I was then presented a form in which I could enter my credit card information and two buttons, one reading "Yes" for if I agreed to have my credit card billed in this way, or
another reading "No" for if I believed this was all some terrible mix-up.
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