Progress. That wonderful concept that shifts civilisation from one point on the evolutionary scale to another. One would think that by all that is implied in this simple, rather innocuous-sounding word, progress would go hand-in-hand with improvement - with doing it better, with graduating from one level to the next and particularly so when it comes to technological progress. Why then, in this, the 21st century, have I just spent more than a hour trying to sort out a top-up on my mobile Internet? Is it me or is progress regressing?
I travel a lot and so really appreciate mobile Internet - I can access the Internet from anywhere. It's a wonderful invention. Like my mobile phones though, I'm quickly amassing quite an impressive number of sticks and SIM cards for use in various countries. As far as I'm aware, it's still the cheapest and most reliable way to go... I've heard of people having nightmares over their roaming charges and my dreams are distburbed enough as they are!
I'm in Ireland right now and have a 3 stick. First thing this morning, I booted up and tried to buy some credit. But I needed a password - a password that 3 was sending to my mobile, only I never gave them my mobile number. I called the helpline in India and spoke to a lovely woman who managed to keep her incredulity in check as she explained to me that the SMS with my password was sent to my computer. mmmmm - I really need to get with the programme here. So, password retrieved I tried to log in and couldn't. Even cutting and pasting the password didn't work. But it worked in India. I needed to register my payment card but I would have to do that myself and my many attempts to log in using my new password had resulted in 3 locking me out. I'd have to wait an hour and try again.
Because I'm a victim of the immediacy of our times, I couldn't possibly wait an hour. I needed to be online. And I needed to be online now. I cajoled the nice lady in India into registering my card for me. Which she did. But then she got a message to say that my bank wouldn't allow it and that I would need to call them to authorise it. She said something about the IP address on her computer being from India and my card being Irish and somehow the system would pick up on this (now that's technological progress for you!) So we tried another card. Same message. I hung up and called my bank in Ireland. After ten minutes of security checks and system checks and all the rest, the Bank told me there was no reason why that card shouldn't work. They suggested I call the provider.
Rather than call India again, I thought I'd try it for myself. And it told me that my bank wouldn't accept, wouldn't accept, wouldn't accept, wouldn't accept and then it changed its mind, and did! Finally I was registered. I topped up successfully. Everything seemed to be in order. I went to log on and nothing. Nothing but the provider's website. No Thunderbird, no Facebook, nothing. So I called India again and spoke with yet another incredibly patient woman who told me that yes I had topped up, but now I had to actually buy broadband credit. She talked me through the steps it and told me to reboot and wait ten minutes for it to take effect. I did and it did.
I can't help but fondly remember the days when I'd plug into a modem and dial up using the house phone. It took a matter of minutes and always worked. But that's so last century!