Saturday, January 11, 2014

“New Year Blues”

c. 2013 Rod Ice
All rights reserved

My “real job.” How I have paid the bills while engaging in the craft of professional journalism.
As a business manager, one of my primary responsibilities is always to protect the assets of my employer. This has occasionally meant going above and beyond the call of duty. A quantum leap beyond earning a regular paycheck.
Yet on a distant New Year’s Eve night, my loyalty was tested not by the ownership, but instead through seeking fulfillment from an outside service for which we had paid.
At closing time, I realized that a technical flaw prevented me from completing my work day. I needed to set the alarm system before going home.
But a zone fault appeared on the alarm panel.
Our monitoring service had been bought out by a company from out-of-state. So when I called, there was a moment of indecision before they realized who I represented.
What follows here is an edited transcript:

ALARM CENTER: “Hello, this is Erie Surveillance Solutions. How may I help you?”
ME: “Hello, this is Rod from Store 0777 in Ohio. I am having trouble with your system tonight.”
ALARM CENTER: “What is your issue?”
ME: “The panel says Zone A fault.”
ALARM CENTER: “We show no trouble at the monitoring desk.”
ME: “Really! That seems surprising. My panel indicates a fault.”
ALARM CENTER: “Can you key in your code?”
ME: “If I could do that, I would not be on the phone, ma’am.”
ALARM CENTER: “Have you checked the doors in Zone A?”
ME: “Of course.”
ALARM CENTER: “I need you to confirm that those doors are properly shut.”
ME: “I checked them just a moment ago.”
ALARM CENTER: “Where is your store?”
ME: “Northeastern Ohio. We were previously served by Republic Sentry.”
ALARM CENTER: “Hmmmm. Yes, we purchased that division this year.”
ME: “Do you have any idea how to help me?”
ALARM CENTER: “What is your business number?”
ME: “Store 0777.”
ALARM CENTER: “We show no fault with your system.”
ME: “The panel says two faults in Zone A. Can you just set it from there?”
ALARM CENTER: “We only monitor activity from here.”
ME: “Well, who can help me?”
ALARM CENTER: “You will need to speak to a technician. It will take approximately ten minutes.”
ME: “Great. Thank you!”

It took three calls and a full hour before the appropriate connection was made. By that time I was bathed in sweat. I had re-checked the doors in our backroom and paced around the store several times.

TECHNICIAN: “How may I help you?”
ME: “This is Rod at Store 0777. I am trying to set my alarm system. But the panel here indicates a Zone A fault. Actually, two faults.”
TECHNICIAN: “What panel do you have there?”
ME: “It says Rodeheaver 9940.”
TECHNICIAN: “Ummmmm... what?”
ME: “Rodeheaver 9940.”
TECHNICIAN: “Those are quite old. I don’t have any manuals for that unit.”
ME: “I have been told that the device goes back to the 1980’s.”
TECHNICIAN: “Indeed. Why haven’t you updated it?”
ME: “I don’t make those decisions. I suspect my employer is preoccupied with the cost of complying with government regulations.”
ME: “Never mind. Can you help me?”
TECHNICIAN: “I will have to look up that panel on the Internet. Can you stand by?”
ME: “Do I have a choice?”
TECHNICIAN: (Laughing) “Well, no.”
ME: “Then I will stand by.”

Another hour passed before he contacted me again. I had now made four phone calls.

TECHNICIAN: “I found your Rodeheaver 9940 on a Chinese website. What you need to do is enter Command 14, then your access code, then scroll to the zone showing a fault and bypass it with Command 10.”
ME: “Okay. Let’s see... active faults... Zone A... bypass... wait a minute! Now I have all the zones bypassed. Now it says too many bypassed to set.”
TECHNICIAN: “I am sorry. This is what it said on the Internet.”
ME: “I need to clear the bypasses and start over!”
TECHNICIAN: “Ummmm... Command 10.”
ME: “What?”
TECHNICIAN: “Command 10 then your access code. Or your code and then Command 10...”
ME: “I think it would have been just as good to figure this out on my own.”
TECHNICIAN: “Sorry. That’s all I have.”
ME: “Okay, I did all of that.”
TECHNICIAN: “Now set the alarm.”
ME: (Punching keys) “It still won’t accept my code.”
TECHNICIAN: “I am sorry. That is all I can suggest.”
ME: “I want to go home!”
TECHNICIAN: “Your only option is to force arm the system.”
ME: “With a fault existing?”
ME: “Won’t that trip after I leave?”
TECHNICIAN: “I honestly don’t know.”

Before arming the system, I called our business owner. It seemed proper to warn him of the possible folly of what I was about to do, so near to midnight.
Outside of the store, I called the monitoring company for a fifth time, on my cell phone.

ALARM CENTER: “Hello, this is Erie Surveillance Solutions...”
ME: “Yes, this is Rod at Store 0777 again.”
ALARM CENTER: (As if she had never heard of me) “How may I help you, Rod?”
ME: “I would like to confirm my alarm set.”
ALARM CENTER: (Looking at her computer) “Yesss... I show your set with six zones bypassed.”
ME: “That can’t be right! I cleared all the bypasses and started over. The alarm should be set with only Zone A bypassed.”
ALARM CENTER: “We show six zones bypassed.”
ME: “But I cleared everything with your technician on the phone!”
ALARM CENTER: “I am sorry, Rod. What was your question?”
ME: (Cursing under my breath) “Never mind. Have a good night.”
ALARM CENTER: “Thank you for choosing Erie Surveillance Solutions.”

A repairman visited the next day. He discovered a damaged sensor with ripped wires as the cause of our technical issue. The fix took about an hour.
Before leaving, he wished me a “Happy New Year!”

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