I have this posted on the podcast, and it keeps popping up on my list of popular shows.
Can you imagine if this premise could happen in today’s world? I imagine it might be called, "Sorry, Wrong Email."
I love the suspenseful aspect of the unfolding drama. The crossed wires that caused our main character to hear a plan of murder. Of course, that in itself is pretty amateuristic. I’d bet that even the old time gangsters didn’t use such things as easy to monitor as telephone lines to plan their dastardly deeds. A private consultation in a dark and seedy room seems the most timeless, and secure way of planning evil.
Getting back to my idea about email, I suppose it might as easily be through Facebook, or Twitter, or some other social media platform where people communicate these days, but there’s no privacy in that. People may forget how open, and public those places are, and publish things that ought not be said or seen in public. Keep your naked body parts and illicit bedroom life to yourself please. Again, what criminal in their right mind would post on Facebook to all their friends about their upcoming underworld activities?
I still don’t see email as being a hotbed of idea exchanges between thugs, but it’s still cutting edge enough, and widely used among people of all ages and social groups. It’s mostly private, and somewhat easy to get a "crossed wire" from somebody. All it might take is sending a message to a wrong person by a simple slip of the typing finger.
With those logistics worked out, the annoyances kick in.
My biggest annoyance with this story is the frequency, and inconsiderate way the leading lady keeps calling the operator. With email as the medium though, there isn’t exactly an operator on duty, but can you imagine the helpdesk tech when he clocks in, and checks his email box to find hundreds of emails with the same subject line? "Help! Operator! Help!"
Just how many times does she jiggle that stupid phone reciever and scream out for the operator? Even when the operator is on the line? Why doesn’t she ask to be connected to a supervisor? Why aren’t any of the telephone operators versed in a little customer service, rather than giving her the brush off once they’ve reached the limit of their competency?
In today’s world, a helpdesk tech would look at those 100 emails in his inbox all with the same subject: "Help! Operator! Help!" spot check a couple to see if anything significant is bbing said, then delete them all. After that, a terse, one line email might be sent with a tidbit of some of the same lame advice the operators in the story gave before hanging up on our heroine. Or maybe it was all that continuous receiver jiggling that was breaking the connection.
If the main character had the luxury of an ISP with a tech support crew 24/7, she might be greeted with some of the same brush off answers. Techs are rated on job performance for having short call times, and as many as they can squweeze into an hour. Hey, it’s a tough job, don’t hate on them.
However, if a problem is beyond the prewritten script a tech has on their computer screen, they tell you that your call is being escalated. Then put you back in the phone queue, right at the back of the line. It’s not much different than the contact the telephone operators gave our leading lady when they realized that the service she needed was beyond their capabilities. The scene repeats until either the tech, or you, get the bright idea of actually escalating the call to a real team leader, or manager.
Believe it or not, Internet Service Providers do try to give classes to their techs on customer service. Too often though, people don’t always put it to good use. It takes a little listening, a lot of letting a frenzied customer’s comments roll off your back, sympathizing, and the goal is to get the person to calm down. Irrational people won’t listen or take the solution you have to offer, even if it will help, until they can calm down and see the tech as an authority figure.
As seen only from the vantage point of the helpdesk tech, the scene might go something like the following. The frustrated woman who is a shut in, disabled, and highly dependant on her husband gets a disturbing email in her inbox. Worried about the significance of the crime, and concerned for her safety, she can’t reach her husband at work.
What does she do? She gives her ISP a call. After all, the Internet Service Provider is responsible for everything that brings the Internet to your door, right?
Ring. Welcome to our service, your call is important to us, please holed. (repeat every 30 seconds for 5 minutes. Hey, she’s lucky and called during an off peak time.)
“Operator! Operator! I have a problem with my email. “
“Hi, this is Tom, can I get your name and street adress ma’am? “
“Operator! Operator! I have a problem with my email. “
“I understand that, but can I get your name and … “
“Operator! Why do you need that information from me? Don’t you understand? I have a serious problem with my email! “
“Ma’am, I need to use that information to look up your… “
“Operator! Operator! “
(with eye roll, and a sigh of exasperation) “ I need to escalate your call. Please hold while I get a supervisor on the line. “ (click.)
For the sake of brevity, mentally repeat the above a half dozen times or two. With the possible additions that a tech might actually get enough info to look upp her account in the database. And if enough look ups are successful, maybe 1 or 2 techs will actually make a note of the frantic, crazy woman with an email problem.
Ring. “ Hello, this is Dave, I’m the team leader. How can I help you? “
“Operator! I’ve been calling and calling, and nobody can help me. I can’t get my email, and I might die if I don’t. What I mean to say is… “
“Slow down a moment ma’am. I understand how that must make you feel. If I can get your name and account information, I can see what the problem may be in the server. “ (it’snever in the server, but it makes a frenzied customer think you’re on their side. Plus it can throw them for enough of a loop to actually give you the information you need to look up their account.)
“Huh? O,my name is Jane, and I live at 123 Elm … “
“Is that Elm Street, or Avenue? “
“What? Oh, it’s Elm Street, not Avenue. Operator. I’m in so much trouble. I found this disturbing email… “
“And your last name is Wilson, right? “
“Huh? Yes, yes it is. How did you know… But never mind that! I checked my email, and there it was. somebody is going to kill somebody, and I’m… “
“Jane, I’m looking at your account information, and I see that you already talked to Kevin, and Matt. Have they already got your email working again? “
“No! It’s not that at all. My email has always worked. It’s just that I got… “
“Jane, let me try to understand this. Your email works fine? And I’m guessing that you can view web pages alright? Can you describe how I can help? “
“That’s what I’m trying to do! Won’t any body listen to me? I’m home alone. I’m disabled. My husband is late in getting home from work. I read this email that said someone is going to be killed. “
“I’m sorry to hear that ma’am. It must be frustrating to be left at home like that. “
“It is, and I’m so afraid. Can’t anybody help me? What’s the meaning behind that email? Who can I call? I can’t reach my husband on his office phone. He’s not responding to calls to his cell phone. What do I do? Who can… “
“Ma’am. Calm down. Do you also have your phone service through us? Maybe I can check on any connection outages there… “
“No. It’s not. The phones are thrugh … well… it’s another company but what does it matter? How is this helping? Why are you talking about phone service? Don’t you understand my problem? “
“Not entirely Jane, but that’s what I’m trying to get to the bottom of. It may be just as well that your phone carrier isn’t through Our company. Our phone department is in a totally different office, and I would have to transfer you if there was a… “
“Oh, no, don’t put me on hold again. I’ve waited on hold for half the night. I just want to get to the bottomof this disturbing email. You’re not helping. Nobody’s helping. “
“Ma’am. What can you tell me about this email trouble? Did it have a virus? Is it a spam message? “
“What? No, nothing like that. “
“Who is it from? “
“I don’t know. “
“Do you mean you can’t find the address of the person who sent it to you? Or that you don’t know the person? “
“I don’t know who it is. Why all these questions? Why is this taking so long? Why can’t you help me? “
“Jane, I’m just trying to narrow down some possibilities. Do you think the sender is trying to hurt you in some way? “
“Yes! I just know he is. I’m afraid, and nobody’s doing anything! “
“I’m not sure I can do much to help against that person. If you feel threatened, have you considered calling the police? “
“The police? What can they do? You’re the one in charge of the Internet. Do something to keep this murder from happening. “
“Wow, thank you for thinking that ma’am. I’d like to think that I was in charge of it. I’d be glad to push a button and make the world a better place, but that’s a little abouve what I’m actually in charge of. The police have ways of tracking down… “
“The police! Why do you keep bringing them up? You’re not going to help me are you? Nobody’s going to help! Why doesn’t anyone believe me? “
“I’d like to ma’am. Can I go over this one more time with you? I want to make sure I have this down right. “
“What’s writing it down going to do? I’ve been on this phone all night now, and nobody’s doing anything about it. Why won’t somebody believe me? “
“Jane, from what I understand, you don’t have an Internet connection problem. You don’t have trouble sending or receiving email. You’re upset because you rexcieved a troubling email from a stranger. You’re home alone, and need help. Is that about it in a nutshell? “
“Now listen to me for a moment. I really do want to help you. Our company provides a service. You use our servers to connexct to the Internet, we provide email, and a little bit of storage space in the cloud to store a few of your files. We don’t restrict activity to our customers in our servers. You can get any web content you like, no questions asked. That also means… “
“Why are you saying all of this? “
“Ma’am. Please let me finish. That means that anybody on the web can also contact you. I can’t stop you, and I can’t stop them. Our company sees such restriction as taking away a right of freedom to our customers. “
“You’re not going to help me, are you? I’m going to die, and you’re just going to let it happen! “
“Jane, if you feel there’s a threat to your life, the police are the ones who you should call. If they feel that our company can help track down the routing of the email, they’ll have to follow the set legal procedures to obtain a copy of our log files. “
“Can you do that? Track down the killer? How is that possible? “
“It’s possible, but it’s a process the police need to handle. It’s not for you to worry about, or try to understand how it all works. For right now, we need to worry about your safety tonight. So give the police a call. “
“I can try and give them a call, but… OH no! “
“What’s the matter? “
“It’s too late! The email said the murder would go down at 10:15PM, and it’s 10:11 right now. There’s no way anybody will get here in time! “
“Ma’am. Can you try calling 911, and talk to the operator there? I’m sure they’d have better advice for you than I could give to… Ma’am? Jane, are you still there? Hello? “
Making the rounds to the techs on the floor, the team leader stops by Kevin, and Matt’s cubicles. "You guys got a call from a woman earlier who was keyed up about…"
"Yeah, wasn’t she a basket case? I never could figure her out." says Matt.
"Me either, something about email, or a virus, or something." said Kevin.
"Do you know who else talked to her tonight, or how long ago you talked to her?" asks Dave.
"Wow, that had to be an hour ago, at least since I had her on the phone." says Kevin, "And I know she made the rounds to a couple other guys before either of us tried to make sense of her. What a freak."
"That’s what I figured. That it was about that long." said Dave. "I hope she’s alright. If she hadn’t wasted so much time raving at each of you, and let somebody get her settled down, she could’ve had plenty of time to call the cops, or…"
"Dude! The cops! What was she into anyway?" Keven said, surprised.
"I don’t know. Probably nothing. She just needed somebody who could actually giver help. Not any of the geeks around this cubicle farm."