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Politically Incorrect

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Pass the patience, please

"You have unsent messages in your outbox. Would you like to send them before closing?" my computer asks me. "YES!" I scream in response, "I most certainly would!" and I power the computer down.

Through the years, I've tried a lot of ways to become a more patient person. I've made five-year plans with Og Mandino; I've practiced counting to ten (or 20 or 100); I've tried affirmations ("I am a patient person."); and I've also grown older. Something worked, because I'm ten times more patient than I was at 30, and oodles more patient than I was at 20. There are only a few things that tend to trigger my impatience gene. One of them is non-functioning internet access.

Deadline for the paper; a gazillion things to do and a short amount of time to do it, and my email won't work. Neither will my Internet. I'm perturbed.

"Stupid piece of junk computer," I say as I disconnect and try re-connecting again. "Windows operating systems really stink," I gripe as I shut down the computer and re-boot. "What the heck is wrong with POVN?" I scream as my email bogs down again and again.

What was wrong with POVN, my Internet Service Provider, was the Robert Burns rule of life - "The best laid plans of mice and men...."

POVN (the acronym for Pend Oreille Valley Networks) is a growing Internet service provider in the region. And service providers operate on what I call the party-planning principle. You invite 75 people to your party, knowing there's no way your house can actually hold 75 people. But you assume that at least 25 or 30 of those invited won't show up.

When people begin arriving at your door, you begin counting. More than 40 came? Okay, we're going to need the chairs off of the porch. More than 50 have arrived? Take the ingredients for tomorrow's dinner out and create more appetizers, and send someone over to my mother's house for her collection of glasses. All 75 are here?! Okay, the bedrooms are no longer off limits, people have to sit in other people's laps, all the windows are open because body heat has raised the house temperature to 102°, and every bed in the house is now a couch. It works, but not well.

    Most of the companies who provide Internet service allow 24 hour access to the 'net with every account. Not everyone will actually use the service 24 hours a day, however, so ISPs sell more "24 hour accounts" than their equipment can actually handle. (They invite 75 people to the party). This is not only a standard practice, it's efficient and smart. If everyone with life insurance died on the same day, insurance companies would collapse.

    Just as I closely watch how many people are coming through the door, the ISPs closely monitor Internet usage; when their equipment is being utilized at a certain percentage, they increase their equipment capacity. (To POVN’s credit, they do this much sooner than do other service providers—they’re putting into place a DSL expansion because they have 88 customers on one “line;” one competitor doesn’t upgrade until they have 900 on one line.)

    Based on my conversations with POVN, this is exactly what they did with their dial-up service. Then all 75 people showed up to the party at once, and POVN was scrambling to find room for everybody, while frantically trying to get equipment suppliers to quickly move up the date for expansion - to yesterday. In the meantime, their customers are fighting for service. "Try getting most of your work done before 3 pm," one of their techs tells me. That's when the kids get out of school and usage goes through the roof. Like any good business, POVN is operating as a good business-they've been up-front with their customers about what's going on, and are working overtime to fix it. In the terms of my analogy, they’re out pounding nails all night long, trying to get an addition built to house the 75 party guests. They didn't realize advertising in The River Journal was going to work so well.

    I know all this every time I hook up to the Internet. I also know something more important -I will never find anything, be it person, business or institution, that's totally perfect. And it doesn't make any difference. It still makes me scream.

    Deadline. The paper's ready to be printed but my Realty Northwest ad is lost somewhere in the endless ones and zeroes of the telephone system. I desperately need to check some facts, but my extensive personal library doesn't boast an Infoseek, a Yahoo, or even an Ask Jeeves. My phone line has been tied up for hours, trying to download email that's showing up on the server, but can't make the trip to my computer. I am thinking unkind thoughts about POVN, even though there's a group of people there I happen to like very much.

    And then I remembered. "This is not brain surgery," I reminded myself. "It is only a newspaper and not particularly important in the greater scheme of things. My email may not be working, but my children are alive and safe. I can't get to the Internet, but I have a roof over my head. And while the ladies at Realty Northwest are entitled to be wishing me dead right now (Please, send it again!) all I can do is what I can do- and I'll owe them a lunch." I took a deep breath, and let my irritation go. In doing so, I was rewarded with a soul deep feeling of... patience.

    I wish I could keep that feeling with me always, wish that there weren't still times when I have to actively seek it. I can't help but believe that the world would be a much better place if we all just practiced judging others by the same standards that we want to be judged by - with understanding that the world is not a perfect place, and its people aren't either. Mistakes happen despite the best laid plans and that's okay. We can't rise to the occasion if there's no occasion to rise to. And we can't be our best without an awful lot of practice.

    I'm still not a patient person. Just two days ago, as my computer flashed, for the ninth time, the message "your server hasn't responded for 60 seconds - would you like to wait?" I said to it, loudly, "I know it hasn't responded!" I was glad the kids were in school and couldn't hear me. And I was glad that I only said it once. I chanted my mantra; "I am a patient person. I am a patient person." In time, that might be true.

 

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Landon Otis

Tagged as:

editorial, patience, internet, POVN

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