I don't drink. A glass of wine with my evening meal, a bottle a beer during a football match. Gave up smoking for the second and last time in the 80's. Never tried anything stronger. Honest. I used to feel an occasional urge to gamble, but quickly discovered that this was a mug's game and learnt to keep my money in my pocket.
I had just about decided I was not the addictive sort. Until this morning. I woke up to find my broadband connection was broken. I ran the standard test - three times. Unplugged the modem and router, waited five minutes before plugging them back in. No joy. No web, no emails, nothing. No contact with the outside world. What if my book suddenly went viral?
Or pigs sprouted wings. Who said that?
I rang Vodafone. An automated system took me through a labyrinth of questions. It was only by pressing the wrong button that I got through to a customer support guy, called Gary (not his real name). Gary took my personal details, then checked out a few things at his end. In order to check the line that I had called him on, he needed me to ring him back on a mobile. He told me to dial 1747. That number would fast-track me through to tech support, avoiding the automatic answering machine and her million multiple-choice questions. I grabbed my mobile and rang 1747.
This time, I got an automated system that kept repeating that all their tech support people were busy, and they'd get to me eventually. My call was important to them, which gave me a warm glow. I hung on. And on. And on. I'm sure you've had this sort of experience, so I won't labor the point. Twelve minutes later, I was surprised to be speaking to a live, breathing young lady.
"Put me through to Gary," I said. "Gary, in tech support. He's waiting for my call."
"We don't have a Gary," she says. "Maybe I can help you."
I explained about my Vodafone broadband connection. I said I had been speaking to Gary in tech support just twelve minutes earlier, and that he had asked me to ring back on this number.
"This is not Vodafone," she says. "This is O2."
I had to laugh. Obviously, both companies use the same number, 1747, to fast-track their customers through to tech support. If you have a Vodafone mobile, you get routed through to Vodafone tech support. Mine is an O2 mobile.
I went back to the original number and picked my way through the labyrinth of multiple choice questions, again succeeding in hacking the system. The phone was answered by a young lady who asked for my personal details, this time including my date of birth and my underwear size. I explained how I'd spent the last twenty minutes waiting and then talking with their competitors. She tut-tutted sympathetically and put me through to technical support.
Luke (not his real name) began the process again. He asked me to disconnect everything from the line, including the landline (Ah! So that's why I had to ring back on a mobile).
"There is a small issue on the line," he said. "Do you have a monitored alarm system?"
"Yes," I said.
"Ring them and get them to check their filter." He explained that I would be charged a horrendous fee if an engineer was sent out by Eircom to correct a fault on my line and the problem was being caused by the alarm.
Anyway, my morning continued in that vein. In between calls, I repeatedly tried my email and Internet Explorer, but both were unresponsive. On my third visit to tech support, after giving the operator my mother's maiden name, I was informed by Brian (not his real name) that there had been a lot of calls from my area. A major broadband outage had struck, Eircom had been notified and were speeding to the scene, even now, to rectify the fault.
It was only then that I realized the extent of my addiction. I couldn't use twitter, and Facebook was going to have to manage without me. My blog was out there facing the ravages of cyberspace without my help. Unread emails were accumulating in my account. For want of something constructive to do, I walked into the village and bought a tube of glue (don't ask). I was tempted to place a bet on the outcome of the British Open Golf Championship. I even considered a visit to the pub.
As you can see, I'm back online, and all's well with the world.