The Life in My Years

An anthology of life

The featured photo was taken at the San Francisco Botanical Garden and processed through my editing program just prior to the program croaking.
The original intent for this post was a photo essay on The San Francisco Botanical Garden, a 55 acre urban oasis of plants and flowers in Golden Gate Park. Try as you might though you’ll find no photos, save the cover, of the San Francisco Botanical Garden. That’s not to say that I was in any way lazy and put off taking the photos. It was two Saturdays of walking miles and taking well over a hundred exposures. So, yes, there are photos of the garden. They’re just, let’s say, still in fermentation. I will post no photo before it’s time. As a result I’ve changed the title from Friday Fotos – The SF Botanical Garden to Not Friday and Not The Post on the San Francisco Botanical Garden.
While preparing photos for my post on the S.F Botanical Garden that is now the Not Friday and Not The Post on the San Francisco Botanical Garden, my Photoshop Elements program went into convulsions before apparently expiring to that big hard drive in the sky. My own attempts to resuscitate the program all failed and so I combed the online forum, a resource which I’ve always found to be a running chronicle of good intentions, trial, disappointment and repetition. After pouring through the usual forum thread of frustration and with my PSE program in its final death throes I went to one final act of desperation and looked for a phone number to contact Adobe support. I was left speechless when I actually found a number. Speechless turned out to be the operative word because as the story unfolded there wouldn’t be much speech to speak of … so to speak.

As a result of that phone call this Not Friday and Not The Post on the San Francisco Botanical Garden is now just a venting of the spleen; billingsgate, to use one of my favorite words. And why not? A good venting is often a pleasurable thing. I’ve found that venting can be sort of like going without underwear for a few hours. It’s an airing out that has a refreshing quality about it. And what better place to take off my underwear than at Adobe.

That phone call to Adobe, as with any call to almost any company sent me through the usual gauntlet of robo operator questions, “Let’s take you to the right place. What are you calling about? If it’s (fill in the blank) press 1…” “I’m sorry, I didn’t quite get that. Did you say ‘automated butthead?’”

In putting together this Not Friday and Not The Post on the San Francisco Botanical Garden post, I discovered that these – robo things – have a real name. They’re called automated attendants (abbreviated AA). I have a superabundance of other names for them but I’m trying real hard to keep this to an “R” rating.

A phone call to find out something as simple as an account balance can have you going through an interrogation that sends you through a maze of prompts, puts you on hold and then oftentimes kicks you back to the main menu so that you can do it all over again. Because how can a root canal be fun if you can’t look forward to repeating it again and again?

Automated attendants (AA) are symbolic of a shift in values (and I use the word values, loosely here) in American business. I can’t exactly pin down when it was but there was a turning point in America when business went from caring about the customer to “we really don’t give a damn.”

Pride in product, a desire to create jobs and opportunity, loyalty to employees and dedication to customer service are in the fast lane to extinction (and in some companies they are already scoffed at fossils). All of these; quality of product and service and the goals of serving the workforce and the community take time, effort and patience; all virtues that are no longer convenient. The objective is now to find the shortest and quickest route to black numbers at the bottom line, a healthy quarterly report and above all happy shareholders. Of course all of these can be achieved the old fashioned way but the required patience is no longer a virtue. Quality products and service also require those pesky things called employees, usually the most expensive component of running a business, but once upon a time considered the most important component. The trend now is to banish humans to…where? Well how the hell should I know, once all the companies have put everyone out of work who’s going to have money to buy their stuff?
Take the self checkout at the grocery – please. There’s a reason that I try to avoid the self checkout. Despite the corporate song and dance, self checkout isn’t there for my convenience. And let’s be honest, oftentimes self checkout isn’t convenient at all. Ever wait behind the guy who can’t key in the variety of apple that he has because he either can’t find the code or doesn’t know the variety (just grabbed some apples dude)? What about the parent who decides it would be fun to let his five year old play grocery clerk and damn the half mile long queue forming behind them? And let’s not forget that two phrases guaranteed to send blood pressures into previously uncharted heights came into the lexicon as a result of self checkout.
“Unexpected item in bagging area.”
“Whaddya mean ‘unexpected,’ I just scanned it you idiot.”
“Please wait for assistance.”
“Assistance? For what? Where did I go wrong?”

While those are fine reasons for avoiding self checkout I avoid it because in the end the self checkout isn’t for my convenience or the convenience of former grocery clerks who find themselves out of work. Any convenience is clearly aimed at corporate and the shareholders. Self checkout was solely developed to put people out of work. Self checkout machines don’t require a break, don’t ask for paid time off, don’t gossip or complain, don’t get pregnant and then have to miss work to tend to the little ones. And while the self checkout machine probably has a service contract it’s likely not as spendy as a medical plan.

The self checkout doesn’t do other things. It doesn’t ask how the family is doing or “How old is that daughter of yours now?” It doesn’t congratulate you on your child’s graduation when you’re buying that celebratory cake. It won’t promise to send up prayers for the father who has cancer. It doesn’t tell you the directions to the nearest ATM or coffee shop or whatever you might be looking for after you leave the store. At the end of the transaction it does thank you for shopping there but that has all the sincerity of an incumbent Congressman at election time. Far more appropriate would be for the self checkout to simply say “take your shit and go.” The self checkout doesn’t smile, frown or exude any emotion. It doesn’t know you nor does it want to know you. But the alternative is human interaction and we don’t seem to want that much anymore. Get me my stuff so that I can go on to the next thing. Unfortunately more and more people seem to have as much need for human interaction as, well, self checkout machines. Seems that interaction is going the way of pride in workmanship isn’t it?

Of course the natural progression is the cashier-less store offered by…..wait for it….Amazon of course; the industry leader in treating humans (at least the unskilled or undereducated ones) like burdensome dregs. Amazon, the company that brazenly perpetrated the shell game of raising the minimum wage under social pressure and then reducing bonuses and stock benefits. This would be the same Amazon that made billions and paid no taxes. And since Amazon’s convenience and power is akin to being the neighborhood Glock packing drug dealer, the corporate attitude is, “Yeah, and whaddya gonna do about it?”

Before you ask, yes, I’m guilty as charged. I use Amazon and I know I shouldn’t. I avoid Walmart like dark alleys and shark infested waters but I do use Amazon. That said I wouldn’t walk into a cashier-less Amazon Go store if it had the last bottle of Knob Creek Bourbon in the known world. Well, wait…let me think on that. Nah, just kidding, they can keep the damn bourbon.

At this point I’m sure you’re all dying to know how my call to Adobe went. After going through the AA’s inquisition I was stunned to get to a prompt that would actually take me to a live person in tech support.

With the giddy anticipation that could only be matched by being promised a date with Lucy Liu I followed the prompt for the live person. Not only did I not get a date with Lucy the prompt took me, to quote Sir McCartney, on a “long and winding road.” The nice AA told me the wait would be five minutes. She might just as well have told me that Lucy Liu would be coming to my home to fix my program and stay for dinner and drinks because the lady AA was in fact a scurvy liar.

An hour and fifteen minutes later I was still listening to Adobe’s insipid “on hold music.” No tech support and no Lucy. I literally took a nap while waiting. After marking time for 75 minutes I was convinced that there are no representatives at Adobe. I think they just stick you on hold and the techs put together a pool to see how long the caller will stick it out. To keep the musical analogy going I was, as Dwight Yoakam once sang, “A Thousand Miles from Nowhere.” And so I gave up. In the end and as unpalatable as it is I will be forking over more money to Adobe and purchasing Photoshop.

I’m not at all surprised that while I was pricing Photoshop and verifying online that the program is compatible with my computer a prompt appeared on my screen asking if I needed help with my purchase. I politely responded no thanks but where was the help when I needed someone. Since I was airing out I should’ve waved my private parts at him.

Adobe recorded record profits in 2018 and yet can’t hire enough representatives to field support calls in a timely manner. Should anybody be surprised? Once the customer has the product in hand, and products are much more complex than they were way back when, the manufacturer seems to always say, “It’s your problem now, deal with it.”
I’ve no real issue with my program having kicked the bucket but I would’ve appreciated someone at Adobe to, at the very least, pronounce it dead. In the end I don’t begrudge businesses from making profits. Just don’t treat people, be they employees or customers, like an inconvenience. America used to do better. There was a steadfast pride in workmanship and service. Now it’s just, let’s get it done and we’ll deal with any fallout later.

And now if you’ll excuse me, I think it’s time to put on some underwear.

17 thoughts on “Not Friday Fotos and Not The Post on the San Francisco Botanical Garden

  1. David says:

    To paraphrase a famous quote, I have felt your pain under similar circumstances, but probably so has anyone who has used tech as long as we have. I’ve had luck in the past reinstalling software on top of what is already there. In a case where that didn’t work I uninstalled some video editing software and reinstalled but for some reason I had to keep reinstalling (on top of the first reinstall) three times. Wishing you best of luck on getting things sorted out without much more angst and hassle.

    1. Paulie says:

      Thank you David. I’m still mulling over what my next step is. I”ve been given some suggestions for other software but I think I’ll stick with Adobe even if my principles tell me not to give them more of my $$$. I’m thinking, damn principle I don’t feel like a new learning curve.

  2. Jane Fritz says:

    Lol! I feel your pain, although it doesn’t make any of us feel any better to know that we’re in good company.

    1. Paulie says:

      Thank you Jane. I’m still waffling over what to do. I”m also waiting for my son to come visit before I download new software (he’s much more tech savvy).

  3. Eliza Waters says:

    I couldn’t have said it better myself! Even if you did get through to a rep, you probably would have had trouble understanding them as English would be their second language.

    1. Paulie says:

      Ah yes that’s true but in the crap shoot of help desks I sometimes get lucky because I have an inhouse interpreter. My wife is Filipina.

    2. Chris says:

      That’s not racist at all.

      1. Eliza Waters says:

        ‘Race’ has nothing to do with it, Chris. Our corporations pay a fraction to overseas workers than they would here at home. We still pay US rates for services like phone, etc. without having recourse when problems show up as Paulie describes here. It can be very frustrating to spend hours waiting in a queue and IF you get through, unable to understand what is being said.

      2. Paulie says:

        Geeze Loueeze, This post was a wry commentary on American businesses that disregard customer service in favor of the bottom line.
        I’m not sure what got construed as racist because none of it is. If anything the comment is a reflection of poor American corporate decisions that have a blatant disregard for their customers. There are jobs available for people who are tech savvy right here in America and yet corporate America has made the business decision to both under employ in this country and outsource jobs available in America. If anybody is going to go after someone go after the companies that outsource or fire Americans and then hire people here in America with H1B’s for the exact same jobs at a much lower wage. Now THAT could be construed as racist because the people being hired are deemed unworthy of a better salary.

        There have been times when I’ve been connected to a help desk in the Philippines and have had trouble communicating and I’m used to the Filipino accent. On one occasion I had to actually put Cora on the line to help in translation. My Italian relatives have accents and sometimes I have trouble understanding them. I kid Cora and my in laws about their accent constantly. Cora just blows it off and calls me a white asshole. Racism is a serious deal that has to be dealt with when it’s actually racist but I don’t see how commenting about trying to understand accented instructions is racist. Accents are what they are, and people have them and more power to people in other countries who actually learn enough English to get a help desk job. That said tech shit is difficult enough without having to try to understand the person who is doing the instructing.

        Finally I would suggest that to anyone that if they are going to fire off an accusation that they back it up instead of just toss it out there.
        Both Eliza and Chris have excellent blogs and from what I can tell are good people. Can we please have peace in the valley now.

      3. Paulie says:

        One more little addendum here. When I was working I had a project management counterpart in China, Joyce. She worked with me and our company QC manager on projects. Both the QC manager and I realized that Joyce was extremely qualified when it came to the technical aspects of the job but in conference calls it was a chore to understand what Joyce was saying. Sometimes damn near impossible.
        The QC manager and I had to consistently resort to follow up emails that could be used with a translator to clear up discrepancies.
        People have accents. They are a fact of life and of doing business globally but they can be difficult to deal with.

  4. You have painted a brilliant, if dismal, picture of the situation. I have been there far too many times. If you have not already pulled the trigger on a new edition of Photoshop, take a look at Affinity Photo. Less expensive, but much better.

    1. Paulie says:

      Thank you Michael. Still mulling my options. At your suggestion I did take a look at Affinity. My hesitations are,
      A new learning curve.
      It doesn’t look like Affinity provides support. Almost laughable given my experience with Adobe. 😒

      1. I am completely tracking with your reservations. Their website has extensive tutorials, very very good. Yes, it is a new learning curve, but the knowledge you have gained in Photoshop is portable, and the concepts are very similar if not the same. I think that you could be running productively an hour, and then gaining new skills as you go. The price is certainly right. It’s very polished software and it is extremely well-maintained and updated regularly.

  5. Paulie, this is a vent and rant for the ages. You’ve created a masterpiece. Amazon and Adobe and corporations in general, beware!

    Neil Scheinin

  6. Paulie says:

    Thank you Neil. Corporate shenanigans are always a great inspiration for a rant. Although I doubt that Adobe or Amazon are going to change their ways over my small voice.
    Unfortunately these large entities won’t change their errant ways because they essentially have us over a barrel. Particularly true of Amazon. People (me included) are hooked on the convenience. That said I still won’t enter an Amazon store – well, unless Lucy Liu is there. 😏

  7. Amy says:

    Thank you for your comment, Paulie. I had problem with the Reader, had to re-post it… Sorry for causing the confusion.

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