“No, ma’am, that’s not what I said,” said the support tech. She was using that syrupy, paid-to-be-nice-even-though-you’re-a-moron voice common to kindergarten teachers, hostage negotiators and underpaid helpdesk employees.

My Internet connection had been completely hosed for about 90 minutes and I’d spent the last 30 verifying it with their automated troubleshooter. They finally passed me through to a human.

“What I said was,” she continued carefully, “that we will notify the Outage Department that there may be the start of an outage in your area. We have received a number of calls similar to yours from your area code saying that even though our network is working they are unable to access the Internet, so once we notify the Outage Department they will take steps to determine if there is the start of an outage in your area.”

“Really.” I said neutrally, “I may be able to help you with that. As your ‘man on the scene,’ as it were, I can definitively state that the outage is here. Already started. In full swing, even. The real question is, when will it end?”

“Ma’am,” she sighed, “As I said, we first must determine if there is an outage before we can fix it. That could take some time. Normally we would ask the network technicians to diagnose the outage but it’s late and they’ve gone home. So we’ll have to notify the Outage Department and wait for them to tell us that there is an outage. We need more than just your word that there is an outage. Once we have that we can initiate repairs.”

“So you’re saying I probably won’t get back online until morning? I mean, if the guys have gone home?”

“Well, no, ma’am. The Outage Department could determine that there is an outage very quickly and initiate repairs in a short while. Or they could determine that the problem is with your computer. We just have no way of knowing, ma’am.”

“How could the problem be with my computer if a bunch of other people in my neighborhood have the same problem?”

“I don’t know, ma’am and I didn’t say that,” and the voice slowed down, dripping with patience, “I SAID we don’t know yet and I cannot speculate on how your computers all have the same problem. At this point we don’t even have confirmation that there is an outage in your area.”

“So…the Outage Department has been notified that I and many others have a problem?”

“They will be shortly, ma’am. We’re waiting for the supervisor to confirm a query for a possible start of an outage. I’m afraid there’s not much more that I can say.”

Me, either.