Randy's Ramblings: Computers aren’t ready to run the worldToyota’s trouble with revving engines reminded me of my own encounter with technology gone wild. No, my 10-year-old, four-cylinder import didn’t take off like a bat out of heck. My problem was with the phone/cable TV/Internet provider.
By: Randy Hanson, Hudson Star-Observer
Toyota’s trouble with revving engines reminded me of my own encounter with technology gone wild.
No, my 10-year-old, four-cylinder import didn’t take off like a bat out of heck.
To the contrary, it has to be coaxed up to highway speed. It groans and complains about it if I’m traveling uphill – for instance, when I take I-94 from Second Street to Carmichael Road.
My problem was with the phone/cable TV/Internet provider.
Back in mid-January, I took a week’s paid time off (PTO to the HR department) so I wouldn’t end up surrendering it to the boss’s use-it-or-lose-it policy.
It was a staycation for me because my wife and I had gone on a pretty big trip a few months earlier. We haven’t joined the jet set yet.
My sweetheart called from work one morning to invite me to join her for lunch.
We were deciding where to dine when the receiver went dead on her end of the line, Ethernet or whatever.
“Hello, hello. Are you there?” she asked.
I was, but she couldn’t hear me, so I pushed a button on the cordless handset, ending the call.
I pushed the redial button, and then realized that didn’t make any sense. My sweetie had called me.
So I put the handset back in its holder and was pondering whether to call her work or cell phone number when the home phone rang.
I picked it up, expecting to hear my wife’s melodious, alto voice.
Instead, a no-nonsense male said he was calling from the St. Croix County Emergency Communications Center in response to a 911 call from my home.
“I didn’t call 911,” I protested.
“Well, then how did I get your number?” he asked.
Later, after pondering the question, it was one I wanted answered, too.
I tried to tell the dispatcher about the call from my wife, and how it got dropped, and that I pushed the redial button, but I didn’t call 911.
I felt like a schoolboy wrongly accused of shooting a spit wad.
It didn’t sound like the dispatcher bought my story. At any rate, he was busy and cut it short, saying that a police officer would be arriving shortly to make sure everything was OK.
I went to the kitchen, looked out the window, and sure enough, North Hudson Police Chief Mark Richert was walking up the driveway.
My longest previous visit with Chief Richert was a result of me locking myself out of my car – with the engine running. He gave me a ride home to get another key, and then back to the car.
I was embarrassed about the chief having to respond to another miscue involving me, even though I was pretty sure I wasn’t responsible for this one.
Chief Richert was gracious.
After writing down my full name, address and date of birth, he listened to my story and said he was glad everything was all right. The police are required to respond to all 911 calls, he said.
I knew that. And from listening to the police radio scanner here at the newspaper office, I know that 911 hang-up calls are a significant inconvenience for law enforcement agencies.
That’s why I wanted them to know I wouldn’t purposely do such a thing – and would fess up to it if I did it by accident.
I frequently hear a police officer or sheriff’s deputy get dispatched to a residence to investigate a 911 hang-up call. Often, the officer will report back that a parent said a child had been playing with a phone.
Well, I wasn’t playing with my phone. It irritated me that the dispatcher seemed to assume that I was guilty of making the 911 call.
Add to that a smidgeon of paranoia. Was someone having a bit of fun by sending the police to my door?
So I called the Emergency Communications Center and asked to speak to the supervisor on duty.
He listened to my story with more sympathy than the dispatcher had. Digital phone service isn’t perfect, he seemed to admit, and suggested that I contact my provider.
The company, to its credit, took my report seriously. It sent a nice young technician the same day to check out our phones and cable.
He went into the call records through the Internet, which showed a four-second 911 call having been placed from our residence. But it was sandwiched so tightly between the call from my wife and another supposed call that it would have been virtually impossible for me to make it.
The young technician said he had gotten a similar call from a dispatch center on his cell phone three years earlier.
It didn’t bother him as much as it did me. He just told the dispatcher that he hadn’t called 911, that he was OK, and that was that.
Some big computer somewhere hiccupped, we surmised, sending the police on a wild goose chase.
That’s why I’d rather not put computers in charge of too much – including elections and car accelerators and brakes. They’re known to have bouts of temporary insanity.