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Losing my data and learning about me

Updated: Jun 24, 2021

My cellphone unexpectedly stopped working yesterday, and I handled it with all of the calm you might imagine – as though someone had just cut off my arm. Technically, parts of my phone still worked: I could still make calls (remember when that was enough for a phone to do??). But, I could not access the internet nor receive nor send texts. (Well, in the spirit of honesty, I actually could do all of these things, but only when connected to wifi.) Still, this wasn’t ok - I immediately launched a campaign to solve the issue. I started with Apple, and when they couldn’t solve it, I took a deep breath and called AT&T.

After an extensive wait, I got a customer service rep on the phone. And we all know the drill by now: they start by asking how you are today. Really – how are we usually by the time we are calling their customer service line for help? So, I answered honestly: “Frustrated.” The customer service rep paused before responding.

“You’re frustrated?” He seemed genuinely concerned. Then he seemed to connect the dots. “Oh, about the data not working!” There was relief in his voice, as though he was happy that this was my greatest problem.

My first reaction was more annoyance. I was surprised that he didn’t seem to understand how bad it is when data is kept from me. That he didn’t seem to get why this was so frustrating.

We pushed on through our conversation, through his checklist, and we eventually determined that there was a nationwide data outage affecting some customers, and that it would resolve itself in the next day or so.

I was relieved that it would be fixed, but there was a nagging awareness as I hung up the phone that I was feeling embarrassed as well as relieved. Embarrassed by how reactive I became with what was really not a huge inconvenience. And embarrassed by how puzzled the young man on the other end of the line seemed to find this reaction.

I tried defending myself in my head. I listed all of the reasons I had a right to be frustrated, darn it! The hassle of the wait to reach customer service, the lack of information that could have helped, the inconvenience on a day that had already been frustrating for other reasons.


His puzzled voice has stayed with me. “You’re frustrated? Oh, about the data not working?”

He solved one problem for me yesterday, but he also gently pointed out another that is mine to solve.

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