Now you may be asking what my cancer journey has to do with a load of laundry. I'm going to ask you to bear with me and I will make the connection. In the meantime there is a story. I'm afraid it will take about ten minutes. Would you expect anything less? It's a good one. I promise.
Day 1 - June 30 - Morning
Two weeks ago I was sitting in a zoom meeting when one of the attendees asked if I had gotten his text. I reached for my smartphone. It wasn't in its usual place on the table next to me. The sinking feeling when I realized that the phone was in the pocket of my cargo shorts. The ones I had moved from the washing machine to the dryer a few minutes earlier. Indescribable really. I've only had the phone for about six months and though the screen had cracked a few weeks before, I was loving it. Such an incredible upgrade in capability, I kept finding new things that it did easily.
After a quick check to make sure the Pixel 4a was as dead as I thought it would be, I transferred my SIM card back to my old phone which I had kept for such an emergency. The old Motorola phone took so long to start, charge and navigate. It was amazing how accustomed to the new phone I had become. I set about a quick search to see if the phone was still considered best in class as it was when I bought it. It was.
I looked to see where the nearest place to buy the same phone would be. Thirty minutes away in Richmond, Best Buy had one. I purchased it online and went to pick it up as soon as I got the email saying it was ready.
I realized how bad the old phone was as I tried to use Google Maps to navigate through the maze of streets in Richmond. It got worse when I got to the pickup area and tried to let them know that I was there and ready for my delivery. I finally gave up.
Masking up, I went in to pickup the phone at the online deliveries counter. As I tried to show the clerk my order number the phone died. Fortunately I had printed a paper backup. Together with my two forms of ID (drivers license and Costco membership - they are useful beyond measure,) I was able to take possession of my new phone.
In the car I unboxed it to start the charging process. The new phone surprised me with a question mark on the battery charging symbol when I plugged it in. I figured it was due to using the car charger instead of the normal adapter. When I got home and plugged it into the proper adapter and saw the same symbol, I decided to start up the phone and see if the problem persisted. On starting up, I went through the laborious process of installing my account wirelessly. When I finished, I was only missing three or four texts that I had downloaded into my old phone while using it. It was a smooth process though it took several hours.
Next I ran all the updates. Restarting the phone after the system update though, it was dead. Not what I was expecting. Nothing. No flickers of life. The question mark battery symbol flashed once in a while.
Day 1 - June 30 - Evening
I did what I should have done when I first noticed the strange symbol and googled for an answer. I found a thread about holding a certain spot on the back of the phone while restarting. Though it sounded a little like "hold your nose and twirl around three times" I tried it. To be fair the explanation given made sense. There was a manufacturing defect in the wiring. It showed up with the question mark and inability for the battery meter to work as well as the difficulty restarting. To my surprise the trick worked and indeed the battery meter still didn't work.
I finished the update and restarted the phone twice more without difficulty. Maybe, I thought the updates had solved the problem. Then about 8:30pm it happened again. I followed the error message that came up when I checked the battery usage. It led me to a troubleshooting page that gave some simple steps then a 1-800 number and a chat option for help. Not feeling like talking to someone I hit the chat option and started a support odyssey that would last for the next twelve days.
The quick chat response was a pleasant surprise. I explained the challenge I was facing. I wanted to have my defective phone replaced. The person on the other end explained that they would need to do some quick checks. This would confirm that indeed the phone was defective. I explained that I had had a long day and asked how long it would take. They assured me about twenty minutes.
I decided to get the process started. They ran me through some quick steps. Now realize that I was using the new phone to communicate with this person. When we got to the final step which involved me rebooting the phone into safe mode, I worried that I would lose my connection to them. Again they told me that they would watch and jump back on with me as soon as I reconnected. I ran through the steps. Surprising me, the phone rebooted, both into safe mode and then again when I came back to the regular state.
I went to look for the support person that I had been working with. Not easy. Eventually I did get reconnected to support, though not to the original person. The new person texted they were going to review the notes to help me. I texted back that I had had a long day and as it was now 10 o'clock that I wasn't going to work on it anymore. I would resume in the morning. I was kind and gracious throughout. For those of you who know me, you will know that dealing with support is not one of my favorite things. That this process had been this good this far was amazing to me.
Day 2 - July 1
The next morning I woke to an detailed email in my inbox. The original assistant apologized for the previous night giving me the case number. The email explained the next steps in detail requesting a report when I completed them. At that point Google support would explain what my options were. I did the remaining steps throughout the day while conducting my business. At the end I sent off the results to the support ticket. Now we are into the July 4th holiday weekend and the contact was kind of sporadic.
Day 6 - July 5
Finally on Tuesday morning they agreed that I had a defective phone and that they would replace it. They sent a process to send the phone in to replace it in ten to fifteen days. Not acceptable.
I don't play the "cancer card" very often but I did here. I explained that I had a backup phone but it was unreliable. To use my old Motorola for fifteen days was not possible with my health condition and need to manage appointments. After checking with the "specialty team," Support sent the address and phone number for a locally authorized repair service. I could take the phone there and have it repaired at Google's cost. Though I was not happy about having a new phone that had already been repaired I decided this was my best option.
I called the repair place to make an appointment, leaving a message hoping for a quick resolution.
Day 7 - July 6
After waiting all the previous day for a callback, on Wednesday I drove over to the repair shop, ten minutes away. I braced myself for a difficult encounter.
But attitude makes all the difference. I determined before I went in that I wanted to be a good ambassador of my faith. Breathing a prayer I entered the lions den. It was a completely beautiful experience.
The technician listened to my explanation. Then they looked at my email exchange with Google support. They took my phone, connected it to the till and ran their own diagnostics. Asking how long this was going to take, they told me that they had finished. They explained that indeed it was a motherboard problem and that they couldn't repair it. But they said sending Google support the receipt that they were going to give me would shortcut the return process. I was within my rights to demand that they send me a phone at which point I could return the defective phone.
Day 8 - 12 - July 7 - 11
I returned home and entered the most frustrating part of the experience. I exchanged emails with Google support for the next five days. Between asking for access to the IMEI number of the phone three times; asking for a second copy of the repair ticket; a copy of my original receipt; and repeated referrals to the specialty team, I grew angry at what should have been a simple process. I mentioned my frustration to another friend who asked me where I purchased the phone. Telling them Best Buy, they asked why I didn't take the phone back there.
Day 13 - July 12
Finally I decided to call the Google help line that was in one of the early email exchanges. I would see if I could get this sorted out. After five minutes of winding my way through the voicemail maze I heard "Due to covid-19 we have reduced our phone staff and no longer answer this number!" Click. Livid doesn't really capture the anger.
I took a few deep breaths and decided to check the Best Buy return process. Indeed Best Buy replaced or exchanged cellphones within fifteen days. I did a quick online search, discovering that the only place in the Lower Mainland that had the phone in stock was the store in Richmond. Ironically, I had initially purchased the phone there.
Deciding to check before I drove all the way over I called the toll free line. The phone voice told me that they were experiencing a heavier than normal call volume. The wait would be thirty-five minutes. I noticed on the directions there was a local number for the store and decided to call that. You guessed it. "Due to covid-19 sanitation requirements we no longer answer this phone number!" Click.
I debated about three minutes. Grabbing the box, adapter, and phone, I headed off through rush hour traffic. Going in and finding the returns counter, I explained the situation. Three people, two trainees and their trainer, hovered but assured me that it would be no difficulty. Then the trainer got a look on their face, took the phone and the box and called to a supervisor walking past.
After talking briefly, they came back. They explained that they couldn't exchange the phone as the box had the wrong IMEI number. I realized that in my haste I had grabbed the box from my old laundered phone. Groaning and then explaining the situation didn't help. Also the receipt from my online purchase didn't have the IMEI number. They needed that box. Google wouldn't accept their return without the box showing that it came from their inventory.
My protestations did nothing. Since the Surrey store didn't have the phone in stock, I would need to drive home thirty minutes and another thirty back. By which time the store would close.
As I turned to leave, the trainee suggested, "if you buy the exchange phone, then all you would need to do is return the defective phone to the Surrey store." I was not happy and let them know it, as I stormed out of the store. In the parking lot I put my head on the steering wheel and took a few deep breaths. And went back inside and purchased the phone.
Day 14 - July 13
Overnight I transferred my info to the new phone. It was a much simpler process as I was able to use a direct cable. Even though the old phone was defective, the new phone grabbed the info and transferred it. Running the updates, restarting the phone and the battery meter worked. Rather than the few hours it had taken before I was up and running in about thirty minutes. I did a factory reset on my defective phone to wipe the old data. I matched up the IMEI of the phone to the box because I now had three boxes to manage.
Next morning I drove to the Surrey store, explained the situation, and the returns clerk smiled at the story. Beginning the returns process, they checked the numbers. They opened the box to pull out the phone and pulled up the packaging in the box. I saw I had not transferred the adapter from the new box to the defective box. Forehead slap.
"My mistake. I'll be back in thirty minutes." I was and in thirty seconds I was walking out of the store with my return receipt. That afternoon the money transferred back to my Paypal account and to my bank account that night.
Saga ended. Not quite. When I returned back there was an explanation of how to order a new phone from Google support. They wouldn't charge my card, just put a hold on the funds till they had the return of my defective. It was with a great deal of pleasure that I emailed back that the problem had been resolved locally.
"So what have we learned Grasshopper," as the old blind master would ask his protege in my childhood Kung Fu TV series.
And this is where the cancer comes in. One of my greatest fears is metastasis of my lung cancer to the brain. As I recounted this tale to a few people it began to dawn on me that I was not thinking straight. I had made bad assumptions and had not remembered things that were common sense. Fears began to dominate my thoughts. In the middle of all this negotiation, I had my mid point checkup. No scan, not even an Xray, just a check on liver and blood enzyme levels, that was it. I panicked wishing I had mentioned it in my quick consult with my oncologist.
Then a friend said, "Ancient oriental saying. Chop wood, carry water." And I realized that over the last few weeks I have been multitasking a lot. Doing a lot of things, bouncing from project to project, and though I rely on my calendar to remind me of a lot of things, it isn't perfect. I realized that once again I had become too busy. My old habit of workaholism had reared its head, again.
So I reduce the craziness by focusing on things that make a difference. Like the Palmist in Psalm 91 I take comfort in a Creator who cares deeply for me. David says:
"Fear nothing—not wild wolves in the night,
not flying arrows in the day,
Not disease that prowls through the darkness,
not disaster that erupts at high noon."
A reminder, I'm inviting you to celebrate my birthday on July 25th via zoom. It is a come and go affair requiring only a story and smile, starting at 3:00pm PDT till we are done. Contact me if you need the deets.
Looking forward to seeing you drop in,