The dreaded three words

January 31, 2019

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DEATH in the extended family, delay in salary, mobile snatching incident, your laptop taken over by ransomware, or your dad finding your hidden cigarette pack … all of these can potentially ruin your day or two. But there is something which can possibly cause greater stress, anxiety and misery than these together can; when you are unable to stream the episode of Suits you left midway the preceding night. I am a binge-watcher, a movie buff, a TV-holic and all of them together. And then some more. I am the kind of addict who is comfortable with his addiction. Among other regrets on my deathbed, I am sure I will regret not having had the chance to watch enough TV.

Yeah, yeah, yeah… I know there are problems in the world, with the world, for the world and more so in our case. Fuel prices, power tariff, increased taxes, the value of rupee diving much more spectacularly than Jhonty Rhodes ever did at backward point. The issue with streaming services is, so to say, a First World problem. Right? But at least everyone accepts that it is a problem. I can live with that. I don’t care about issue – global or local – and I am sure nobody does while they are in the middle of an episode marveling over the genius diagnostic – and, indeed, acting – skills of House M.D. or the political shrewdness of Frank Underwood.

Unfortunately, governments in the Third World are taking forever to understand something so basic. So simple. They are investing millions and billions in public relation activities and what we lowly commoners fondly call dramaybaazi to fix their image and rapport with the public when they can easily save all the money and hassle.

Rather than making agendas having 14 or 16 points (I don’t know why they fail to round up these points to an even 15 or 20!) they can make just a two-point agenda and the nation will not forget their services for decades to come; one, uninterrupted, unlimited internet for all, and, second, no power outages at least before the episode ends and the credits start rolling. As simple as that! As far as election campaigns are concerned, the ruling party should run all opposition party ads between episodes and trust me no one will even want to vote for them.

We have all heard the magical three words, or have at least heard about them, but ‘failed to login’ are the dreaded words in today’s life. They bite you where and when it hurts the most.

So what happened on that deplorable evening which is the main purpose of venting my spleen upfront, was that I took a French leave from the office partly because my wife was ill and partly because I had left the Suits episode halfway the preceding night owing to the super powers of anti-allergy meds.

I was excited to reach home early when even the sun was still out, calculating gleefully the hours I would have that day to complete the season. After some attending and some pretending with my sick wife, I rushed to the former king of time-wasting gadgets, since long before these puny handsets came into existence, I mean the tube, the big picture, the home-wrecker, the electronic babysitter, the only big flat thing I enjoy looking at over the mirror … the mighty telly!

I was sitting there in a perfectly dark room with my eyes gleaming with anticipation, wife snoring in the other room, daughter at her grandparents’, fresh coffee steam rising from the mug, a moist-butt cigarette between the lips when it happened. All the while driving back home in anticipation not once I had considered the pretty strong possibility that this could be the day my internet might decide to pull a Ned Stark on me. It did. It died when I was counting on it the most. ‘Failed to login’. That was all I could see on the telly-screen.

You have heard the magical three words, right? OK, if you have not heard them, you have heard about them. But these are the realistic three words that bite you where it hurts: ‘Failed to login’.

Anyway, shrugging off the immediate panic, I told myself it must be temporary. Tried again. The same result. Now it was getting serious. I could sense by the tone of those dreaded words that my internet and my not-so-smart TV are not getting along today. Yeah I accept it. I just called it not-so-smart after praising it earlier, because I am an honest man and in that moment I hated it … like really hated it. Picked up the next best thing, the newly crowned king of nuisance, my mobile phone. Tried logging in on it. Still no luck. The very same message albeit in a slightly different font.

With just an hour remaining before my nagging daughter comes back home and my super-nagging wife wakes up with that horrendous cough, I had all the reason to panic now. My mind, silently doing the math in the background, calculating the gigabytes I had consumed from the date of internet package activation, had now reached the conclusion that I have enough data remaining on my end so this cannot be a case of nonpayment of the internet bill, which is the only bill I pay on time. Now I can call the internet service provider with confidence.

If I ask any random Pakistani to guess the internet service provider who is constantly a pain in my life mentally, physically and emotionally, I am sure the guesses will not disappoint and everyone will be able to identify the suspect; it is no Keyser Söze. So I long-pressed 3 on my phone for the internet provider’s hotline. Yeah, it is on my speed-dial and if I wasn’t married it would have been 2. I am so trained calling the self-proclaimed helpline that I don’t even care to pick my preferred language as I can understand it in Morse code on a battlefield while a landmine explodes beside me and mortar whizzes by … you get my point.

Anyways, after a long agonising wait a dazed rep picked up the call and after the usually warm greetings, I screamed, “it says ‘failed to login’” but apparently that wasn’t enough information for him and, sounding like Yoda, he walked me through the whole process to find the fault which was more like finding the holy grail because we both knew it was there somewhere but we couldn’t seem to locate it. So taking inspiration from the church itself, he created a facsimile of the fault. The apparent fault could not be fixed at his end and had to be referred to the higher-ups in the church … I mean, the technical department.

The phone call ended in despair. I was sitting in a pitch-black room, eyes cold with disappointment, wife now in the last stages of her REM sleep, daughter on her way from her grandparents’, coffee so cold it could easily pass of as cola, a wet-butt cigarette between the lips when it happened … the moment I realized a couple of things about human development. Maybe this whole race of scientific evolution and technological advancement is just a big scam. Maybe we should have never improved the existing technology and should be content with whatever we had.

What if man had never stumbled upon the mystery of internet and started relying on it so much that it superseded the predecessors; movies and TV shows on cassettes and DVDs. I would have been able to watch Suits right then by just pushing the disk in that pretty obvious slot on that big bulky box. Then again, there are counter-arguments to it, too. The strongest one that came to my mind in that metaphorical and literal darkness was Genghis Khan. Maybe buddy Genghis was the mad cruel man that he was because the dude had no internet, no flicks and, hence, no chill. You will surely have time to think about it the next time you see the dreaded ‘failed to login’ flashing ion your screens!