Back at the turn of the decade, I was working for a company that did outsourced tech support for Logitech. I helped out people with new gaming gear, got speakers installed and working, taught people about bluetooth, and helped lots of people with webcams. Well, mostly grandparents and cam girls. Lots of cam girls. Who often offered free credits to their next show as a tip. But that’s another story.
You often hear things about tech support that shock and amaze and disgust. Cup holders. “Waxy” buildup on laptops. Illegal exception, my gawd, what did I do, I’m going to jail! I have a story that has a hopefully happy ending, although I have to make it up myself, as I never did learn the end. I did get a piece of the denouement, which was great, but not the end.
I receive a call from a gentleman who has a problem with his speakers. Now, he has bought the high end self contained speaker system, top of the line setup that Logitech made at the time. The Z something or another. Big old subwoofer, 9 speakers for surround, all the hookups, and more power than it needs. No, really. We had a set in our test lab. The windows at the front of the office, 100 feet away, would shake before you got it to top volume. I wanted one myself. And stupidly enabled someone at my office to steal almost a dozen sets. But again, that’s another story.
“So what issue are you having with your Z, sir?”
“Well, the sound is really great, but at a certain volume, the subwoofers start buzzing and get muddy.”
“Well, I do hope you’re keeping the volume to a safe level” (we had to say shit like that. Lots of liability limiting language) “but we do want you to get the most quality and enjoyment possible out of your Logitech purchase. Now, subwoofers move a lot of air, and if they get blocked, it can cause some problems. I want to make sure that you have it on a hard surface, not carpet. And that there is at least 6 inches of space on every side.”
“Well, I have them in my closet, but there is enough space around them. And it’s wood floor.”
“Okay, well then lets…” Penny drops. Plural. Them. “Sir, did you say them? Do you have the other speakers stacked on top of the subwoofer?”
He laughs. The, my god, did that idiot just tell me to reboot my computer? AGAIN? Laugh. “Man, no, you can’t have the highs too close to the lows. I know that! I’m not stupid.” (In the history of all tech support, the customer saying, “I’m not stupid!” is invariably followed by them saying something that proves them stupid. In 3… 2…) “The regular speakers are all up on a shelf. I’ve got the subwoofers all together though.”
I’m processing. I’m confused. I’ve run out of coffee about half an hour before, and just had Marco, the pc Call of Duty gamer positive that we were hiding the magic formula to let him head shot with a game pad on his laptop. But again, thats another story.
“But the Z only comes with one subwoofer.”
“Yeah, and a gorgeous set, loved the sound in the store. So I bought four of them.”
“Four… Z speaker sets. Each with 9 speakers and a subwoofer.”
“Sir, I…” (Choose your words with CARE my self. Saying what you really want to say WILL get your ass fired. ) “So, you have the subwoofers stacked. All four in a column?”
“Naw, two side by side, with two on top of them.”
“I see… well, I’m… glad you enjoy our product enough to buy four, but with the subwoofers together like that, they could definitely interfere with each other. I would suggest maybe spacing them out around your room?”
(Abort mission, countdown restarts at 3.. 2…)
“No, that can’t be it. I’ve got four Sony ( similar type of set, I forget the name, comparable to the Z ) set up that way under my window, and they sound fine. ”
Stunned silence. Someone managed to say something that made me shut up and think without talking. Everyone who knows me just gasped. Countdown however, continues.
“In the same room?”
“You have eight subwoofers with the connected speakers in one room?”
“Oh hell no, those are just the newest. I’ve got 22 subwoofers, 153 regular speakers, and 10 tweeters. I’ve got a few different racks they all hook into to split the sound. Some are sets, some are individual, I even have have a dozen car speakers hanging on the wall. Scavenged them from a totaled car. Top end shit, (Insert brand name I dont recall here.) I paid pennies on the dollar for them. But man, when I get this going, sweetest sound you ever heard. Music just pushing in from all sides. Concerts are like cheap headphones in comparison.”
My mind is whirling. I’m concerned for the dude. Downright upset and afraid. “Sir… hanging from the wall?”
“Yeah, thats the great thing about car speakers. put in a nail, hang the frame from it. ”
“So, not shielded or boxed in any way. all these speakers, all running at once, just out and about in your room? How big of a room?”
“Enh… 10 by 20?”
“Sir.. thats… thats not safe.”
“Not safe? I mean, sure, I might go deaf, but that’s life! (Had the phrase yet been invented, he would have probably said YOLO. Thankfully, it had not yet been first uttered by man.)
“No, I mean… have you ever heard of EMF radiation?”
“Yeah, that’s the shit they scan for on Ghost Hunters.”
“Yes! But they scan for it for two reasons. One, because some people believe that EMF activity can mean ghosts, but also B, because high amounts of EMF from other sources can… affect people. ”
He goes silent, then speaks again. All levity in his voice is gone. He is now SERIOUS caller. “affect them how?”
“Well, and I have to say, I am not a doctor, and please do not take this as medical advice, but… Paranoia. The feeling of being watched. It’s been known to cause visual hallucinations, which is why ghost hunters care, if someone is under intense emf, they could have just been seeing things in their brain. ”
“My wife put you up to this, didn’t she.”
“Sir, you called me. I didn’t even know you were married until just now.”
“Well, not for much longer. I’ve been having… problems. Lashing out. Seeing things. White flashes, mostly, but sometimes people. My doctor, he’s put me on a bunch of different medicines, and they all just make it worse. We’re separated right now, but.. I can’t hold a job, I keep getting more.. off, and she’s going to leave me soon. All I have left is my room, and my music. ”
Now, I’ll admit that my first thought is, if you’ve lost your job and are being supported by your wife, whom you’re separated from, the FUCK are you doing dropping three hundred bucks times four for some damn speakers. My second was… shit. I… have to talk to this guy, but if this call is monitored, I’m giving medical advice, and I’m admitting that the company product may be harming him. I am SO FIRED.
I go into the Councillor voice. I’m good at it. Very soothing. Not deep, i don’t have a deep voice, but I can sound like your best friend.
“So, would you say you’re spending more and more time in your room, lately?”
“Yeah, the worse my symptoms get, the less I want to go anywhere, the more I sit here and listen to my music.”
“So… the more you stay in that room, speakers running, the worse it gets?”
“Do… do you really think my room is hurting me? My one joy in life… is what’s taking my life away?”
(Folks, I guarantee thinking about this later made me cry, but right now, I’m a fucking professional. not a quaver in my voice.)
“I… I can’t say, but it might be. You said you’re seeing a doctor?”
“Yeah! Hey, cmon man, if this could be caused by EMF, why wouldn’t he tell me? ”
“Well, its not a common thing to run into, a room of a few hundred speakers. Does he know about your room?”
“When’s your next appointment?”
“A couple days. You think, I should tell him?”
“Yeah, i think you should. and maybe, turn off all but a couple of speakers? I dont mean turn them down, actually unplug them all from the wall. See how it sounds with just one Z going. It’s still a pretty awesome speaker, right?”
“Yeah, okay. Thanks. ”
Fast forward about a month. My supervisor pulls me into a conference room for a “comp call”. YAY! Those are great.
“Alex, I listened to the original call that the customer called to compliment you on. I’m not filing this comp call, cause them Eric will listen. (Eric was the MANAGER of the center. My bosses boss.) And if he hears it, you’ll be fired. ”
…. “How can I get fired for a comp call?”
“Room full of speakers.”
My mouth clamps shut. I take a drink of water. “Yeah, okay. Thanks. I appreciate that. Um… what did he say?”
“He said his doctor said you’re right. Hes gotten rid of most of the speakers. Including all four Zs, he says the sony sounds better. ”
My sup and I both shrug at this. We’ve both heard that before. It’s probably true.
“His hallucinations have gone away, he’s getting a lot better with other people, and his wife is talking about moving back into their house. He’s really grateful.”
I smile, I can’t help it. You don’t often get to actually change a life doing tech support. I mean, helping grandparents see their newborn grandchild across the country is awesome. Helping someone set up a headset to use their computer as a phone is cool. Hell, even keeping the cam girls online and creating boners has a bit of satisfaction. But this? Warm golden sunshine.
“Alex… look, you did good. Thats really awesome. DON’T DO IT AGAIN. You are not a doctor.”
I nod, and go back to the phones.
“Thank you for calling Logitech support, my name is Alex. Can I have your name please?”
“Yeah man, its Marco. I’ve tried the settings that the last guy set for me a couple of days ago, but its still laggy. I get fragged every round man. You gotta help me get some headshots.”
I tap mute on my phone, and chant loudly. “I GOT MARCO!” A chorus of groans erupts from my fellow gaming techs. “Better you than me, man!”