"No, YOU hold the reset button down for ten seconds and then 'tell me what happens.'"

As often is the case in life, our move to the new house has not exactly lived up to the idealistic visions we originally daydreamed about, our eyes bright, our hearts light. Instead, our move has brought us right back down to Earth, with the unwelcome hallmarks of actuality.

Like, we can't get the box spring for our bed upstairs, forcing me to wonder if we'll be relegated to the futon in the basement for all eternity.

I've unpacked what seems like every kitchen tool we've ever owned, but can't find the can opener. Paint is expensive. And where in the name of God is all my underwear?

Our latest trial began this morning when J installed the modem provided to us by the cable company and found that we had no Internet connection. Getting Internet service was one of the first things we had to do upon moving in, because I work from home sometimes and I write for a Web site, so, you know, it's pretty crucial.

Before my day really got going this morning, I decided to call up the cable people and ask them what we should do. J had written me a very helpful email with the specifics of what he'd done to install the modem, and what I needed to tell them, so I looked up the customer service number in the hopes of getting the issue resolved quickly.

I don't have that much faith in customer service representatives and it's not because I'm a distrustful or pessimistic person. Not to sound cocky or anything, but I'm pretty easy to get along with. I don't think I've ever sent food back at a restaurant and I'm very patient with telemarketers, even, because I realize it's not totally their fault.

And despite many bad experiences, I'm usually pretty patient with customer service people, too. But let me reiterate - there have been many bad experiences. I've only had consistently good customer service over the telephone from two institutions - my car insurance company and the bank I used in North Carolina. I closed my account there when J and I got married so we could get a joint account at a bank that was practical for both of us, but I still think about the old place, wondering if they're still treating everyone with respect, if they'd mind if I called them up, just to say hello.

So I called the cable company's customer service line, fully aware that when I explained that we "did everything right but the Internet just doesn't seem to be working," they weren't going to believe me and, worse yet, they were going to make me perform a bunch of very annoying tasks.

Which was exactly what happened.

The first woman I spoke to was nice enough, but definitely let out an audible, sigh when I explained to her, using the best technological language skills I possess, that "I don't think the Internet is coming through the cable."

She directed me upstairs to the modem, where I told her, about 10 or 12 times, that the "top light" on the box was blinking but the others remained off. Under her instruction, I turned the modem off, then turned it back on, then checked to make sure everything was plugged in properly, then reset the unit using a pencil tip, because reset buttons are apparently very small.

None of this worked and this is when she looked more closely at my account and discovered that my "Internet service wasn't activated" or something and that she "couldn't help me" because she "couldn't access my modem." Something like that.

So she very kindly passed me through to someone else via a three-way call, a technical guru I suppose, and as she was explaining my situation to this new lady, and I was sitting there patiently waiting to be delivered, the guru interrupted with the news that she couldn't help me because I needed to go through Internet customer service, didn't you know that?

I wasn't sure who which one of us she was talking to, talking to very angrily, by the way, so I replied, "Yes, please pass me through to them," but that's when I realized that the woman I'd originally called was saying in a rather loud voice that she was the Internet Customer Service and she couldn't help me because my "INTERNET SERVICE WASN'T CONNECTED."

Which is, just so you remember, exactly why I'd called these people in the first place.

The two women were, at this point, sort of fighting, so I was relieved when they transferred me to someone else, who I think worked for exactly the same department that I'd started out with, but whatever, it was someone new, who was calmer, and who, I hoped, would give up on the fruitless "let's fix it over the phone" routine, and send a qualified expert to my house.

I cut right to the chase and told my new friend that our Internet service wasn't working and that I'd just talked to someone in customer service who had me go through the whole process of turning the modem off and on and resetting it. So, I didn't need to do that again.

And that's when she asked me what the lights on my modem were doing. Like I was some kind of idiot, who hadn't spent all morning explaining to the cable company who failed to install my Internet service correctly what the lights were doing. I told her they were blinking and before I could even get the words, "But, like I just told you, I went through this with someone else only a few minutes ago," out of my mouth, she said, in a voice you use when you're talking to a stubborn child, "Ok, Mrs. McDonough, here's what I want you to do." Like she had the greatest idea ever!

Which was for me to turn the unit off, and then turn it back on again. Next, she had me reset it.

On the off chance that somehow this time the exact same procedure would work where it had failed before, I did what she said. She asked me to pull all the cords out of the back of the modem and then plug them back in again, and because I was flustered I somehow cut my forefinger in the process, on who knows what, probably a rusty cable cord, and then had to deal with a bleeding finger in addition to the phone I was cradling under my neck as I struggled with the modem.

I had to take a moment to regain my composure, and when I raised the receiver to my ear once again, and when she asked me what the lights were doing, and I told her, "blinking," well, then I guess she decided we'd tried enough for one day and she "would have to send a qualified technician" over to my house. She said it like it was some sort of punishment, like it was so terribly sad that our phone session had yielded such poor results. I told her "thanks so much" despite the fact that the entire incident had been a total waste of time. The thing was I'd gotten what I wanted. It had taken some effort, I thought as I stood there with my bloody finger, looking at a modem I did not understand, nor want to, but I'd fought an honest fight, I kept my cool, and I had won.