DeAnna at AT&T just made my day. If DeAnna didn't live in Colorado and also be sitting in a cubicle with a headpiece on, I would totally inappropriately offer to buy her a cocktail or a craft brew or a Stumptown coffee.
When we moved back to our old house in late May, we did not re-hook up the internet. One: because it felt so good to be Comcast-free (those filthy greedy bastards) and Comcast is our only choice up here since the previous owners sabotaged the Qwest/CenturyLink line...they literally dug it up in the front yard and sliced the wire. Two: we are all really bad at moderation (addictive personalities, both sides of the family) and the Netflix consumption in our house was Out Of Control. George would get up way early and go watch hours of obnoxious cartoons like Johnny Test before we woke up, and when we did he'd run up to us and karate chop us in the crotch and yell "Moron!" I tried doing a thing with the queue so that only mellow educational shows were available like 'How it's Made' and 'Word Girl' but then within a few months the older kids discovered Doctor Who and we all got hooked and no one respected the queue-only rule anymore. I saw almost all spontaneous creative play cease, and the arguing over the computer after-school scene seemed to repeat no matter how many solutions were agreed upon.
I just wanted a little respite so we broke the news that we would take the summer off from the internet. We weren't total assholes though, we still had data on our phones, we bought tons of second-hand DVD's for unlimited movie watching, and I bought the kids an old school Nintendo with Legend of Zelda, Tetris, Mario Brothers, and Pac-Man.
That was cool for about a week.
Yet, being back at our old house felt amazing, and the kids when they woke up or came home from wherever, would listen to music, draw, craft, cook, run around in the backyard and make up games. <------just like I remember them doing before there was internet streaming!
I am not anti-technology by any stretch and I don't blame technology for destroying the minds of our children. I believe one day that our existence will look remarkably like Star Trek: The Next Generation. And to get there we need to get our hands on the sharpest, most brilliant technology and become absolutely fluent in it's use and understanding especially our children--because they will be the one's developing it as we pass on (clutching our super antiquated smartphone devices that will be the equivalent to an 8-track player in our old age.)
Over the summer, we had our challenges. Trying to purchase pre-sale Nine Inch Nail tickets at exactly 10am on the dot from an iPhone is not the most relaxing experience. But I knew that going back to unlimited internet and youTube and video streaming would again smother the imaginative play and creative practice that the kids had developed for themselves again. I know our limits. I want the kids to learn to self-moderate, but I also know Blake and I's personal struggles with excess and that we do better when we some limitation around how much we get to manage.
So the solution was to add a mobile internet device to our cell phone plan and with 10GB a month to play with, all shared between us and for use on the home computer. That meant that we could all still use email, and looking things up on Safari, use our favorite apps like Instagram, and do homework assignments...but not enough to add Netflix or cruise youTube or play computer games.
The first two months went well and we kept within the allotted data plan. Then, when Blake's mom passed away in early October suddenly I was at "ground control" at the computer booking flights, doing research, and making Skype calls to Blake's uncle (Ilya's brother) in India. Also our computer was being very slow and the hard drive didn't have enough space to even back-up our phone's so I had my brother-in-law Michael come out and update the computer and install an external hard drive which ended up being a huuuuge data-suck. We blew the entire 10GBs in a week. I anticipated this and we knew that we would just pay $15 each gig we went over--it would just be that kind of month.
Yesterday, was supposed to be the first day of our new billing cycle. But when I read our device box it said that we were still adding data to the current cycle with 0 days left--we were broaching 20GB total. I explored my account online today and noticed that yesterday was indeed the start of a new cycle and that the data we had used so far yesterday and today was being included in that new cycle--but last months cycle went just over 20GBs. Looked like a day of double billing might be happening, so I called AT&T to see what was up and to increase our data plan to be better prepared for random extra usage.
That's when I met DeAnna. DeAnna, when I told her I was confused about the double-billing, was appalled at the thought I might be getting charged unfairly. DeAnna was also extremely sympathetic to my data usage being so over our limit, although I hadn't even told her why. At first she thought to make things right she would credit me back $30 to cover the 2GB used over the last few days just to be safe then, she decided "that AT&T would want me to be happy" and she just went ahead and took away ALL $150 of over-usage charges. Just because.
It was then I became weepy and confessed what an extremely hard month it has been with the death of my mother-in-law and I can tell you that DeAnna, oh goddess of empathy, could feel my pain! DeAnna herself had lost her father on St. Patrick's Day....he had had some health troubles but was thought to have his heath back on track and released from his hospital stay, feeling great, on a Thursday but he just dropped dead on Saturday morning. She was shocked. DeAnna and I both agreed that our extremely safety-conscious culture had left most of us very detached from the realities of death and unprepared for it's finality. DeAnna and I were mutually sorry for each others losses.
Then before she let me go, DeAnna wanted me to know that my daughters account had a $10 dollar subscription on it, some navigation program, charged monthly--no, I did not!--so she back credited that two months and removed it. She said sometimes that the salesperson at the store adds it on when the phone is first purchased and gets a commission. She felt ashamed that another AT&T employee might participate in such an unsavory practice and on behalf of AT&T sincerely apologized. Oh, sweet DeAnna.
So DeAnna, generous angel of customer service, this one is for you....