Saturday, August 18, 2007

If at first you don't succeed, try try try again

This noon, at long last, I decided to give my car tires some TLC. I took my car to Sears for a long-overdue tire rotation and other what not. Only after I got there and stood in the line did I realize that I was not exactly sure what the other "what not" were called. Was it called balancing or alignment or some other term I had forgotten? And how foolish would I look if I accidentally used terms which are in no way connected to car tires?

A SOS call to a friend for help regarding terms resulted in failure - no one answered. Before I could think of other options, I was called to a counter. With as much confidence as I could muster, I said "I would like to rotate and balance the tires." The customer service rep (CSR) asked me if I had noticed any vibrations in the car. I said "Er, no." The CSR filled out my work order sheet and noticed that my customer info on the computer did not have the car VIN number in it.

As we walked to my car to get the VIN number, I hesitantly asked, "What are the maintenance things you usually do to car tires?" The CSR gave me a strange look (to his credit, he did not laugh) and realized that he was dealing with a newbie. So I got some basic car tires maintenance advice.

With the VIN number in hand, we walked back to the counter. Now, whoever wrote the brilliant software program for validating the car VIN number had somehow decided that a Honda Civic 1.6L 4 Cylinder is not equivalent to a Honda Civic. Na-huh. And my car was already registered in the system as a Honda Civic 1.6L 4 Cylinder. The VIN validation thus failed and try as the CSR might, he could not update the VIN details. He tried the same sequence of steps about a half-dozen times and each time did not meet success (obviously) before giving up and asking me to return in 2 hours to get my car back.

After more than an hour of browsing through the mall stores (did you know winter clothes are already on display?) , I got a call that my car was ready for pick up. By a stroke of chance, I got served by the same CSR again. The CSR brightly said, "I need to update VIN info for your car before ringing you up." I thought that some software update had been made in the interim one hour because of which the computer program no longer thought that a Honda Civic 1.6L 4 Cylinder and a Honda Civic are vastly different cars.

But no. The same screen popped up. And the same validation failure occured. At which point, the CSR hit the cancel button again and started all over again. And met the same error again. And he cancelled and started re-entering the info all over again. Only to be met with the same unsuccessful result. I watched in fascination. Did he really think that if he did the same sequence of steps again and again the program would somehow miraculously start working as expected?

After his 6th attempt, it took all I had to not burst into laughter. It was quite comical to see the hope writ large on his face at each "fresh" start and the subsequent disappointment at each failure. Finally, after attempt number 9 or so, the CSR finally came to terms with the fact that the program *might* not start working miraculously after all and told me "Something is wrong with the computer program. I don't think I will be able to update your customer info" and finally rang me up.

I walked out grinning. What the CSR had been doing was actually not very different from all the times I have, in desperation, repeatedly re-compiled and re-ran programs after ultra-minor changes in the fond hope that a bit of change in scene would somehow help it regain its senses :-). Only, my optimism has never lasted for more than a dozen times in a row!


PRIDERA said...

Now that you have got your tires rotated ... is it "Rotating or Aligning" ... pls educated the uninitiated :)

T said...

he probably was new to computers as you were to tire rotation... if you think abt it its all perspective I guess...
smth to read -

Anonymous said...


you bring up a pretty good point. don't the tires rotate every time you drive the car? the grammatically (i am on a roll this week!) correct term should be that the tires must be revolved (around the centre of the car), right? ;-)

- s.b.

The Pilgrim said...


That does sound familiar with compiling computer programs.

Archana said...

PriPridera - lol :-D! Rotating is where they swap the tires. Aligning is what you need to do when the car pulls to one side. I have no clue what balancing does!!

T - that is a very very valid point!

s.b. - Welcome aboard! Hehehehe :-D! Hmmm, a revolution can also be a rotation, no :-P? How about tire-swapping?

Pilgrim - ah, another software engineer I see :-D!

SK said...

I hear you. :--)

Archana said...

SK - heheheh :-D!