For literally months now, my internet connection has ranged from sketchy to non-existent and, at times, the frustration has worn my patience uncomfortably thin. I've spent quite a bit of time on the phone with my internet service provider. In the process, I have become intimately acquainted with the hierarchy of personnel dedicated to "handling" customers in need of technical support.
The first tier consists of individuals armed with a scripted manual from which they are forbidden to stray. The manual tells them exactly what to say and exactly how many technical hoops the customer must jump through before they may be passed along to a tier-two guy.
Tier-two guys are the real techno-wizards. Seriously, they are. Through a series of "ping tests" (think, The Hunt for Red October, but digital) they can determine whether the problem being experienced is the fault of your computer or their equipment. These guys know things that tier-one guys have only seen in movies. They know exactly how many "packets" of information are being lost between your computer, their satellite dish, and the actual satellite orbiting the planet. They even know when and from what location that satellite was launched and about how long it will accommodate the customer load that is increasingly being oversold. Yes, I said oversold. Anyway, these are smart guys and I'm thankful they're on my side.
The only problem with the tier-two guys is that they are usually parked in an office about 800 miles away and are not really able to do very much about the problems they diagnose, but they can talk about it and sympathize with your plight. While that may not sound like much, sometimes it's just comforting enough to keep you from disconnecting your service altogether. Hmm.
Then there are the tier-three guys (see photo). Tier-three guys know everything that the tier-two guys know, but they actually have guns, will travel. Well, not guns, but techno-wizardry stuff. And, as you see in the photo, they do it all under rather challenging circumstances. These guys travel from village to village, sleeping bags in tow, not knowing when or where they will lay their heads for weeks at a time. I appreciate that. Really...I do.
All those boxes in the photo look impressive, don't they? I was certainly impressed. In fact, I was thrilled! I thought surely my internet woes were coming to an end. Surely, with of all those boxes, a techno-wizard would be able to work some digital magic and...POOF!...my connection would be decent again. Visions of checking email without hitting "refresh" six or seven times swirled through my mind. I was practically giddy with anticipation.
What wasn't initially apparent was that those boxes had nothing to do with residential internet connections. And, although the tier-three guys were aware of the problems occurring with residential service throughout the village, they didn't have a work order to address those problems at this time. No work order, no work. No exceptions.
So it turns out the problem with tier-three guys is that they have to have permission to do stuff. Just knowing what needs to be done and how to do it and being in the actual location where it should be done isn't enough. Someone has to say, "Do it" like a director on a movie set. The props are all in place. The actors all know their lines and cues, but no one makes a move until the director says, "action." I guess that would take a tier-four guy. I haven't had the pleasure of speaking with one of those and it's not very likely that I ever will.
I have no doubt that the tier-four guy stays very busy...busy not writing work orders...maybe even busy enjoying a reliable internet connection...like the one his customers pay for every month, but still don't have.
Welcome to the Arctic! This space is dedicated to observations and experiences related to daily life in the Inupiat Eskimo village of Atqasuk. Questions and comments are invited. Thanks for visiting! Quyanaqpaq!
nuna:tundra, the land atikluk:snow shirt, parka cover
Interested in Inuit culture? Check out these films...
The Fast Runner is an excellent representation of ancient Inuit culture. The R-rating is for nudity, violence, and some language. Subtitles are utilized throughout. I do not recommend this film for children, but it's an extremely accurate portrayal of the culture. It was introduced to me by an Inupiat woman who raved about it. And I agree!
For a preview, click here.
The Snow Walker is another excellent representation of Inuit culture circa 1940's. This film is rated PG, I'm guessing for language. No subtitles that I remember. It starts a little slow, but gets much better. It will leave you with a deeper understanding and appreciation for the survival skills of this culture.
For a preview, click here.
Great For Kids!
Whale Snow by Debby Dahl Edwardson is a warm and culturally sensitive story centered on the Inupiat subsistence tradition of whaling. It is available in both English and Inupiaq translation. The illustrations, by Annie Patterson are exquisite and add to the quiet softness that the story inspires.
To order this title on Amazon.com, click here.
The Alaska Geographic series is an excellent informational resource. The edition entitled North Slope Now deals exclusively with this area and even features relatives of my students. Although it was published in 1989, it is still current enough to provide a general understanding of culture, lifestyle, and issues faced by this northern-most region.
To order this title from Alaska Geographic, click here.
More about Kaktovik Disaster of 2005 (from Dec post, "The Edge")