Somebody Stop the Bleeding

This is a conversation between an AOL customer who wants to cancel his account and an AOL employee who, um, won't let him. It confirms the widely held belief that AOL is a jilted lover who simply doesn't understand when the feelings are gone. It's quite sad, really; I'm shedding a tear as I type this.

There was a time for people of my generation when "America Online" was synonymous with "Internet." You signed in, listened to that chirpy guy say "Welcome" and "You've got mail" and then you had access to all the chat-room cybersex and text-based RPGs you could handle (I know Carrie Stern remembers solving crimes in Modus Operandi, which is still alive somewhere on the Web today). The Internet was new and crazy and cool back then; now it's just an integrated part of my life that I take for granted. Actually, let me qualify that: I take it for granted until I'm away from a computer for more than 48 hours, at which point my pupils dilate, my breathing becomes quick and shallow, and I lose track of who and where I am.

But AOL is no longer a part of my Internet addiction, and it hasn't been for many years. Somewhere along the way, it got clunky. It got the reputation for being "the Internet for dummies." It became the place to be for people who think that navigating with a mouse entails picking up the mouse and tapping it against icons on the monitor screen. And, yet, the price inched up. Fancy that.

Just google "AOL subscribers," and you'll come upon all kinds of information about how the company is hemorrhaging customers. Is it any wonder that they'd be ruthless in their attempts to retain what little glory they have left?