When you’ve written columns for years, you start to think that just about every topic, clever reference or witty one-liner you write is not original. You think you’ve written it before. You start to think there’s no such thing as new material, like you’re Jerry Seinfeld back in the day riffing about socks dancing in the washing machine.

    So there I was last week, trying to think of a column topic, while the TV in our living room provided the background noise. Suffering from writer’s block, I set my laptop aside and watched a scene from South Park, the most topical, merciless, ruthless show on TV, and in around five seconds my topic was secured: I’d write a column making the case that South Park’s perpetual antagonist, Eric Cartman, is essentially a clone of President Donald Trump.

    I went to bed, confident that when I started writing the next morning, I’d have ample material. No joke, Cartman and Trump are basically one in the same. And it’s not like South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker created the Cartman character to reflect Trump; South Park’s been on the air for two decades, while Trump’s presidential narcissism has only been on worldwide display for a year or so.

    But, by morning, my confidence was shot. The more I lay in bed thinking about my topic, the more I thought my “Cartman is Trump and Trump is Cartman” angle couldn’t possibly be only my brainchild. It’s too easy. The hypothesis is too impenetrable.

    Sure enough, my sense of dread grew when I Googled “Trump, Cartman” and found that a million writers, comedians and TV hosts have made the comparison.

    Misery loves company.

Dhanush, my man

    Everyone seemingly has at least one customer service nightmare story to tell, especially when it comes to those times when we need technical support. After all, most of us – See: Guys – are hesitant to seek outside help for anything, but when you need help because you’re over your head when it comes to dealing with some form of technology or the latest gadget, the stress meter rises to crimson red territory and we’re left with no choice but to reach out.

    Like when I hooked up our new TV last week and I couldn’t get the sound to come out of our stereo speakers. A proud audiophile, I’m usually pretty reliable when it comes to hooking up various pieces of electronic equipment that involve pictures and sound, but the sound simply refused to come out of the speakers. No matter how I configured the HDMI cables and digital optical output wire...nothing but silence.

    Soon I was lathered in sweaty agitation. I am no fun to be around in circumstances similar to this. The tinny, hollow audio coming from the TV’s puny, internal speakers made me want to put my head in our microwave and press the “Quick 30” button followed by “Start.”

    (Before you admonish me for being so petty, I am aware this particular problem is relatively microscopic. My lack of perspective was probably put into the most appropriate context by a colleague, who, upon listening to me rant about my TV audio headache, chuckled and concluded that I was afflicted with “first-world problems.”)

    Of course, when we need tech support, what irks so many of us is we think we’re getting help from the actual Third World, from someone with a name we can’t pronounce and a heavy accent and broken English that ends up being a bigger challenge than the initial techno-problem.

    Well, to that, I give you Dhanush. When I went to the Samsung website and activated an online chat session in what I figured was a futile attempt to get TV audio to come out of my speakers and I saw that some guy named Dhanush was assigned to help me, my grim hopelessness expanded like a mushroom cloud.

    Early on, there was plenty of reason for my continued disillusionment and despair. Dhanush asked me to do the simplest of things, things I told him I’d tried more than once very early on in my predicament. Then he asked if he could remotely access my TV. While he did so, I asked him as many questions about potential solutions as he asked me. It was like we were dancing.

    Then, the turning point. Dhanush asked which source I’d selected on my stereo receiver. When I told him it was set to “Cable/Satellite,” the same as it had been with the previous TV, he told me to switch the source to “TV Audio.” I didn’t even know my receiver had that option.

    Instantly, my speakers woke up and filled the room with glorious sound. I thanked Dhanush with tremendous enthusiasm, and he reciprocated. After I assured him that there was nothing else he needed to do for me that day, he wished me well, and asked me to please fill out an online survey about my tech support experience. I did so, giving Dhanush high marks across the board.

    I’d gladly do the techno-two-step with Dhanush again. Maybe even soon rather than later, since our TV in the basement is about to go belly up.