Banner photo of Larry Eugene Meredith, Ronald Tipton and Patrick Flynn, 2017.

The good times are memories
In the drinking of elder men...

-- Larry E.
Time II

Monday, May 31, 2010

When it Snows the Wild Goose Flies

 February is winter here. It is supposed to snow. It did. It snowed more than it did in the last four winters before this. Combined with the unusually heavy snow we had in December, a new record for seasonal snowfall was set last week, 71 plus inches, and the season isn't over. They are predicting another snow this Monday night of possibly 8 inches. We are more than a month from Spring.

It snowed here Friday and Saturday a week ago (February 6 and 7). We got 25 inches that weekend.

It snowed again on Tuesday and Wednesday and we got another 12.8 inches. We have a lot of snow and a lot of icicles hanging from the eaves.

Things happen in bad weather.

Like trash pickups are scheduled on Tuesdays and Fridays. Around eight o'clock (take note of this) the phone rang with a message from my trash service. Due to delays caused by the large weekend snow, my Tuesday pickup was rescheduled to Wednesday this week.

Sure, and we will see if that happens since snow was predicted for Tuesday night and all day Wednesday.

I receive a message (note I make a distinction here) from my trash service on Thursday apologizing for the inconvenience of them not coming as scheduled and rescheduled, but assuring me they were resuming my normal Friday pickup.  Let me jump ahead and tell you, they did not. As stated, my next pickup should be Tuesday, you know, the day after the next snowstorm is predicted.

Out by my shed it now looks as if I am in the trash collection business.

But that is a side issue. The important thing to note is they called me Tuesday morning with a phone message. That means my telephones were working in the morning before I left for work. When I came home that afternoon, they were not. I picked up a receiver to see if there was the voice mail you-have-a-message pulse. There was no pulse, no dial-tone, the phone was dead.

Being ever optimistic, I traipsed about the house lifting the receivers of each of our four phones hoping to find one had been knocked off the hook. But none sprang to life. Nope, our system was down for the count.

My wife was watching TV so the cable itself wasn't out.  I wondered if the Internet was also up. (We have one of those deals where our cable-TV, Internet and telephones are all in the semi-trustworthy hands of one provider.)

I returned to the computer room and on the modem two of the eight lights were blinking instead or the usual but-one. I clicked my Safari icon and yes, I had a living, breathing World Wide Web. The problem was isolated to the phones.

 Perhaps if I couldn't call I could contact the provider on the web and at least schedule a service visit. On their website tech help they have a live chat. I choose this and filled out the form, which asks all my information: name, address, telephone number, any identifying tattoos or scars,  did I see combat in the last six wars, who was my second grade public school teacher and write a brief essay on the nature of my alleged problem.

There then came a message that I was number three in the queue. Wow! Last time I ever got on such a queue I was 55th in line and sat for much time until my turn came. This time it was not more than five minutes. This must be my lucky day.

I should have realized if this was my lucky day I wouldn't have been sitting here with no telephones.

The technician had a strange name, but I somehow sensed it was a male. I don't know? He wrote like a man?

Despite the filling in of the form, we had to go through the getting acquainted dance of who I was, where I was, what I was, and what was my alleged problem. He (assumed he) assured he could help resolve the matter. He asked some primary questions, all of which I have forgotten except one. "What is your account number?"

My account number? I don't know my account number. Usually every place can pull up my info from just my telephone number. I have automatic bill pay, I never even look at my statements, I haven't seen my account number in years if ever. I say "wait, let me see if I can find a bill"

Man, where do I start. I grab some recent bills from my more current pile and lo and behold the first envelope I look at is this provider's bill. This must be my lucky day!  Oh, right, we already established it wasn't or I wouldn't have been searching for the bill in the first place.

My account number is this twelve digit monstrosity with spaces and hyphens. No wonder I didn't know it off the top of my head.

I give him (assumed him) the number and now we're down to business.  He does some testing of my system from his end. (Does it spook you out that all these places can get into your system from where ever in the world they are and look around? I mean, they ask you a dozen questions to establish you are who you say, but you don't get to ask them who they are -- really.)

I glance over and all the lights go out on the modem. Huh? What's happening. I run out to the living room, but the TV is still playing so the cable didn't die midsession.

I dash back to the computer. The lights slowly return on the modem, but not a peep or peck on the computer screen. No new statement is appearing from the technician. Nothing is saying, "Analyst is now keying", just empty space.  I wait. I wait. I type (I go back well before computers, I still call it typing) , "Are you there?"


I type again, "are you there?" And again.  I click the end session tab and start over.

I re-enter all my data in the form. I am number 2 in the queue it says. Man, it must be my, I gotta forget that idea.

A new technician replies, this time it is a woman's name. We again perform the predate courtship ritual before getting to the dance.  She assures me she can solve my alleged problem. She is going to perform some tests, I should not go away, but be patient for two or three minutes. Ah, she has warned me there may be a time lag before I hear from her again. I wait. My modem lights all go out and slowly come back.

I wait. It seems longer than two or three minutes, but I hang in there and sure enough the message appears, "Analyst is now keying". Yes, we are getting closer to an answer.

She is back telling me her tests do not show a problem. I will need a technician to come out. However, she doesn't have access to the scheduling procedure, she will transfer me to the department where they can do that and asks me to hold.

Yes, I will hold. I have been down this road before many times. So often the transfer has resulted in a dial tone or an operator saying, "if you would like to make a call, hang up and dial again." Except this won't happen because this is not a phone and there is no operator.

I see a message saying, "Your inquiry has been bumped up to a higher analyst." What, to an angel? To God?

But what do you know, someone else is keying now. The name is Ana. I guess I can assume this is a woman, it is the Spanish variant of Anna.

I expect to see her (assumed her) type, "we can schedule a technician at your place on...", but instead I see, "Hi, I can help solve your problem."  Well, it did say I was getting a higher analyst.

Once more we go down the path of memory lost establishing I am the same guy who has been at this keyboard for the last hour, where I live, was I vaccinated for rubella and have I been or now am a member of the Communist party. Once determined I am indeed the same guy with the same alleged problem we again proceed to some distance testing and probing of my systems, including now having  me plugging and unplugging cables. (This is getting way too intimate now.)

After more light blinking off and on I am informed by Ana that I need a new modem. I am politely instructed to go to their nearest Office and pick up a new one and asked if that is okay with me.

Sure, whatever, where is your nearest office?

Ah, she must put me on hold apparently while she Googles some Google maps to locate one. She keys the address. I know the place. it is about 15 miles from me. We do our thank you and you are welcomes and finish with a quality survey and I am off line once more.

Well, it is late in the afternoon now with a snowstorm on the way. I am not driving to their "nearest" office today, if it would even still be open when I got there. No, I probably will not be doing that until the weekend, if we can get out on the roads of this Arctic landscape on the weekend.

Although I cannot get or make phone calls, I can get any voice mail messages left me on the computer. I just can't reply to them. I have three. One that thing about the trash. One that my furnace maintenance scheduled for Wednesday will have to be rescheduled due to the snow. One telling me I must come to work on Thursday.

Saturday morning comes. The sun is shining and so are our streets reflecting the sunbeams off their coating of ice. Nonetheless, I unplug the cable, the phone line, the power cord and the UBS cord from the back of my modem and head south down I-95 to my "nearest" provider's office. I am not certain of the store hours. I leave at nine. There is little traffic on the Interstate, there is little traffic anywhere. A lot of what would be traffic is still buried on back roads and driveways.

I'm at the place before nine thirty. I can see the office is still closed, but there are two women standing in front of the door. Perhaps they open at 9:30. I amble over to check the hours. The sign says they open at 10:00 on Saturday.

"Hi," I say, "doesn't open to ten, eh? Are you employees or customers."

"Customers," says one.

"Line will be across the lot soon," says the other.

"Oh," I say. "Maybe I'll join you then."

I go back to the car and retrieve my modem and as I return another man walks up carrying a cable box under his arm. He's now ahead of me.

There we stand, the four of us in the 18 degree morning air waiting for a half hour to pass. It's a friendly bunch. We kid a bit. A fifth woman joins us. She tells us people ask her why she is reluctant to drive in this mess since she is a school bus driver. "I tell them there's a big difference between a school bus and a car. You got a lot of weight on a school bus. You gets traction."

She is there to pay her bill. Her internet is out. She usually pays over the internet, but can't and her bill is due and she doesn't want to get changed a penalty fee.

I have most my regular service on auto-pay. Don't have to worry about missing because my internet, or phones, aren't working.

More people are arriving.

The man with the cable box tells us his neighbor's tree hit the power line and sent 240 volts through his house. He'd pretty jovial about it. He says he has surge protectors on his electronics, good ones, pays to have good surge protectors, his TV, stereo, so on and so forth were fine. For some reason the surge fried his cable box, even though it too was on a surge protector. Ruined his heater as well. Cost to repair his furnace is $1,600.

I tell them I am there because my phones are dead.

Cable Box guy says, "that's where you need a cell phone."

"I have a cell phone, " I say, "but my wife put it through the washer a week ago."

"Yeah, they don't work when they get wet," he says.

"It;s nice and shiny, though," I say.

Line behind us is now stretching out into the parking lot. It is quarter to ten.

I suggest the place should have a TV in the window for us to watch, after all, that is their business.

The man says, "yeah, but then their cable'd probably be out."

We all laugh.

I ask the man if you still take a number when you go in.

"Yeah, and there is alcohol there so you can wash your hands against germs." (He wasn't joking, there was.)  "if your one of the first eight to get in, it's fine. Otherwise you're here for two hours."

The line is way across the parking lot now.  I shuffle over a bit to make certain I don't get shoved aside when the door opens. I'm number four and I mean to retain my position.

Some employees arrive and go in a side door. They press a hand against what seems to be just a window and this unlocks the door. It must be some kind of palm print reader. They say good morning to us.

One of the first two ladies announces it is ten to ten.

The school bus woman has a suggestion. "They should put that ticket dispenser outside. then we could get our number and wouldn't have to stand here."

One of the others says, "yeah, but people would probably come the night before just to get a good number."

Ten o'clock arrives and an employee, making sure to stand well to the side out of danger, unlocks the door. We go in and I get my number. I don't use the alcohol. I'll leave it for those far back in the line who may feel they need alcohol after a two hour wait in a crowded lobby.

One of the ladies says she is glad to be out of the cold.

The man with the cable box smiles, "in about fifteen minutes you'll be hearing complaints about it being hot in here."

The ticket numbers are both called audibly and flashed on a large board as well as over the service window. I wonder about something. When you come in there is the dispenser by the door. it has four selections. One is for people paying bills, one is for equipment (which I pressed) and I am not sure what the other two specify. your ticket has a letter at the beginning of the number indicating what selection you made. But why? One would think perhaps you go to this window for bills and that window for equipment and so forth, but no, any window takes any ticket number. Odd, what's the purpose? I have no idea.

My number is called. I go to the window where my number is flashing. I place my modem in a large Plexiglas box and tell the clerk my problem. She asks my telephone number. I give it to her and she punches some keys.

"I can have a technician at your house between 11:00 and 3:00 today," she says.


She repeats it and tells me I need to take my modem home for the technician.

Why was I sent here in the first place? Why couldn't a technician have been assigned online? Oh well, I now fight my way out through the long line still filing through the door and drive home for that horrid waiting-for-the-cable-guy period.

He got there just after 2:00. He was very nice. Everybody had been very nice. He goes to my computer room and looks at the modem (which I have reconnected). He finds the place where my phone cord plugs into the jack and removes that end from the jack and sticks it in the line two socket on the back of the modem. There is a dial tone.

"It's not the modem," he says. He then follows me around to each phone, disconnects them and checks back at the modem each time. Those two lights are still blinking. It isn't the phones.

He now goes outside to the backyard. I feel bad for him having to fight through two feet of hardening snow tracing the phone line about the house. He is slipping and sliding and I am hoping none of the giant icicles along the roof drop off and stab him.

Eventually he comes back in. The phone line had been cut by a falling icicle. He has spliced it back together and sure enough only one modem line is blinking and we have a dial tone in each phone. Problem solved and the wild goose flight is ended.

Ah, modern technology.


n. davis rosback said...

wow...giggling and shaking my head.

good story.

Warren Baldwin said...

Your last line sums it up well, "Ah, modern technology."