Wednesday, June 30, 2010

F*ing Cable Box

I need to rant.

Along with the summer craziness in this house that causes me to maniacally throw myself into projects, I enjoy watching Food Network, HGTV, Cooking Channel, and various assorted reality shows including my new favorite The Fabulous Beekman Boys. Somehow, the two drastically different activities keep me balanced. It's a Libra thang.

Yesterday, I sat down to have a little couch potato time only to find the holy grail of cable boxes, the MOXI, had inexplicably died. I had failed to notice that the box had quit broadcasting the time, the surest sign of life.

At first I thought it had simply come unplugged. I checked the back of the box. I located the electrical connection, and unplugged it. After counting to ten, then plugging it back in again, there was still no sign of life. I refused to accept the flatlined status of the box. I determinedly continued to push the power on button on the remote over and over again.

I could feel my face getting all screwed up starting with my pursed lips. My eyes squinted together as if I were looking at the grim reaper himself eyeball to eyeball. I imagined daring him to perform his duties.

"I am just not aiming it properly," I say aloud to myself. I did what could have looked to any onlooker as a potty dance, minus holding said parts. I began aiming the remote at the box in various angles. I was willing the magic of the remote to make itself evident any second. I eagerly anticipated the lighting up of the time clock.

Nothing. It was dead.

That's when my hot flash started. I could feel the now familiar glowing begin about mid chest then slowly start to suffuse itself through the entire trunk of my body. It was growing like a proverbial Genie out of a bottle. After the smokin' Genie filled my lungs and belly, I could feel the hot boiling blood spill over into my limbs. In seconds flat, I was one hot momma.

In more ways than one.

Phyllie was hole up with Stig in her office, so I yelled, "The F*ING cable box is dead, AGAIN!!!! Please check the internet, will ya?" She promptly complied.

"Yep, it's working. Is the phone?" she questioned.

"Yes. I checked it all already."

We have the famous BUNDLE. It is comprised of multitudinous channels on TV, the internet, and phone service all cozily bundled together with one provider. Costs a f*ing bundle of loot too.

"I'm calling Charter!" By this time I am SEEING red too, not just feeling the heat.

I march into my office turned-dog-den to retrieve my file containing all things Charter. Yes, I keep an entire file on the Charter company. Now that I think about it, there is most definitely something wrong with a company that I HAVE to keep a file where I document previous service calls.

In my flaming, furious fog, I make a mental note. Time to check on Dish. My mind starts whirring with the steps necessary to change providers.

Stop. Attend to the matter at hand. I mentally have to arm wrestle the errant thoughts. I must stay focused.

Phyl shouts from her girl cave, "Go get 'em," cheerleader style.

I still do not actually see her, but I know she is sitting in her office on her favorite reading chair with her feet propped up on another chair; her obedient Kindle snugged into her lap. The two poodles and the yorkie are lazing about at her feet. It is, after all, nap time.

I have learned over the years that when Phyl is in the middle of an addiction, there will be no getting her away from it. The addiction(s) of the moment include reading Stig Larson's crazy girl series (I think she is on book three), and chocolate walnut fudge. Now to be fair, she did not have any tell tale signs of chocolate on her lips, so I could have stood a chance of getting her involved in my ass kicking, but really, I can handle this thing myself.

I rifled through the papers in the file to find the official Charter phone number. I hate those "Call 1-800-Charter" things. I also looked to see the last time a Charter service person graced our home. It was on June 9th. I knew the tracked-in mud was barely dry on my lovely fake, slate floor tile from their last visit.

I remember the day very well. I had to come home early from work to be available for the technician. The only good thing about having to be home to meet the technician was it was the last day of school. I was eager to get home. Grades were posted, everything was packed up for the summer. I was DONE.

I begin to feel a new roiling start up. This one coming from my toes.

I immediately start talking to myself in very soothing tones. Calm down now. Make sure you are nice and calm when you start this conversation. Nothing good will come of it if you immediately start the conversation by ripping the poor unsuspecting a new one. Somewhere in my consciousness resides a rational voice.

I fake being calm very well. Inside, I am a tempest. After working with the criminal element of society, trying to teach them English, everyone's favorite subject, I have perfected my game face. To the world I can seem very calm, but inside my head, I am having quite a lively ass-ripping conversation with myself and whomever I am currently at odds with.

"Welcome to Charter Communications. Listen to the menu items carefully and ...."

Keep calm. Slow your breathing.

My first menu item is, "Do you want English?

I press one.

After listening to a mind numbing list of possibilities, and none of them MY problem, I finally shout OTHER!!.

I immediately hear music. A soothing computer voice has informed me my call will be answered in the order it has been received. In other words, Don't hang up or you go to the end of the line, asshole.

I continue to count one, two, three as I slow my breathing. I realize I am gripping the hell out of the handset on the phone. I believe my fingers have turned white.

Finally, a human. A human, with a slight Jamaican accent, welcomes me to Charter Communications and asks what he can do to assist me.

At least I am not in India, I think to myself. I have been there many times before. I hear it is a lovely country, the people very polite, but my cable box is HERE.

The Jamaican begins by asking me, "Have you tried unplugging and plugging in the device?"

No shit, Sherlock "Yes. It didn't work."

"Okay. Let me see what I can do from here." Click.

Let's just say, I am still mentally counting my inhales and exhales.

Back on the line, "Looks like we will have to set up an appointment with a technician."

"Fine. I want a NEW MOXI box as well as a Charter trained technician. The last time, June 9th, the guy, a sub contractor, tried THREE boxes before he could find one that worked. I had nothing but trouble with that service call."

I, calmly and succinctly, began my recounting of the previous dead MOXI service call.

"First he was HOURS late. I called two times to see if he was coming.He finally showed up at 6:30 pm, hours late. Great.

Next, when he unplugged the first box, he did not look to see how it was hooked up. He just ripped out the plugs. When he started to plug them back in, somehow there was no color on the TV set. What?"

I guess my poker face failed that time because the technician took one look at me and immediately started ripping out cords.

I continued, "After the stereo system had been disconnected, and we both removed the television set itself from it's hole in the wall, it was determined that whomever set the service box up in the first place did not do it properly.

WTF? "That was FOUR years ago!!!!" I told the guy.

I am still trying to remember to breathe rhythmically. Now, I am back on track. I begin to replay the tape in my head as I relay the debacle with a voice as if I were reporting the event on the evening news. The only thing I lacked was the microphone. I carefully recount the innumerable Peter Principle antics of the two and one half hour service call.

I ended with, "And the box never did get placed online that particular night. I was patient. I agreed that he could redeem himself by coming back tomorrow to complete getting the thing online."

The service technician pleaded with me, "I will do it on my own time. Just give me a chance to make it right."


In one of the last phone calls made to the home office, I overheard him talking to the dispatcher. He did not want an unsatisfactory report on his record. I wanted to help him out, but I remained doubtful.

Why is it I have a hard time kicking someone's ass when they are right there in my home? I saw his frustration painted like a Picasso on his face. I know how technical things can go awry even in the hands of a most capable person. In the hours he was in my home, I learned a few things about the young man.

First, he was a trained biologist. I suggested he get himself to the Gulf immediately. Maybe there were a few birds he could wash off instead of plugging in patched together, old ass MOXI's for a living. He did get a bit glossy eyed as if he was contemplating my suggestion.

"It's the economy," he sighed his reply.

After offering him a cookie because he had missed his dinnertime, I learned he was a bit of a bodybuilder, and I could see the effects of that labor. He politely refused my cookie offer by telling me he was going to, "Get a pizza for dinner."

Now there's a healthy dinner.

I rolled my eyes and listened to the logical one in my head.

That and quite a few beers I would think, judging by the amount of frustration evident on his face.

He reminded me of my son. Just call me a an ole softy, but I actually felt sorry for the guy.

He did come back the next day, and he did get the thing working.

Or so I thought until just now.

Slowly, I take a deep cleansing breath, and wait for the Jamaican to tell me when the next opening for a service call would be.

"I see we can schedule your technician for July the 4th."

"That is unacceptable. I was out of my service for days and days already once this month. You have to do better than that. Do you have a supervisor? Please just connect me to your supervisor." I am in a huff, and very clear in my demands.

The Jamaican back peddles. "I can help you. Why do you need to talk to my supervisor? That action will take much longer. I will have to put you on hold, and it will go to the queue. Then you have to wait for the supervisor, who already has a line waiting to talk to her."

"I am HAPPY to wait for the supervisor. Please connect me."


"Okay, but in the meantime I will check the schedule to see if I can get you a technician to your home any sooner. Please hold."

By this time I have started pacing around the house. I end this part of the conversation with the Jamaican by standing right in front of Phyl, in her girl cave.

Phyl, voyeuristically, enjoys sicking me on problems. She was smiling broadly, and gave me a thumbs up.

The Jamaican is back, "How about tomorrow between one and three p.m.?"

"Oh, so MAGICALLY, in 15 seconds you have managed to find me a service time DAYS before the proposed last date? Wow, I'm impressed." The sarcasm oozed from my pores.

Phyl covered her mouth so the Jamaican wouldn't hear her hysterical screams of laughter.

"Yes ma'am. Do you still want to talk to my supervisor?"


"May I ask why?"

"Because I wish to register my complaint about the MOXI boxes."

He sounds resigned. I wonder how many brownie points he looses when his customers ask for the supervisor.

The supervisor comes on line inside of a minute. That queue wasn't so full after all.

"Yes, may I help you?" It's Ashley. She sounds perky yet professional. I imagine her with blond hair, and dressed casually. Maybe with a pink polo shirt, and a pair of loose fitting tan Dockers. I hear other operators in the background. I imagine I am talking to the Queen Bee in her nest.

"I wish to register my complaint about the MOXI boxes. As you may already know by looking at my account, I had another service call on this MOXI earlier in this month." My pace is steady.

"Yes." She is quick to reply, yet perfectly trained to listen at this point.

I continued telling her my story. "The last three boxes the previous technician tried did not work. This one is refurbished and looks as if it has been through the all the wars to date. It is all scratched and banged up. Can I PLEASE get a NEW one?" The pace of my breathing begins to quicken.

Ashley assures me she has placed that request on the order docket. "Does it HAVE to be MOXI, or can it be another brand?"

"Look, I am not married to this MOXI. I only say MOXI because I thought that is the type of service I am paying for. All I want is for the damned thing to work. I want it to record. I want to watch On Demand. I want the channels I am paying for. By the way, do I get a credit for the days of service I am NOT getting?"

"Yes, you can get a refund. Just call us back when the service is connected again and we will credit your account."

"Wrong answer. Why can't you front load the missing days? Why do I, the paying customer, have to call you? Can't you deduct the days of non-service right now?" My jaw is starting to get tight. My eyes are getting squinty again.

Phyl raises her hand to give me a high-five.

"Of course, let me take care of that right now." Ashley sounds resigned.

"Is there anything else I can help you with?" Ashley hopes not. I can hear her brain.

"Yes, could you please make sure the company sends out a Charter TRAINED technician? The last guy you sent me was a nightmare." I give it up on poor Nick. Without thinking about his plight, I told BIG TIME on Nicky boy. Secretly, I am thinking up my justification for turning snitch.

Maybe this will get him back to his calling. Yep, Nick, you can thank me later.

"The last guy you sent here came two and a half hours late to begin with." I recount the entire story complete with wire ripping and reattachment woes. I even ratted out the fact that the service was not complete until the next day when Nick came by on his lunch hour to finalize the connection.

"I mean, really, how f*ing hard can it be to hook up a few cables to a box? Come on now."

I really did feel bad for poor Nick, but I am on a roll.

"Well, I can certainly understand your frustration now. I am sorry. I have made an additional note to send out a Charter trained technician. They will give you a call tomorrow if that cannot be accomplished."


"Oh, no. They better be here tomorrow at the established time. My time is worth something too. I have been a loyal Charter customer for years and years. I am getting sick of this run around. How much does it cost to get me out of my contract?" I continue to try to remember to breathe normally. I really feel like I want to stamp my foot, but I successfully control that urge.

"I don't know. I will have to connect you to that department. Would you like me to do that when we are finished with our business?" I can tell Ashley is working the clock to get me off her line NOW.


"Is there ANYTHING else I can help you with right now?" She sounds hopeful that she has done her best, and I shall be shuttled off to the next unsuspecting....


"Okay, hold on one moment and I will connect you to the services department."

Lickety split I am off Ashley's line, and here comes Tammy.

"Good afternoon. I understand you wish to see about your price guarantee?"

I am a bit confused. Price guarantee?

"No. I want to see if we signed a contract, and if so, how much time is left on it?"

"Do you mind me asking why?" She is perfectly demure.

Here we go again. Eye roll please.

For the third time inside of ten minutes I recount my tale of woe.

Tammy listens as trained.

When I have finished regaling her with the entire story, Tammy offers a genuine sounding disappointed apology.

I accept her apology, and immediately head for the phone book.

I make a mental note. Signed contract has now become a Price Guarantee. Check.

I am unfazed. I have worked myself into an absolute lathered frenzy. I feel like I have just scored a tie in a major tug of war battle. I can actually feel my chest heaving with every breath.

Crazy Grandma vs Charter Cable Co.

I think, This would make a great training call. I am sure to be a hit. Nobody could make this shit up.

Today, in a matter of hours, I will see if there will be a resurrection of my services for the second time this month.

It is currently 1:38 in the afternoon. My scheduled appointment time was between one and three p.m. I just received a computer generated phone call confirming my technician will be here between 2:15 and 3:15. Additionally, I am informed I need to be over 18 to allow the work to proceed. I think I have that one handled. The nice computer lady asks if I can confirm my appointment time? I pressed the 'yes' button.

If that damned box goes out again, I am ready with the phone numbers of Charter's competition.

I feel a bit worried about who I might encounter today. I hope I can be on my best behavior, but there are no promises.

I am positively jonesing for my Food Network fix. It's time for lunch!!!!

P.S. It is now 3:34 and J.T. (James Thiessen, yes I spelled it right the first time) has left the building. I am a satisfied customer. Cable did right hiring that young man.

At precisely 2:38 the doorbell rang. The poods went nuts, as usual. After corralling them into the backyard, I was able to open the front door.

My heart was filled with trepidation.

It needn't have been.

When I opened the door a slight breeze entered on the smile of J.T.

From his "Hi, my name is J.T." to "this is how you use your new remote," I enjoyed having J.T. be my installation guy. He had a genuine smile, and a fantastic sense of humor.

The best thing? He had a brand new cable box!!! I KNOW it was brand new because it was wrapped in plastic.

I think Charter sent in the Calvary to complete this project.

Now, Charter boys and girls, can you PLEASE get rid of the ancient MOXI boxes? Your customers will thank you, and maybe even continue receiving your services as well.

You know you are on probation here at this residence.

Secondly, could you please get rid of those damned boxes so your techs can do their job efficiently as well? There is absolutely no excuse for a company of your caliber to be forcing your employees to deal with inferior equipment.

Thanks J.T. I've got your number buddy.

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