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Cable: the picture of complications

For me, this past week has been sort of like the week after a hurricane.

Only with air conditioning.

No, there wasn't any water in my house, and no tree branch poked through my bedroom ceiling.

The Great Hole in my home was television, that great distractor in almost any situation.

For six long days and five long nights, my television cable box was on the blink. That meant no comforting visits with the boys from Entourage, acerbic comments by Bill Maher and his guests, racy tales of the Mad Men, nor nightly outrage sessions led by Keith Olberman or my idol, Rachel Maddow.

Oh, I had NPR on the radio, and I realized I could move the dial a bit and pick up The Diane Rehm Show and Talk of the Nation from WUFT in Gainesville, which made me feel as though I were back in Salt Lake City, where I can listen to those two marvelous shows every day.

But as my cat Snickers reared up on his hind legs and lightly pawed the TV screen, as if to say, "I hear stuff, but I don't see a picture," I realized how much those pixels of light added to my home decor.

The evenings, when the radio was silent (except Saturday, which has always been a radio night in my household), were as quiet as a tomb. For the first time since 2004, when hurricanes actually did knock out electricity for a while, I could hear drivers bumping across the sunken manhole cover in front of my house and, when I sat on the lanai reading, I could hear the critters rustling around in the woods behind my house. Or at least I hope it was just critters.

The problem started in July, when my mom's bulky TV gave out and she bought a slick new high definition model at Best Buy. To be helpful, I called the cable company to get her set up with all the new channels.

All went well, until we found out the company had switched my bill ($105) to Mom's name (her bill: $16.50, since expanded cable comes with her apartment). When I called to straighten it out, the cable company did (to them) the logical thing: they cut Mom off completely, never mind she and I had both faithfully paid our bills in full and on time. (I'm just grateful it wasn't right before her beloved NASCAR races, or there would have been some fur flying.)

And they refused to turn her cable box back on until we both drove to the cable company office in Holiday, with photo identifications in hand, to separate the accounts. Even with the help of a supervisor, our accounts couldn't be separated, so we agreed to each pay our own bill, no matter whose name was on it.

Then the cable company did what was (to them) the next logical thing: They cut my premium channels off — just as Real Time with Bill Maher came on.

When I called to get everything restored, the operator insisted my account had NEVER had HBO nor Showtime, which, if true, would mean I should get a refund of at least $1,380, which I would be happy to accept and thank you very much.

Instead, the operator said he would "add" HBO and Showtime, but in the doing, my cable box froze, and nothing anybody could do — not the nice lady in Niagara Falls, N.Y., nor the fellow in Buffalo, N.Y., not even the guy in Auburndale — could get it unstuck. More distressing, no one could get out to my house to unstick that tacky little box until five days later, which meant five nights and six days without cable.

My mind wandered to my hero, Mona "The Hammer" Shaw, who, at the age of 75 in 2007, grew so distraught with her Comcast cable provider in Bristow, Va., that she marched into its office with her husband Don's claw hammer and demolished a so-called "customer service representative's" keyboard, monitor and telephone.

Sure, she got a yearlong restraining order barring her from that office and had to pay $345 in restitution, but I'm betting she thought it was worth it.

I restrained myself from doing the hammer thing, but I did do something else Mrs. Shaw did:

I switched to Verizon.

Cable: the picture of complications 10/02/09 [Last modified: Friday, October 2, 2009 6:14pm]
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