Monthly Archives: December 2013
Once upon a time, TV was free. Of course, there were only 8 channels, and the only thing you could watch at 2 a.m. was the test pattern with its accompanying high-pitched drone, but still, it was free. As I’ve mentioned in the past, I am not a fan of the insanely high cost of watching cable TV,which is pretty much run by a monopoly that has no compassion for its customers, our monetary plights, or our viewing preferences. To add insult to injury, we were recently notified that in order to continue watching TV, we are now required to have HD boxes on every TV in the house. Mind you, I can remember a conversation I had with a cable rep several years ago when I was assured, that switching over to HD would NOT mean I would have to add boxes to all of my TVs. Those of you who know me know this is astonishing in itself – that I actually remember any conversation from several years ago – but this one stuck in my head, because a promise was made to me at that time that I took to heart. And now, as in much of life, the value of that promise turned out to be worth as little as the enjoyment I get from most of the shows airing on TV.
I tried to ignore the deadline for getting these boxes, hoping this was all a big hoax – then I could laugh at everyone who raced like lemmings to get their boxes. I received emails. I even received snail mail. Still, I remained firm in my belief that this was a rumor like the one about all computers ceasing to work when the calendar hit the year 2000.
But then came the letter warning me that time was running out and that as of 5 days from the date of the letter, I would no longer be able to watch TV without those manditory boxes. This didn’t sound like a joke anymore. I actually started to sweat a little (or I should correct that to say ‘perspire,’ as a female living in the South). Anyway, I finally caved and called the cable company, meekly requesting the 2 new boxes I would need. They said I had the option of having them shipped to the house, or I could find my way to the store and wait on the days-long line snaking around the city. I chose to have them shipped. When I told the rep that our bedroom TV was older than my kids, she said she’d send the box specifically made for the “non-HD TVs,” along with the regular box. She said it could take a week – still not enough to lure me over to the store, so I hunkered down to wait it out. And as promised, a few minutes past midnight on the promised day, all remnants of TV-watching disappeared from the 2 unboxed sets in my house.
Surprisingly, the boxes arrived 2 days later. But they were identical – no box specifically for ancient televisions. Plus, when I looked at the cable set-up in my kitchen, I realized that years ago when we installed cable for the TV we had added there, the tech had drilled a hole into my floor to run the cable through, although I couldn’t remember the reason for defacing my kitchen floor. And I had no idea where the cable actually went, so I didn’t have any idea what we should do. The rep understood the identical box situation, but told me over and over that she didn’t understand the hole in my floor scenario, no matter how many times I explained it to her. She agreed that I needed a tech to come out to my house to hook it all up, and set the appointment for the following day.Then she put me on hold for awhile, only to discover that the boxes I had received would work on both TV sets. There would be a 4-hour window for the tech to arrive, and I asked if it would be possible to get a call before the tech headed to my house, since I work only a few minutes away, and I could meet him at my house. She promised to do that and emphasized that she had it all written down and would make sure he got those instructions. Are you laughing at my misplaced trust yet?
The next day, I didn’t let my phone out of my sight while I was at work. But, the call never came. Relieved that I didn’t have to leave work early, I left at my normal time and headed home. My son was there. And he informed me that the tech had come and gone about an hour ago. “WHAT?” I pretty much screeched. But then I calmed down, figuring all was set up and ready to go.I don’t know why I continue making these inane assumptions, only to be dumped flat on my face. Because then, my son explained that the tech had shown him how to hook up the cable from the hole in the floor into the new cable in the TV. And then he had left.
“What about the TV in the bedroom?” I asked. “I don’t even know if there are little thingies in that TV for him to put the new cable in, so please tell me he at least set that one up.”
My son shook his head and told me the tech had never left the kitchen.
And upon closer inspection, I saw that the tech hadn’t even hooked up the kitchen TV. Literally, all he had done was put one cable into another, and then he had left! I gave myself a pep talk. I can do this, I thought. I had instructions. I have a Master’s degree and should be able to follow those instructions. And I had my son, who quickly figured out how to hook up the rest of the things that needed to be hooked up on the kitchen TV. But when he took a look at the prehistoric bedroom TV, he told me it was a lost cause. After a moment of silence, he reminded me that we had a miniscule, somewhat newer TV in the playroom that he and his sister used to play their video games on, that was sitting completely unused. So he switched them out, and soon had the hard-to-see, hard-to-hear TV hooked up to the cable. Now, I had to figure out how to sync the remotes to the TVs. The one in the bedroom worked after I followed all the steps, but I couldn’t get the one in the kitchen to cooperate at all. In frustration, I called the cable company, because in spite of following the instructions to the letter to get a picture to fly through the air into the TVs, they both remained picture-less. When the rep answered the phone and asked if I would take a survey about the service I received once we were done with getting everything working (another optimist), I pretty much warned him that he most likely would not want me saying anything that was on my mind on any survey about my experience – ever.
This rep was not only efficient, but patient and he had a sense of humor, so he defused what could have turned into an ugly situation. Soon, the second remote was in sync with my TV, and pictures flew through the air and landed in both TVs. It only took an hour. I told him about the tech showing up at my house with no phone call and not even doing one thing I had needed him to do, aside from showing my son that he didn’t have to pull the cable out of the floor. He said he would note that on my account.
The icing on the cake came a few weeks later when I received my monthly bill and there was an extra $50 charge for the home visit I had received. You can imagine the words I had to hold back as I called the cable company again. I went through the whole deal with this rep. I pictured him nodding his head and rolling his eyes as he listened to my rant – luckily, the rep who had made everything work had actually taken notes about everything, and this new rep concurred that I shouldn’t have been charged for the two-minute fly-by. Because the first rep who didn’t understand about the hole in the floor situation had written the order up as me needing new cable connections put into my house. An order which the tech who zoomed in and out of my house had obviously never paid attention to, either way. And this final rep had the good sense to realize that he needed to keep nodding his head and agreeing with me since what I was saying might actually be true. I’m waiting to see this month’s bill before I put this whole mess behind me. But meanwhile, rest assured, I am getting my daily fix of the HD stations I can still barely see and barely hear each time I attempt to watch TV in my bedroom.
Copyright Nancy Machlis Rechtman, all rights reserved
I know I have been writing a great deal about air travel, but there’s a reason for that. After all, there always seems to have been some sort of misadventure involved every time I’ve traveled recently. In fact, one of my friends had a travel mishap the other day and told me that she and her husband said they had a “Nancy” story now. So I’ve now become an adjective for any time something goes wrong with any form of travel.
So let me fill you in on my Thanksgiving adventure. I had opted to travel on the two supposedly not-horrible days of Thanksgiving week – the Tuesday before and the Friday after. And since the originating flight left in the wee hours of the morning, I was hopeful that we might actually get to New York before nightfall – that was my first mistake.
It was only me and my daughter traveling this time, and we woke up Tuesday morning (or late Monday night, depending on your perspective), to a cold, icy rain. I wasn’t too worried, however, since our connecting flight was through Reagan Airport which I knew pretty much had flights every hour on the hour to New York. Even though bad weather was predicted up and down the East Coast, I guess I was still in a fog from the 3 hours of sleep I had managed to sneak in and I had this not-so-logical sense of confidence that all would go well.
We made our way through security without issue, sat at our gate and waited. And waited. Several announcements advised us that they were de-icing the plane, which I agreed was a good thing, so I had no issue with waiting for a plane to have de-iced wings before taking off. We were also told that this wasn’t considered a delay, and we shouldn’t worry about making our connecting flights. I have no idea what the logic is behind that statement, since we certainly were delayed if we weren’t leaving on time, but I am not fluent in airline-speak. But after approximately a half hour, we were told we were now allowed to board the plane. We were also told that since we were in a flying tin can, that all carry-ons were to be left on the jetway since there would barely be enough room for the humans on the plane, let alone anything inanimate.
Since I refuse to pay for a seat in advance, assuming they will not make me stand during the flight, we ended up being seated in the first row of the plane. That was kind of cool and we had a lovely view of our luggage waiting to be stowed under the plane. We sat on the plane for about another half hour and were advised that they were still de-icing. OK, still no problem there. But I was puzzled as to why no one had picked up our luggage yet. I finally asked the flight attendant if she knew what was going on. She told me that since 3 planes were supposed to leave about the same time, they didn’t have enough people to load the luggage. I indicated my surprise at this and asked why in the world they wouldn’t have scheduled a sufficient number of people to do so, considering it was the day before the WORST TRAVEL DAY OF THE YEAR. She looked around and conspiratorially whispered that she was pretty sure that when some of these workers had taken a look at the weather, they might have suddenly come down with some sort of airline illness that would preclude them from working that day.
Finally, after about another half hour, we saw luggage movement, then disappearance, and we finally took off. At about the time we were originally due to arrive in DC. An announcement was made that since we were now officially leaving late, no worries, the airline had already re-booked all of us on later connecting flights. So I agreed I shouldn’t worry. (Please control your laughter.)
We arrived in DC, went to customer service, and we were told that the next flight after the one we had just missed was full, so we’d be on the noon flight. That didn’t sound too bad – that would still get us to New York by early afternoon, with plenty of time to relax – or pass out from exhaustion – and still have an enjoyable day visiting with family. Reagan is a lovely airport, and we grabbed some sustenance so neither of us would pass out, having not eaten anything up to that point, and parked ourselves by the gate to wait.
At 11:30, an unwelcome, nagging thought popped into my brain – Shouldn’t we be getting ready to board already? But the screen behind the gate agent still said our flight was scheduled to leave on time, so I attempted to kick that pesky thought out of my head. Until I looked at the screen again and it said our flight was cancelled. Instinct propelled me to fly out of my seat and race up to the gate – the same thing happened to several other people and we swarmed the agent, asking what happened. At first, the agent denied that our flight had been cancelled, because of course, why notify her? And the display had magically changed to another flight leaving from that gate which was on time. Then she got the call and subsequently made the announcement that I had been dreading – yes, the flight was cancelled (due to a broken plane) and we should all go to customer service and get rescheduled. Which we all did like a bunch of lemmings. Or more accurately, a herd of cattle in a stampede. While on line, all of our cell phones began ringing and buzzing simultaneously to advise us that our flight had been cancelled. The poor souls who hadn’t seen the display and had to discover the news by phone ended up at the tail end of what appeared to be an endless sea of humanity. And only one person was working the desk, in spite of the fact that there was a second seat awaiting an eager co-worker – I guess no one volunteered.
I was 4th in line and the customer service rep was obviously in no mood for chitchat. I was brusquely informed that all flights were sold out until 4 o’clock and that was the earliest flight she could get us on – this was in spite of my desperate begging and pleading to get us out of there earlier.
Looking out the window, the possibility loomed that we might not be leaving at all that day, as the air had pretty much turned to pea soup. I knew we’d be lucky to get out of there by Thanksgiving since the next day was the WORST TRAVEL DAY OF THE YEAR, awful weather was being predicted, and most likely every seat on every plane was full. I had a vision of myself as Tom Hanks in “The Terminal,” begging for help, but never being able to leave. As I mentioned earlier, I was trying to remain lucid after 3 hours of sleep, but I was quickly losing that battle.
Anyway, after 6 hours in the airport, it was finally announced that they were boarding our flight. And I discovered from a fellow passenger that he and his family had been scheduled for the 3 o’clock flight but that flight had also been cancelled due to a broken plane. What was with the broken planes, anyway – don’t they ever check these things? But, I ended up realizing that I should be grateful we hadn’t been booked on that earlier flight, since at that point, one more incident might have caused me to crack. I had put up a good facade, but seriously, one more glitch might have caused the whole thing to crumble.
So I did find something to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. Even in the bumper-to-bumper rush hour traffic we had to deal with once we landed in New York. Bringing our door-to-door travel time to 13 hours. And yet, still grateful.
Copyright Nancy Machlis Rechtman, all rights reserved