A few weeks ago the video output from the cable/DVR box in my bedroom took a sudden nosedive. The picture stopped, started, pixilated and dissolved, although the audio remained perfectly normal. I tried all the little tricks I’ve learned since Comcast moved a couple of my favorite channels to digital-only a couple of years ago, forcing me to upgrade my service (and my monthly bill). Nothing helped. The TV has a built-in DVD player, and the picture that produced was fine, so I knew it wasn’t the TV. I have another identical set-up in my living room, and that was fine, so I didn’t think it was the incoming cable.
But inertia set in, and arranging a service appointment that could easily eat up half a day seemed like too much trouble, and I could still listen to the news while I got ready for work in the morning, and so on and so forth, and I ignored the problem, wondering now and then if it might miraculously heal itself.
It didn’t. One Sunday morning about ten days ago, it died. Well, not quite. It fell into an endless cycle of attempting to boot and failing. It sat there blinking at me. No more morning news in the bedroom. So I tried several remedies I found on line, none of which worked, and “chatted” through the Comcast web site for way too long with someone who called himself Michael. He couldn’t fix it either, and suggested that I take it to the local office and swap it for a new one.
Well, I had my doubts about that. The fellow who installed the boxes in the first place took quite a while to do the job, between trying three boxes to find two that worked, and activating and testing them. But I’m always willing to try doing something for myself, as long as it doesn’t involve power tools or climbing on the roof (note to self: must call tree trimmers soon).
So on Saturday morning I set out to forage for a new cable box. I wasn’t sure where the Comcast office was, so I plugged the address into Mapquest. First mistake. Following Mapquest’s directions led me to a place where, according to their map, a non-existent building should have been. Circled the block, but it still wasn’t there. Then I realized that the address I wanted was on West NASA Parkway, and the location Mapquest had given me was on East NASA Parkway. Sigh. Another fifteen minutes (turns out the even numbered buildings are on the south side of East NASA, and the north side of West NASA, explain that one if you can), and I found the right place, a small warehouse with a counter in an upscale strip center.
The courteous, helpful staff (for all my troubles, I have never encountered a Comcast employee who was less than courteous and helpful) was out of DVR boxes, but I was happy to leave with a standard HD box, at least until late Saturday afternoon when I tried to install it.
I am not stupid. I can match color-coded cable ends, screw in a coaxial cable, and plug a box into the wall. I watched the little green light come on, and went to the computer, followed all the prompts, and ordered the activation. Waited the allotted time. Absolutely nothing happened. Okay, let’s try another tack. I called the appropriate Comcast phone number, slogged through the voice mail, and asked for activation again. No problem, said the bright, cheerful machine voice. If it’s not working in fifteen minutes, call back.
You guessed it. Of course, calling back required even more steps through the voice mail to finally reach a human being, a woman in some far-off call center. She tried her level best, kept me on the line for forty five minutes while we played with cables and remote controls, and finally decided that I probably had the wrong cable (hey, it worked with this TV and the last box), and definitely needed a technician.
The service call wait for a technician was what I had been trying to avoid in the first place, but much to my amazement she scheduled a visit for the next morning (Sunday service calls! Who knew?).
The technician showed up exactly when scheduled, and it took him less than five minutes to determine that I had been given a bad box, muttering something about reconditioned equipment as he replaced it with one from his truck. He had it working and activated in fifteen minutes, and then he took another seven minutes or so to install and activate the digital converter for the aged analog set in my sewing room, which I had been ignoring for months.
My friend Ha keeps telling me that if I want WiFi at home, I should have no trouble installing a wireless modem myself. I don’t think so. Sounds like a job for a technician to me.