Nature vs. Technology

One of the hazards of living alone is that there’s no one else around to handle some task I don’t want to do. If I can’t do if myself, I pretty much have to hire it done. (The benefits include eating cereal for supper, knowing what’s in the refrigerator, and never finding the toilet seat up in the middle of the night.)

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Monday afternoon I came home from the grocery store to find the TV, which I had left playing the smooth jazz station on Music Choice, displaying the dreaded “One Moment Please” signboard. Well, once in a while, the channel really does come back on shortly, so I turned on the radio and waited half an hour to call Comcast. The mechanical woman who answers the phone there (and does her best to protect any human being from having to talk to a customer) assured me there was no outage in my area and offered to send a reset signal to my cable box.

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I have never ever had a problem solved by a reset signal, but it was worth a try. When I got a text message half an hour later asking if the reset had succeeded or failed, I replied “failed.” By then I had checked my other TVs and discovered that none of them were working. I tried to explain that to the thickly accented Comcast agent who called me back, but he insisted on trying to fix the living room box. The usual procedure of unplugging the box and plugging it back in resulted only in a total failure of the box to reboot. At that point the agent (in India, I’m sure) gave up and scheduled a tech appointment for Friday morning, the next day that I could be home.

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I use the TV for background noise ninety per cent of the time; I’m used to it, but not having it isn’t a great sacrifice (albeit, given Comcast’s rates, a rather expensive one). So for several days I listened to the radio, watched video on my tablet, read, and went to bed earlier than usual with no TV to distract me.

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Then the reminders kicked in: one email and two phone calls, one leaving a voice mail, on Thursday afternoon. On Friday morning, I was up early, in time for another phone call at 7:30 and a text message saying the tech was on the way. The next text message, at 8:23, telling me that the tech had arrived, was a bit disconcerting, since there was no tech in sight, but a nice young man did arrive at 9:05. He listened to my description of the problem—the TV box in the living room was out, the one in the bedroom had the right time and the program guide, but no programs, and the ancient TV in the sewing room had no video signal—he immediately knew that the problem was in the outside wiring, specifically in the line coming from the utility pole out back.

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And that’s where Nature came into the picture (or lack thereof). The utility pole is shrouded in bamboo. Wet bamboo, thanks to the overnight thunderstorm we’d just had. The Comcast tech couldn’t get his ladder close to it. He went around the block and approached it from the other side (the pole is actually located on the other side of the fence in a neighbor’s yard). He could see the disconnected line from there, but couldn’t reach it.

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Comcast, he told me, leases access to the utility easement and poles from CenterPoint, the company that handles all the electrical infrastructure around here. Hacking through the bamboo is not the cable company’s responsibility.

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So I called the local tree service that contracts with CenterPoint to trim trees. I had their phone number because they’d left a note on my door a few weeks ago, but as far as I can tell they never did any work in my yard. It seems to me that if Comcast can’t get to the utility pole, neither can the phone company or, more to the point, CenterPoint’s own workers. When the tree service supervisor called back, he seemed pretty unconcerned about pole access, although he did promise to send someone out to look at the problem next week.

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So I’m contemplating the thought of spending a chunk of this weekend hacking down bamboo myself, waiting to see what the tree service says, or looking for someone I can hire (spending a chunk of money rather than time) to solve the problem. And then calling Comcast back and finding someone to actually listen to what I need.

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I had lunch yesterday with a friend who was horrified by the thought of no TV—but she wanted to watch the Astros game last night. Missing that didn’t bother me—I’m glad they won, but I wouldn’t have been watching. I have radios, books, Amazon Prime, piles of DVDs, and the Internet. I can weather a few more days without Comcast just fine.

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But it makes me wonder just who really has jurisdiction over something as simple as utility poles (alas, my neighborhood was built up long before buried lines came into use). And maybe it would be nice to have a husband, son, brother, or nephew who would go out and cut down that bamboo while I read a book.

6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. gerrybartlett
    Oct 21, 2017 @ 14:17:29

    You missed a good game, Kay. Yes, I was horrified. Still no cable? I agree a good book is a pretty fine consolation. But the Astros! We never get this close to the World Series. I’ll be watching again tonight. You’re welcome to come join me. Unless you think you’re a jinx, then stay away. That bamboo does look like it’s taking over. But good for privacy.

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    • Kay Hudson
      Oct 21, 2017 @ 18:28:14

      I will keep my fingers crossed for the Astros, Gerry, but I won’t watch, or even listen. Being without TV is beginning to feel almost liberating. No schedule to keep.

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  2. Cheryl Bolen
    Oct 22, 2017 @ 15:44:13

    No interest in watching the World Series-bound Astros? Shameful!!

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    • Kay Hudson
      Oct 22, 2017 @ 15:49:20

      I will certainly keep my fingers crossed for them, and I’m delighted at their success, but I find baseball incredibly boring. Golf and cricket might be worse, but not by much.

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  3. NINA BANGS
    Oct 23, 2017 @ 11:23:33

    I hear you, Kay. I try to think of myself as capable of handling any household emergency. Naive of me, I know. Luckily, I have great neighbors and a jack-of-all-trades handyman who are ready to ride to my rescue. If you need me to help you free your box, just shout. Of course, put anything sharp in my hand and I’d probably chop a few fingers off along with the vegetation. But, hey, my talent lies elsewhere. LOL

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    • Kay Hudson
      Oct 23, 2017 @ 14:14:54

      Nina, sometimes I think you have the right idea, living in a condo, high above any yard maintenance. I’ve decided this is a job for professionals. With power tools.

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