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Archive for Sunday, September 12, 2004

Boondocks living means no cable television

September 12, 2004

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This city girl has adjusted well to country living ... with one exception. No, it's not the fact that I have to travel miles to get where I'm going. From the time I was 7 and steered our family car down a country road while sitting on my father's lap, driving has been pure joy for me.

I can even live without pizza delivery because I've found a pizza place that gets it ready and all I have to do is pop it in my own oven and cook it. Best of all, it isn't cold when we eat it.

What I HAVE had a hard time adjusting to is the fact that we have no access to cable television. In preparation for our move to the country nine years ago, we bought a satellite TV system. And, because we then paid well more than $1,000 for our tiny dish unit, husband Ray grimaces whenever he sees ads currently offering the satellite and receiver free of charge to anyone who will commit to a year's programming service.

The promise to throw in professional installation rubs additional salt in his wounds because Ray, himself, installed our satellite on the highest peak of our house, using a rickety -- and far too short -- wooden ladder which he positioned in the bed of his pickup to make it reach. (I often wonder what the heck we were thinking when he could have screwed it on the side of the house while standing flat-footed on the deck.)

What I miss most about cable is that, whenever something went wrong with it, a simple call to service meant that someone would be out to fix it right away. With our satellite service, it takes a whole day just to connect to someone who doesn't know any more about the problem than I do.

My opinion is that voice mail alone would try the patience of a saint. But voice mail coupled with the technical assistance representatives of my satellite service would, I am confident, make an angel resort to strong language.

After listening to a bunch of menu options and punching myriad numbers on my phone pad, I am offered the option to "punch zero to talk to a representative." At last I hear a series of rings. Am I actually going to speak to a human? Nope. A pleasant recorded female voice tells me that "the volume of calls is much larger than expected" and "your call will be answered in the order in which it was received." Then they play music in my ear which is periodically interrupted by the voice informing me that "we appreciate your call" and "a representative will be with you momentarily."

This goes on long enough for my ear to go numb and for me to begin answering the recorded voice. "Oh, yeah?" I say sarcastically, "This is the 28th time I've heard that. Don't you think that, by now, you SHOULD be expecting this number of calls?"

A recent satellite receiver problem resulted in half-dozen calls and more than two hours talk and wait time (mostly the latter). Once connected to a human, I was instructed to unplug the satellite receiver from the wall outlet, wait 15 seconds and plug it back in. When that remedy didn't work after three times of trying, the male representative questioned whether I was doing the procedure correctly. He passed me on to the next level of service when I said, "Hey, there are only so many ways one can unplug and plug in a plug!"

At the next level, a female representative and I reprised the unplugging/replugging routine after she sent a new program message to my receiver. That didn't correct the problem so she referred my call to the next level of service, where I was disconnected and had to begin the process anew.

A smarter woman would have given up, but what I lack in brains, I make up for in tenacity. When I finally reached a guy at the first level, I pre-empted him, "Look," I said, "I'm not going to unplug the receiver again. Just connect me to your highest level of technical assistance."

Darned if he didn't do it! After I explained the problem to the representative at the highest level, she said, "Let me check something."

Then she said, "I can't say when it will be fixed, but there's a problem with your brand of receiver."

"Is it on your end?" I inquired.

"Yes, it is."

I am SO not an angel, but I did have the grace to hang up before I resorted to strong language.

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