Monday, December 6, 2010

The Black Hole of Comcastcutta

A few weeks ago I started having trouble with my cable box. Stations were digitized and becoming unwatchable. At first it was one or two channels, a week later it was a dozen, another week and more than half of the channels were scrambled. I was trying to watch a re-run of American Chopper but instead picked up something from a Romanian satellite, a game show called “Are You Smarter than an Ex-Communist Apparatchik”.

So last week I exchanged it for a new one. After I hooked it up I had to call Pasha in India, who is pretending to be American and obviously reading from a script, so she can “activate” the new box. It went off without a hitch and I thought, finally I can watch Dirty Jobs without wondering “Is that poo?” With my new box I could actually see that yes, it is poo, and Mike Rowe is covered in it. We were both living the American dream: I have cable and he will do anything for a buck.

My dream lasted only 36 hours however. On Saturday I turned to local channel 21 to watch the Auburn-South Carolina football game and was met by the message “one moment please—channel will be available shortly”. Apparently to Comcast “shortly” is defined as “an indeterminate amount of time between 1 second and an epoch”. I called my sister and asked her to check her TV. She was able to view channel 21 so well she could see into the player’s souls. Meanwhile I had lost all my channels and now had no signal at all. And the power button had gone out on the box. And the cat was meowing for food. And the temperature had dropped to 28 degrees. And somewhere in the world a volcano was erupting. And no matter how many times I closed my eyes and wished it so, Bar Rafaeli did not appear in my living room.

It was back on the phone to India for reactivation. I got another female reading from a script, who after sending a signal 3 times with no results, had me switch to channel 4 with no change. Then I was put on hold for 10 minutes forced to listen to the same 15 second snippet of muzak edited to play over and over again until Jesus returns or I have an aneurysm. Finally she came back from warming up her hummus or whatever she was doing and asked me for the 4th time to check the connections and make sure the cables were hooked up properly. Why wouldn’t she just tell me she had no idea what the hell was wrong so we could both get on with our lives?

She tells me to hook the cable directly to the TV. I do it and of course I get a signal. She’s getting ready to use her clean hand to pat herself on the back for a job well done until the ugly American points out that we are now bypassing the cable box. So she tells me to hook the cable back into the box and . . . Shock! Horrors! Surprise! I have no signal! She disappears again and while I’m waiting I absent-mindedly press a button on the front of the box and viola, the power light comes on! She gets back on the phone and repeats her script again which, by the way, needs a complete re-write. There’s no tension, no laughs and I didn’t feel empathy with any of the characters. I tell her the power light is on now and she sends her signal to no avail. Then she puts me on hold again.

Exceedingly frustrated by now I pick up the remote and change back to channel 3 just because I need to do something besides hold the phone and say “nope, no change” and holy effing shit, there’s a signal! Why is there a signal on channel 3 when she told me to change to channel 4? Why is everything so difficult? Why is cheese so expensive? Why can’t I find a non-abrasive soap that leaves me feeling clean and refreshed instead of oily and itchy?

The upshot is I spent 30 minutes on the phone with a “technician” and haphazardly fixed the damn thing myself. Hooray for technology, hooray for call centers, hoo-effin’-ray.

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