Comcast horror stories never get old, they just multiply. Our particular problem—the On Demand feature was knocked out—didn’t seem, on the face of it, terribly difficult to solve. My son Booker—the point man on home tech matters—gave Comcast a ring a few weeks ago, went through the paces of ticking off the model numbers on the cable box, and when that wasn’t satisfactory he was advised to make a service appointment online. He did, and was given a Dec. 20th date, with a window between eight and 10 a.m. I awaited the representative, and when the time period elapsed, Booker called Comcast and was told no such service call was scheduled. The woman on the phone was rude—which is often the norm, and you shrug it off—and finally gave him another date, Dec. 27th, with a 7:30-9:30 a.m. frame.
I’m an early bird, so that suited me fine, as one of my nieces was in town and we had a busy day ahead that was to begin with a tour of Baltimore’s Fells Point at around 11. (Fells Point, which when I first moved here in ’73 for college, was about the only entertainment option in a still riot-ravaged city that went dark at around eight p.m. It was what one would loosely call a “bohemian” neighborhood and though it’s since been overrun by sports bars, there’s a swell farmer’s market on Saturdays and a number of independent retailers.) Anyway, no one from Comcast showed up, and so I called the company at 10, was put on hold for 20 minutes or so, and finally was granted an audience with a real person. She was pleasant enough, but was the bearer of ill tidings: no appointment was on the docket.
I got a bit aggro, explaining that at 7:30 I’d received an automated message from Comcast confirming the service call, and, in fact, at 9:30 got another one, asking me to rate the quality of the technician. She was flummoxed, insisting that no “ticket” was issued, and asked if I’d like a $20 “credit.” Really, I was trying to keep my temper in check, and replied in an exasperated tone that of course I’d take the rebate, but what I really wanted was my cable fixed. As in now. As it happened, at 10:30 the doorbell rang, and a three-toothed fellow who’d arrived in a small van—not a Comcast truck, which I suppose means the company is cutting corners and farming out work—came in, and apologized for his tardiness, claiming he’d had a flat on the way to North Baltimore. I didn’t buy this story, but no matter, he assured me it was an easy fix. He was a yakker and as he fiddled with the cable box, regaled Booker and me with one conspiracy story after the other—Pearl Harbor was bombed on FDR’s orders, LBJ was the mastermind of JFK’s assassination, and most offensive, 9/11 was planned by bankers who wanted to rob tons of gold from the Trade Center’s basement.
All of which would’ve been simply annoying had he made progress with our problem, especially as time was growing tight. Not a chance: he switched out the cable box, and when that didn’t work, started screwing around with wires outside, called his boss for instructions, and started all over again. It was especially irritating when a buddy of his pulled up to the house and they had a gab about the Ravens, until I interrupted them. By this point, Fells Point was scratched, and our 1:30 showing of Big Eyes at the Landmark in Harbor East was in doubt. My niece was a good sport—after all, who hasn’t experienced the increasing frustration, year by year, with cable or Internet companies? As one p.m. rolled around, and the historian (probably a Nation freelancer) was laying cable on the ground, with no end in sight, Booker graciously told my wife, niece and me to go ahead to the film—which was terrific, incidentally, maybe Amy Adams’ best role to date—and he’d wait it out. I was somewhat trepidatious leaving my son alone with this loon, but he’s 20, and said his Glock was cocked and loaded in case of trouble. (Joshing, joshing!)
I fidgeted at the movie, and hit the john about an hour in, and Booker texted me that the situation was resolved, and oh, by the way, the Cubs’ Starlin Castro was questioned by Dominican Republic cops over a nightclub shooting. The film ended and as if I wasn’t in a foul mood already, the line at the adjacent Starbucks was out the door, and I nearly screamed when the person ahead of me ordered five complicated beverages—probably about 5000 calories each, but of course the Food Police will never put a tax on them, since Starbucks’ pedigree eclipses that of the social-leper Coca-Cola—but kept my cool. We arrived home to find the backyard covered with cable wires—allegedly, they’ll be buried underground at a future date—and I marveled at how our property now resembled an Appalachian shanty.
—Follow Russ Smith on Twitter: @MUGGER1955