“Sir, you must have known that when you moved it wouldn’t just follow you, even if you did transfer the phone number, it’s not like it’s a dog!” said the somewhat irritatingly unconcerned voice on the other end of the phone.
Ok, so like maybe I’m not the most tech savvy of individuals and maybe I expect way too much from these giants of Industry like the phone company, my DSL carrier and the US Government. But because of a slight oversight on my part I’d been cast adrift in a sea of ignorance and now I was seemingly drowning without my high-speed internet connection. I had thought that I might up my quality of life a tad and move out of my present apartment that too closely overlooked the massive construction project of retrofitting the Bay Bridge and relocate across and down the hall to the back of the building into another cramped space whose superb vista is that of the overly expensive parking lot that I can’t afford to use. Now instead of being awoken around six in the morning by insensitive steelworkers screaming obscenities at each other while mercilessly pounding I-Beams I’ll be choking peaceably on my neighbors exhaust fumes as I lay in bed contemplating another day of my sordid existence.
“No, I just thought that when I moved my telephone to my new apartment that my phone number and my DSL service would move together! I know, I know, stupid me! But I still don’t understand why it’s gonna take two to four weeks to reinstall my DSL. When as I already said I only moved twenty feet away from where I used to live?”
That’s the really amazing part! A year or so ago it took the blabbering overeager sales rep only about five minutes to sell me on what I had already called to procure in the first place and then just a couple of days later the way stoned field technician stumbled around my apartment building installing the boxes and phone lines that make up the intricacies of DSL and I was up and running and internet surfing like the proud new owner of a high speed internet connection that I was. And now unhealthily obsessed with Megahertz, Firewalls and Ethernet I was jonesing like any good addict would. Unfortunately my cyber fix was turning out to be harder to obtain than scoring Heroin at a Christian Coalition training conference and my “pusher” was slacking on its delivery like all nefarious drug dealers seem to do. Only this time I wasn’t hearing – “relax, I’ll be there in a few hours”. No, we were talking weeks and weeks of waiting for the man!
“Sir, we have to reissue you a new IP address and its going to take time and I’m afraid that at the moment we’re experiencing an unprecedented amount of backlogged orders!”
I was starting to have nightmarish visions of my mega-broadband shrinking to a slow-flow-no-go dialup and in my opinion it wasn’t a pretty sight to behold. So what does any hope-to-die dope fiend do when their connection dries up? Well, I solicited another dealer, that’s what I did. After all my unsympathetically inept carrier wasn’t the only modem slinger in town. There were phone companies and search engines – even frigg’in cable television conglomerates were out there advertising for those high-speed hookup dollars and I was only too sure that any one of them would undercut the competition like the cutthroat backstabbing jackals that they were and alleviate my untimely dilemma!
“Good afternoon, this is Moreen at SBC speaking. How can I help you today?”
“Hello, thank you for calling A.T. & T. my name is Shauntay. What can I do for you?”
“Comcast, for all your cable and internet needs! My name is Ted. How may I assist you?”
Ah, a symphony of relief to my detoxing ears. Apparently the glut of backorders wasn’t a contagious disease in the industry because every one of the other internet happy corporations that I called was willing to bend over backwards and scramble poste haste to my new digs and set up their mini illuminated corporate logo on my laptop’s menu bar. Of course there was a myriad of details to contend with and deciphering all the miscellaneous contract clauses and bonus signup deals was making my head numb. But the end was in sight. Soon I’d be back on the net clicking mouse in hand checking e-mails and overseeing the delivery of my DVD rentals.
Life was starting to look good! Or so I thought.
“Mister O’Neil, when you gave the Ok to begin transferring your existing account to your new address you went into an oral agreement on a new two year contract verbally! I’m afraid there’s now a two hundred dollar early opt out fee that you’ll have to pay if you’re terminating your service at this time”
I am for once speechless. No snappy comeback, no finely honed retort. Just that dull un-agreeable feeling of being use like the big dog.
“I’m sorry Ms… What was it Betty or Betsy or whatever, but ya know I don’t think I actually did agree to this alleged transfer. I seem to remember that what I said was more along the lines of – What the fuck you mean its gonna be a month before its turned back on! And then slammed the phone down. Well, actually pushed my finger real hard on the ‘End’ button, but anyway. That’s what I remember saying. Now if that’s admissible in a court of law, well, then I guess you could say that I did say go ahead and make me wait for eternity while you continue to charge me for a service that I’m not receiving!”
Call me crazy here, but does this sound like good solid customer service relations for a loyal never late on the monthly payment patron? I mean if someone wants to leave the party – then just let them! Don’t just piss them off and then charge them for it! It’s moments like these where I’m beginning to have a bit more understanding and a somewhat greater appreciation for people who go all off the grid and show up at the offending business while complaining in person with an AK 47 or two. You know, as in the Webster’s Dictionary definition of the only-in-America term Go’in Postal! I think even the condescending Ms. Betty would forget about that two hundred dollar opt out fee real quick with a fully loaded automatic assault rifle pressed against the base of her skull!
Wow! Well Ok now! Sorta strayed way out there in the losing control field, huh? I guess I got a little worked up over those hidden early termination fees. Not to mention that lack of internet thing and I just kinda lost sight of reality there for a few seconds. Like a blackout sorta, yeah, that’s it – a blackout! Can’t seem to remember a damn thing and then there I was in the midst of embracing my stagnant anger issues all over again. Musta been all those riboflavin free Twinkies™ I’ve been eating all day. If I could just check my e-mail. I’m sure that that would calm me down a bit. I swear to god its getting so hard to score the good shit these days.
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Thursday, September 30th, 2004 at
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My trip to the great outdoors, accompanied by my fellow co-workers, began with a meandering migration inland to Pinnacles State Park (http://www.nps.gov/pinn/), located some 30 odd miles south of Hollister California. Our road trip required three cars more or less caravanning and featuring at least a hundred stops along the way as lattes, film, fruit, ice and assorted foods were procured. Now by nature I am not a real outdoorsman type but it is nearing the end of summer, another year has passed and I got suckered into it. So off into the heat I went, deeper and deeper into Steinbeck country, and at one point the car that I was riding in got dived bombed by a flock of starlings committing a hari-kari suicide mission type deal most of whom were sucked into the grill of the car or pressed flat against the windshield and passenger side window. An omen we no doubt should have heeded and just turned around and gone home instead of scraping off the goo and continuing along our way whilst praising the aerodynamics of German engineering.
Pinnacles Campground lies in a very shallow dried up creek bed just off highway 146 enclosed by the desiccated and barren Gabilan Mountains that make up Bear Valley. Though no bears were to be found on our trip there were in abundance wild boars, tarantulas, deer, coyotes, cotton tail bunnies and numerous species of flying things – bats, condors, vultures and ravens, magpies and screaming mad blue-jays who conspired in the shadows hoping to mug us for anything we were eating. In the late afternoon a particularly obnoxious type of black fly would descend and hover and bite until the sun went down, this was of course preferable to the yellowjacket hornets that besieged us when we arose to start our day trying to drink your first sip of coffee as the stinging bee type thing is doing the same, therefore almost making it into your mouth at the same time. Ah, nature at its best.
The campground was run by a very large fat lady who seemed pissed off all of the time, but maybe it was just the heat and all, though I did overhear a conversation regarding chaffing that she was having with an equally fat camper. There was a swimming pool that the cotton tailed bunnies used more than anybody else or at least used to shit around in great quantities and a small building with showers off to one side with “extra security” doors to keep out the marauding gangs of wild boars, though why we should only be scared of the wild boars while taking a shower and not, let’s say, when we’re lying in our tents, I don’t know? But anyway – the showers were a strange contraption that required quarters to turn on the hot water, bringing sleazy motels or high class Tijuana jails to mind – and all the RV’s and trailers were off in their own little fenced-in, boar-free enclave with the electrical and water hook ups, they didn’t need the facilities so we were pretty much on our own as boar bait.
As for camping, what can I say? Some things never change: the ground is still hard, at night there’s no god damn noise except the rustle of “things” (read boars) in the bushes and outside – first thing in the morning, it’s awful bright. Coming back from the shower you had to keep an eye on the road because the huge hairy fat black tarantulas love to sun themselves on the blacktop and there were quite a few hundred doing just that, the fat lady said to be careful because they could jump up at you, but it was way too hot for anybody to be doing any jumping and besides they probably only jump to get out of the way when she waddles past.
We took one hike into Pinnacles National Monument that promised a trek through bat caves, but it turns out that they had been closed due to the bats freaking out over too much contact with people and they now needed some quiet time to themselves, so we sort of went around and got above near the “pinnacles” – large pointy rocks that should have fallen over but somehow have escaped the earthquakes – and saw spectacular views, breath taking vistas and gaping holes leading to other dark caves covered in bat guano. There were, of course, another few thousand tarantulas hiking with us and lurking at every turn of the trail so that we all sort of moved lively along our hike waiting to get back to the campground and its modest amount of safety.
At night we cooked massive feeds and waited until the fat lady left so that we could burn large amounts of wood in our fire, thereby breaking all the rules concerning fires that were posted through out the campsite. NO WOOD FIRES! Signs were everywhere and charcoal was the price of platinum at the fat lady’s store, so we were forced to buy a bag or two just to look good and then even the picnic tables were going in after the sun went down. At one point during a beaucoup flame up another camper materialized out of the dark, probably some RV dude, and pointed out that wood fires were against the rules – “Do we really look like the kinda guys who follow the rules?” was the reply! Talk about your male bonding!
All in all I had fun, got sun burnt, insect bit and a stiff neck but in the end it was worth doing, I guess. Civilization still looked pretty good as we sped through the traffic of San Jose and onto the peninsula while Burger King’s and Wal*Mart’s blurred into one another in a cluttered semblance of reality as I hurried home to a soft bed and food served without indistinguishable black bits in it!
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Saturday, September 25th, 2004 at
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I’ve been living in my modest domicile for like what? A year? Two? (Christ, it has been two years!) And though it is not large enough or even remotely roomy, sorta more what money guzzling San Francisco landlords in a cruel attempt at deception tend to describe as cozy or compact, so consequently there really isn’t that much to cleaning it and for the most part I do it on the regular and all. But a real problem has recently arisen and that has to do with the 6 by 8 foot section that I’ll designate as the “Bedroom” and its carpeting. This is in fact how I can distinguish it from the rest of the apartment: The rest – all five feet of the kitchen being laid out in a parody of tile inscribed linoleum or the institutional yellow non-slip surface of the bathroom/shower area, but that thankfully is behind its own imitation laminated wood door.
Now I’ve tried to keep up in a cleanly sort of way against the infernal soot that the elevated freeway spews in from the window as well as the dust that creeps in under the door from the hall. But after all this time, with nothing but a small brush and dustpan to sweep with the floor, well, the carpet to be exact has suffered. You can brush a carpet all that you want but there are fibers and twills and layers to contend with and it really doesn’t get very clean, and it’s not like I’ve been hovering over it with happy fingers as I eat tortilla chips in an imitation of a desert sandstorm or that I gleefully spit cherry pits across the room once I am done with the fruit, but the carpet is sort of thick with bits you might say—little strange pieces of life that have strayed on my foot from outside and landed here on my floor and into my rug. The question of what to do with them has now materialized.
You would think that in an apartment building whose numerous hallways are entirely covered in carpet, the management would see fit to lend a resident one of their many industrial grade vacuum cleaners. But no, apparently it’s against management’s wishes and there is what was described to me at the front desk as a “no go policy” which I can only interpret as that they are not going to lend one to me and anyway seeing what shambles my neighbors make of their own belongings not to mention their lives, I can hardly protest that I’m what? Different? And they should bend their rules and make an exception. But the idea of going out and buying a vacuum seems absurd just to clean a 6 by 8 foot section of floor, not to mention like just where in hell I am supposed to store the damn thing when it’s not in use. And for a quick second I thought that others in the building may be experiencing this same dilemma and that maybe I could organize a vacuum coalition where we as neighbors communally shared the use as well as the storage but then I’m back contemplating what neighbors are at hand and I think we’d have problems even deciding if we trusted the first one of us to store it or, as is my fear, just expect that person to go down to Sixth Street and pawn it.
At this point I am really nowhere near solving my problem, a problem that I never thought that I’d ever have. Who would have predicted that in the year 2004 that I’d have cultivated such a need for a vacuum or even be presiding over a rug in need of vacuuming for that matter? It wasn’t like in the years past I kept the cleanest of houses – all spotless and pristine with everything in place, nor had I pitched a tent in the midst of the city dump! However the acquiring of household appliances was never a forerunner of my unmet needs or something that I perused the Sunday paper’s ad supplements in order to obtain the best deal while going all ga-ga over the Millennium Hoover Model and checking its dirt absorption ratios and dust bag capacities.
This is just not how I saw my life back in the nineties. But then again I really didn’t see much of a future in the nineties, let alone do I really remember them either! It’s just all a sort of murky blur where I kinda recollect the highlights — if that is indeed what they were. But I’m pretty sure that I can safely say that vacuums were not on the top of my list of must-have items and that cleaning rugs was at best something that others did – those of whom actually had rugs and felt the need to clean them. It’s pretty safe to say that my priorities were a tad screwed up but does an obsession with a clean carpet necessitate that one’s life has taken a turn for the better? Or am I just bowing down to the accepted norm?
Meanwhile at this moment in time I am forced to take a look at just why this bacteria infested fiber floor covering annoys me so? Is it my urbane upbringing coming back to haunt me or do we all get overly fastidious about cleanliness once we’ve reached a certain age? And if the truth be told there were times not that long ago when I did actually have a spacious almost trendy garden apartment with wall to wall carpet and a vacuum and a girlfriend and a different life. But all those bits came unglued and sorta went their separate ways and who knows where the vacuum is now, let alone the girlfriend and besides I was sharing the apartment with someone that I thought was in love with me. So the reason to keep a clean environment was the mutual coexistence of sharing space with another not like now where it’s just me and the microwave watching DVD’s and me writing about shit all on the internet!
Ok, so obviously there’s a morsel of discontent here and the vacuum just sort of got stuck in the crossfire. And it has become all too apparent once I started conversing on the subject and after I announced that I didn’t have or need a vacuum or a future and then I allegedly did but it was in a life that I no longer have and now I seem to be endlessly lamenting and somewhat bitching about the pathetic bit of life that I do have. Could it be that obsessing over the floor is really a misplaced fixation in the name of cleanliness as a way to not address what is really screwed up in my life? Or more to the point – what I have screwed up in my life!
Damn I hate the soul searching drama of self-discovery that precedes an overt observation on my part. It would be so much easier to absent-mindedly come to the same conclusion while drinking coffee and reading the morning paper instead of dissecting my life one layer at a time until I expose the wounded interior to the bright light of day. It’s like waking up and realizing it’s morning and time to get up and start your daily routine and then just giving up to turn over and go back to sleep knowing that you’ll enjoy dreaming life a little better than the real thing.
But getting back to the matter at hand – I’m starting to get the feeling that in setting up my apartment, my life yet again has reached a rather repetitive and tedious point and having to buy things like a dish drying rack or a cutting board for the twentieth time is apparently taking its toll on my psyche and coming to the surface evolved as a soiled rug complex. What an analogy! Messed up life – dirty rug! Internal change – cleaning! It is a tad bit more acceptable intellectually to think that I’m preoccupied with the encrusted carpet because it is an exercise on getting my life together rather than admitting to an obsessive-compulsive disorder of the mind. But if that is so, well herein lies the rub – what exactly is the vacuum representing in this equation? The Eureka Whirlwind Bagless Cyclonic 4880D of self awareness or a little personality overhaul from the good folks down at Royal – “the first name in home care”?
I have often heard it said, well truthfully I only heard it said once and that was in some arcane foreign movie, but anyway here goes – that your home is the mirror of your soul. It may be way past time for some house cleaning on the galactic scale yet it is never too late to put in the work. Which brings to mind that esoteric Zen proverb “Chop wood, carry water” or the long explanation in English – find inner peace in the ordinary routine and once you have attained enlightenment life doesn’t stop. Obviously I still have so much work to do here and in the end my carpet is still as complete a mess as I am.
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Friday, September 24th, 2004 at
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