Friday, March 02, 2007

The Telephone Man

So many people are getting rid of their land lines, I had considered it. But I just never got around to it. My cell number is on my resume. It rang one day, and my MIL told me my house phone just rang and rang. I checked -the line was dead. Another phone, another jack, yes, all dead.

So I called the phone company Wednesday and a computer talked to me. By following all the menu options over the span of fifteen minutes, they let me know something was wrong with the line and they would schedule someone to come fix it. Wait a minute! How much is this going to cost me? That question wasn’t a menu option. So I frantically punched zero, and got a real live person on the line, who told me that since I didn’t have the maintenance plan, it would depend on whether the trouble was inside the house or outside. So I cancelled the work order. I can’t afford that.

The next day, I made my decision. I called the business line and asked that my account be terminated. She wanted to know why, so I explained that I couldn’t afford to have the wiring fixed, if that was the problem. I could put you on the maintenance plan today. But that wouldn’t cover a pre-existing condition, would it? Yes, I will put in a waiver so it would cover this problem. Oh, I don’t know. I’m afraid that a repairman will get here, fix it, then tell me I’ll have to pay. No, that won’t happen if I put in a waiver. Are you sure? This kind of thing has happened to me before. Ma’am, we are AT&T/Bell South. We don’t do that to people. I stifled my laugh and said OK, we’ll try that. She told me someone would be there by Friday.

Have you ever heard of retroactive insurance? Me neither. This is the kind of deal you can ONLY get if you ask to have your service terminated. Notice this was never offered Wednesday.

That was Thursday morning. Early Thursday afternoon, the repairman showed up. He listened to all the phones and said, Yes, they’re dead. Now, since you don’t have a maintenance plan, the cost to repair will depend on whether the problem is inside or outside the house. Sigh. Why was I not surprised? OK, don’t fix it; I’ll just have the service disconnected. Then I explained what the woman on the phone told me this morning. No, I don’t have any record of that. We can try it, and if it shows up on your bill, you can have it taken off. Yeah, right. I’ll believe that when pigs fly. Let me take a look, if its something small and easy, I won’t charge you.

So he checks all the phone jacks. The he checks the big part of the basement, where all the spaghetti wiring of several DIY homeowners make him blink. Then he checked the crawl space under the new part of the house, which is a real acrobatic feat. Moe, Larry, and Curly didn’t leave much of an opening in the foundation, and the “door” was a nailed-on piece of paneling. Its a feat for me to get in there, much less a normal-sized man. He ended up back at the phone box. Replaced some parts, and still hadn’t isolated the problem. He took down the wire. Then he climbed the phone pole.

Thats when he discovered his diagnostic equipment was not working. After an hour’s work, he had to start over with a new testing phone. All the jacks, the spaghetti, the crawl space... and he found the problem. It was in the crawl space, a legacy of Moe, Larry, and Curly’s adventures in building my addition. Just another in the long line of repairs to their work.

But then a miracle happened. He said, Since most of the time I spent here was my fault, I won’t charge you for this. The heavens opened. The angels sang.

But I still won’t believe it til I see my next phone bill.


Anonymous Pete Aldin said...

The sad thing is that thre's so many things we all relate to in this and so many things you could get angry about. Ya gotta love companies who...

...only take care of you when you're leavin'
...make a promise on the phone but don't inform the person you deal with face to face
...make arrogant statements like "We're AT&T etc"

I'm impressed you just kind of calmly and stoically moved through the process!

10:07 PM  
Anonymous Rhea said...

I've been thinking of ditching the land line, but I haven't yet. I just don't want my only phone to be a cell phone. The reception is not good enough, for one thing. The other thing is I like avoiding calls sometimes. I don't want friends thinking I am always going to answer.

3:31 PM  

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