A few weeks ago I got sick of my cable company’s usurious fees, terrible customer service, out of date equipment, degrading internet speed and them being assholes in general. So I canceled, signed up with one of their competitors, and arranged an installation date. I will not name my old provider because I’m fairly certain the new provider will also turn out to be an asshole and I’ll be dancing this dance again in a year or so.
The day the my new company’s installer arrived he told me that he couldn’t hook me up because was a problem with the power lines and the telephone pole’s structural integrity. “I ain’t going up there,” he said. “Call the power company and have them fix it.”
I wanted to call the installer a chickenshit but went with. “But I cancelled my old service! They’ll go offline in three days!” instead.
“You never cancel until your new service is up and running,” the installer said. “Don’t you know that?”
There had been series of snow storms recently and I had the sneaking suspicion that the power company was going prioritize hospitals, nursing homes and schools over my bandwidth needs. Unfair but true – as the power company confirmed by saying it’d be three weeks until they could spare a man to fix things. Three days later my television went dark. No more HBO, Netflix, Hulu, You Tube, data streams or on demand video. “Well,” I said to my wife, “We can pretend it’s the 80’s again.”
Eric Sevareid once said, “No man was ever more than about nine meals away from crime or suicide.” I’ve always joked that if the Chinese pulled a digital Pearl Harbor by taking out the internet people would start throwing themselves off bridges within a day. Once, when I was living with a roommate, a summer squall knocked out our power for three days and my web surfing roomie began to look like he was kicking heroin. Since Internet withdrawal’s a bitch, my wife went to the local library and borrowed a mess of Disney films and kiddie books to keep my daughter entertained. My wife and I used our phones to get our data fix until our cellular data plan decided to run out of gigabytes and forced us to ration what we had left. So, once or twice a day, I’d turn on the cellular data to quickly sip some bandwidth in order to get my mail and messages. I felt like a submariner raising his periscope in enemy waters. Run silent, run deep.
Oddly enough, my five year old daughter had no problem being cut off from the lifeblood of the web. Sure, she groaned over my wife and I suddenly not using our smartphones as pacifiers, but she enjoyed watching that Cinderella DVD eight times. My wife and I have been very careful with Natalie and the Internet. When she was four she’d throw tantrums when we took her iPad away so, since exorcisms are not recognized parenting options, we just banned it from the house. So Natalie was already used to digital deprivation. My wife and I, however, were not.
After two weeks my wife said, “This is getting old.”
“If I have to watch that Cinderella DVD with Natalie one more time,” I said, “I’m going to become a feminist and burn my bra. And was Walt Disney deranged or something? All the parents die in his movies and their kids end up going on a grand adventure and live happily ever after. Parents are extraneous in his world!”
“Let it go,” my wife began to sing. “Let it go….”
“You’re not helping.”
“Hey,” my wife said, patting my thigh, “There are other things we could do to entertain ourselves.”
“If we end up with another kid,” I groaned. “We’re naming him FIOS or Optimum. And he’ll be evil.”
My wife uses the internet to Facebook, chat with her friends and surf IMDB to see which old TV show has the highest cast member mortality rate. Some of those shows were cursed. Me? I use the internet to tempt my daughter with old cartoons so she’ll brush her teeth. (Exorcism isn’t a parental skill but bribery sure as hell is.) I also use it to stoke my pocketknife obsession on You Tube. I found a guy called “Advanced Knife Bro” who produces short, funny and well-made videos that basically calls out “knife nerds” like me for using our pocket jewelry for nothing more manly than opening a bag of chips. But I noticed both Annie and I used the internet to “zone out” when the demands of work, parenthood, and marriage got to be too much. Probably not a good thing but hey, at least we aren’t hitting the bottle – yet.
Finally, the power guy showed up and began cursing out the cable company. He agreed with my assumption that the cable installer had left his man card in his other pants. “There’s nothing wrong with that line,” he said. “Those cable guys are such delicate flowers.”
So I called my new provider and made another appointment. “About four days,” they said. “Monday morning at 8. That okay?”
The night before the installer was due to arrive we got slammed with six inches of wet, heavy snow and I was convinced the installer was going to bail. I stayed up late watching Trumbo on DVD and didn’t get to bed until 3:00 AM. Imagine my surprise when the installer rang our bell at 8:00 AM sharp.
“I can’t believe he’s here.” I said to my wife. “Go downstairs and let him in.”
“Because you have cleavage and I do not. You want the internet back? Whatever it takes.”
After my wife made oinking noises and compared me to a pimp, I brushed my teeth and went downstairs. If the installer had any problems with me being naked under my bathrobe, he gave no sign.
“And I glad to see you,’ I said, hopefully not to eagerly.
“I’ll have you up in a half an hour,” he said. “It’s an easy install.”
“Really?” I said. “The last guy said the power lines were a problem.”
The installer grimaced. “You don’t need to go on the pole to do this job,” I nodded, realizing the guy didn’t want to badmouth his colleague for being a lazy bastard. Considering my sexist remark to my wife, I also thought it was a neat double entendre.
While the man worked, tripping over toys and our dog, I went into the kitchen to make coffee. “Hey honey,” I said. “You got a ten spot in your purse? I’ve got no cash.”
“What do you need ten bucks for?”
“To tip the guy.”
“What? I don’t remember tipping cable guys in your book.”
“It’s still a nice thing to do.” I said, which was bullshit. I wanted to grease him so he’d put me on the top of his list in case he had to come back later.
“I don’t have any cash either. Offer him some coffee.”
“I did. He said he was good.”
“Then I don’t know what to tell you.”
When the installer finished he gave me a tutorial on my new system’s features showed me how to use the remote. After I made sure I could get all my gizmos online I handed him five bucks in crumpled singles.
“Buy yourself a cup of coffee.”
“Thanks, man,” the installer said, looking very surprised.
After he left my wife said, “Where did you find five bucks? And didn’t you want to give him ten?”
“That’s all Natalie had in her piggy bank.”
“You’re impossible!” my wife said.
Yep, I tried pimping out my wife and stole from my kid – all for cable TV. As I drank my morning coffee and scrolled through hundreds of channels with nothing on, I realized digital withdrawal had turned me into a bit of an asshole. Maybe that’s been the evil plan of the telecom conglomerates all along. Get ‘em hooked, drive up the price and then treat the customers like shit. Sounds like every drug dealer I’ve ever come across. I shouldn’t fall for their machinations. I should be better than that, but I’m not.
In any case, something tells me my wife and I won’t be trying for Fios or Optimum tonight.