Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Mercury’s in Retrograde, My Internet’s on the Fritz, and My Altice SIM Card is Getting Dusty

Oh, that darned Mercury in Retrograde again…despite my highly charged beautiful purple amethyst proudly displaced on my desk (a gift from a gifted friend who shared these beautiful rocks with all of us), it was insufficient protection against the failure of all electronic devices in my home to declare war on me simultaneously, and my otherwise calm psyche this evening. If this happens to post online consider it nothing short of a miracle.

I was minding my business this freezing Veteran’s Day evening, having loaded up Barney into the warm car and trekked out in search of dinner for his family and mine (that’s code for pizza) and I ordered two different types of “hot ‘n fresh” pizzas at Little Caesar’s window. I asked the clerk whether they were both hot and fresh and she told me honestly that one was, and the other not so much. “Okay,” I said, “I’ll wait for two fresh ones.” She said, “If you’ll just pull around front and wait for 10-12 minutes and then come inside you can have them then.”

Hmm…the point of the drive-thru was to wait in a heated car. Getting out. Okay, I’m not too old or too grumpy to disallow the possibility of freezing, only to be rewarded by pizza. I did, however, ask her for a favor (though). I said, “Could you please divide both pizzas in half and place two different halves in one box so both boxes would be the same?” Without even a second to consider it, she said, “No, we can’t do that.” “Okay,” I said and Barney and I drove around to wait our 10-12 minutes and play 3 or 4 games of Word Chums while we waited. Going inside a very nice young man, Chris, agreed to do what I’d asked before about the splitting of the pizzas, no fuss, no muss. “Yay” I thought, and then “She” saw him doing my bidding.

“She” cast eyes of disapproval toward him and my two pizzas so I boldly said loud enough for her to hear, “Yes, he knows your policy is not to do that, the dividing them into two identical pizzas but he took pity on me and made this customer very happy.” “She” didn’t look up but as she stared anywhere but at me, I could see she was disappointed at being thwarted. I mean, when you make the doggie tradeoff in 30°F weather, do you really want the hot pizza box opened in the cold weather and the swap made there? Why no, no you don’t.

I managed to exit worried that Chris was going to get “what-for” from her over making an exception for someone who qualifies for senior pricing even if I don’t feel as though I deserve it (yet). The pizza caper behind me, I sat down to enjoy an episode of “JAG” as I knew that WGN would have a Veteran’s Day marathon as USA Network had one with “NCIS” earlier today during lunch (and the new programming on USA, by the way? A bunch of smut. Weird smut. Take it from a person who qualifies for senior pricing to tell you…pass on by. Nothing to see there. Apparently, anyone can pitch a show and the weirder it is, the more they want to pay for it. Sigh. Missing “La Femme Nikita” and “Suits” on USA already…but I digress).

Two bites of pizza in and my TV picture begins to “pixilate.” I learned that term from Suddenlink, many years ago when describing to them what happened to most all my NBC related stations’ programming. The big transponder doohickey that’s uplinked to the gizmo that travels to the fiber optic doodad…well, none of that word salad is right but let’s just say that the photographs break up into little pixels and the dialogue on TV sounds a whole like Chris Matthews reading the teleprompter every day. “Blap. Boop. Barrrp. Blep.” I don’t listen to Chris Matthews, but I know what he sounds like.

My key episode of “JAG” was slowly disintegrating in front of my eyes, sigh. Then, my internet went “out” on my computer…all three screens had the famous dinosaur pic on the google home page and the time out error and the “we can’t reach the server” message and I had planned on sending something I had edited earlier in the evening to a client…and it was a rush job due tomorrow…and I’d waited long to get our dinner simply to finish it. Dang.

I did a reboot or two of my computer. Same problem. I called my VIP phone number of Suddenlink and happened to remember my password (always a thrill not to have to look something up!) and while I’m doing this a phone call on my internet-based home line reads “Cablevision” calling and I answer, “Hello?” three times until I decide no one is there. Aw dang, do I need to block one more call today? Already blocked four of those pests before…

Well, I’m on my cell phone and have a 30-minute wait for a technician on Suddenlink…no, I’m not kidding. Yes, it was 34 minutes that I waited before “James” got on the line. Now, I have to give it to James. He’s not in the Suddenlink Tyler HQ but he’s in Florida, and it’s warm there. We try rebooting, unhooking, disconnecting, rebooting, unhooking, disconnecting and then we try my reacquainting my laptop with the good ol’ ethernet connection cable but nothing doing. Still got a pixilated Catherine Bell and David James Elliot and John M. Jackson as Admiral Chegwidden (be still my heart). And my pizza was getting cold.

I discussed with James, while we waited the 5 minutes between rebooting the TIVO and the router, his interest in playing the blues as he’s a guitarist. I told him I had the “Intermittent Connection and Pixilated Picture Blues” and he laughed. I was serious. I had work to do tonight!! Most of you who work 8 to 5 jobs have no concept of the wonky donkey hours I have been known to keep here at Headquarters, depending on the various time zones of the folks I work with. But, call whenever you want, I’ll answer the phone.

After more than one hour with James on the case, he reluctantly assigned me to a technician, but being a Suddenlink pro at this I said, “Now you’re going to tell me that the fastest you can get someone here is Friday, but that’s not going to work so I need for you to look again”…he came up with Wednesday am. Meanwhile the next JAG episode is on.

I get a wild hair to hook up an old router to see if a slower connection speed (the NOT-5g speed) might not be more stable. Nope, nope, and nope. And then I’m in the middle of rehooking up all the equipment and the “landline” phone rings again and it’s Cablevision on the phone and I answer and the man said, “This is Altice Mobile calling for Dawn Vakefield”…I said, “Yes, I’m Dawn Wakefield,” with an emphasis on the W, and I note that it’s 9:28 pm and curious as to why he’s calling so late in Veteran’s Day, grateful anyone at Altice even gives a flying fig about me at all, no matter what the time of day.

He said his name, Jake, and I know good and well it’s not Jake. It’s probably Edgar, but he wishes he’d been named Jake, and not that there are not a lot of great Edgars and all but…Just Jake and I don’t hit it off right away. He said he can’t hear me well. There was static on the line. I said, “Yes, that’s a problem I’m having with Suddenlink right now.” “I’m not with Suddenlink, I’m with Altice Mobile and I can’t help you with your Suddenlink problem.” I said, “I get that but if you want to talk to me you’re going to have to call me on my cell phone as that is the only device not on Altice or Suddenlink right now.” Then, you’d have died laughing had you heard the way in which I tried to give him my 10-digit phone number as alternate to call me back on, and the “static” kept parsing our sentences and even words and then even numbers. What was the area code again?

“979” I said. He said, “I got ’79.’”

“No,” I said, “979” and he said, “97…?” and I said “979” as fast as you could sing along to 867-5309 if you know the song “Jenny” by Tommy Tutone. (If you don’t, call me and I’ll sing it to you. Anyway.)

I then took the next 3 digits and we did those fast, too. And then to cap it off, I’m dying laughing as I try to rush the last 4 digits as well…Jake Edgar is laughing, too. He doesn’t play the guitar or care about the blues I am certain, but I didn’t even care enough about Jake to ask because when he called me back on my cell, I said, “I’m just in the middle of trying to reconnect my router and my TIVO box to see if my cable is fixed yet.”

He said, “I’m sorry I can’t help you with that, I’m with Altice Mobile.” I said, “Actually, I understand that, even though technically you’re all part of Altice now, out of the big New York City conglomerate but I’m not asking you to help me reconnect my TV, just give me a minute to finish recalling where the yellow cables go in and then undo the correct power source and then reinstall the power line.” Jake Edgar was a tad huffy as he said, “It is not productive use of my time to wait on the phone until you reconnect your cable system when I’m supposed to help you on your Altice mobile phone problem. I can call you back.” I said, “Jake, call me back in 5 minutes” and hung up before he could.

I then correctly reconnected the yellow cable line from TIVO box to router and you’d have thought I held a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering, when I completed all three tasks without having any extra parts left over.

Anyway, Jake called back and I said, “Look, let’s start over. I wanted to reconnect the cable in the event you asked me to access my Altice mobile account online which I couldn’t, thanks to Suddenlink and by the way, you couldn’t understand me on my home phone you called because it’s a home phone on the Suddenlink $10/month bundle package for old people for life and it’s driven by the cable system which was going in and out constantly.” He said, “oh.” And I thought that was his wisest sentence to date.

I said, “Now I am going to tell you why you are calling me.” He said, “okay.” I said, “SEVEN days ago, I called Altice Mobile for the 7th time in 4 weeks hoping to know when my cell phone service would have my number “Ported over” from AT&T the way your reps promised me it would be “soon.” Now, here’s the deal Jake, 5 weeks ago your Suddenlink rep, Christy, told me that I was paying too much to AT&T for my cell phone for unlimited talk and text and with a quick, easy process I could go to save $600/year “for life” for exactly the same service and I could bring my same number.

Christy, I thought then, should have been the President of Suddenlink that night when we were working on my Suddenlink account. I had made my usual “Let’s talk about this latest bill” phone call to them when they thought I’d won the jackpot and decided to raise my monthly bill by 70% and Christy managed to keep my business with Suddenlink so I could start my 23rd year of being held hostage, err, I mean, being their customer.

All y’all Verizon people…it’s better in big cities but in Mayberry, Verizon, aka Frontier Communications is not the way to roll. Neither are T-Mobile, Sprint or Cricket, not all the places I find myself using the phone across the wide USA. I need these Suddenlink people and I thought AT&T could do no wrong. Well, forget that.

All it took was a phone call to AT&T, keep my account active, Christy had advised, and then request them to “unlock” my phone. I did. I got my account number and my Secret Squirrel Pin number and those were what I had to give Christy to get the move started. She created an Altice account for me and I didn’t write down the number but she said, she’d send my new SIM card out right away. A few days went by and no SIM card. Hmm.

Then I saw a message on my home phone (powered by Suddenlink); we’re talking still early October. A person named Yolanda was kind enough to call me and ask if I were expecting anything from Altice Mobile, and if so, her phone number was XYZ and to give her a call. I was thrilled she could find me because land lines are rarely in the book…and my land line is really a Suddenlink fiber optic internet-powered thingy but no matter, she found me. Turns out she lives 3 miles away in a nearby neighborhood…I know two folks who live on that block…but there was no way it should have gone to her and she had not recently changed over to Altice Mobile. Hmm…a mystery. I should have looked for Mercury back then.'

So, I insert the SIM card and the number that came up was “NOT” my regular number. I also could not receive any phone calls, messages, or text messages at my “old” number with the new SIM card in. Had to replace AT&T SIM card and I was getting reallllllllly good at popping those little teeny micro cards in and out of the SIM card slot. I’m thinking I am doing a Post-Doc in Electrical Engineering to switch out these cards. I live in an alternate reality sometimes, so just humor me. It’s warm there and they know me. I’m good.

So, Christy said, “It can take a few days so hang in there.” Two weeks later, I have people texting me saying, “I called you and left you a voice mail at your new number. Did you get it?” Um, what new number and what voice mail? Turns out when I texted them on old AT&T SIM card but they see an entirely different number on their screen…I sent an e-mail to 12 colleagues to let them know to call me on my old number and no matter what they see on the screen when I reach them, it’s really “good ol’ me.” Finally I couldn’t take it anymore and last week I went up to the Suddenlink office after Melinda, on instant chat at the Altice Mobile site, said I really needed to go into the store and they’d have it all fixed up for me.

Entering the office, I saw a lady who’d worked there since it was Community Cablevision 40 years ago. I didn’t get to see her. In fact, I had a full 30-minute wait and my back had been realllly bothering me that morning. Another lady behind me came in wearing socks and Adidas sandals because her back was hurting her, and so we practiced alternating sitting 5 minutes at a time in the one chair available there, and we saved one another’s place in line each time. We bonded over back pain. It’s Mayberry and everyone just shares, frankly, and we all work together to help one another through whatever. It’s just what we do here.

Finally reaching the rep at one desk, I turn around to hear a tiny lady about 50 years old, wearing British Carnaby Street hat and perky little outfit 20 years too young for her. She was loud and insisting someone had been taken in line ahead of her. She was so disagreeable that I thought I was going to have to go back there and perform a citizen’s arrest, complete with adrenaline, as she was really getting ugly with the service reps. One rep came over and confronted her, only to have her say, loudly, “You’re messing with me today and God is my number one!” I turned to look back at my rep, who looked back at me and I said, “I’m not sure God is here right now at Suddenlink but if He were, I’m not altogether convinced that he’d want to claim that one.” The rep she was regaling against said quietly…”he’s my number one, too.” Boom.

Then five minutes later, another woman went off on another rep, loudly, and I wondered which local pharmacy had run short on their recipes for peace and quiet…when both of these women seem to have run out of theirs…because surely they were in need of some calming influence (had they run out of hooch? I wondered). I was much taller than the little loudmouth ladies, so I was prepared to go all NCIS over them, should someone need a special agent, haha, but the supervisor managed to politely handle them and invited one of them to leave, which she did.

Lord, have mercy. What are people coming to when they explode on people who are actually trying to help them? Egad. Well, after Sharon, my counter rep and I spent 20 minutes on ‘chat’ with the Altice Mobile reps, she said that I’d have to now create an account, which we did together, so Christy had not created the full account info for me, aha, and that Sharon had heard that a colleague that worked with her had waited 10 days for AT&T to port the number over to Altice. Ruh-ro. I was in for a long, hard winter, I feared.

Last Saturday, the one 9 days ago, I got a text from Top Client asking me did I still have two phone numbers and which should he call me on. Sigh. It would be one of two almost identical texts from two Top Clients with the question “How much longer do we see the ‘wrong’ number when you text us back?” Heck if I know. So, I signed into my Altice Mobile account, and did the chat portal for the 7th time in 2 weeks. My rep, Chantel, and I decided she would escalate my claim and I’d hear back from “Engineering” within 48 hours. Oh good! Last Monday came and went and no call from Engineering, Escalation, or even Escalators…nothing.

So, tonight, amidst my literal entanglement of cables, cords, power wires, and a portable speaker I never use on this TV (don’t want to hurt Barney’s supersensitive ears by playing my music on TV too loud to suit him) and well…Jake Edgar got a bit of my wrath at that point. I did point out to Jake Edgar that my 48-hour escalation had taken an additional 168 hours to be fully escalated to crisis stage.

So, Jake Edgar wrapped up by saying, “I’m so very sorry this happened to you. It will be a very quick fix to get that portal thing done and I promise you they will call you immediately when it’s done.” I think it was the quiver in my voice that caused him to apologize for my inconvenience I’d experienced these past 6 months. I guess the extra $79 for another useless month of AT&T and an extra $20 two weeks ago to start off my lifetime of savings with Altice Mobile, so far has cost me $100 but to save $600 a year on cell service seems worth it. AT&T wants to make it hard for me to save money but I’m scary stubborn and determined to save so I can buy more dog treats for Barney (wait, who typed that? Who wrote that? Barneyyyyy!) I’m determined to save and that’s the end of that sentence.

Now, here we are at 1:37 am, and I’ve had functioning e-mail now for about 24 minutes…the TV pic is not pixilated any more and though "JAG" ended, Gibbs is back. And more importantly, I’ve been able to send 3 work projects without the “Lost internet connection” symbol popping up. Whew! Goodbye Ethernet cable, goodbye slow router, goodbye waiting forever to see a web site populate my screen.

Now, oopsie, there’s a little pixilation now and then on a channel here and there but I’m up to 95% consistent speed and considering it’s 35°F right now and no rain, we’re good. The internet cable from the pole to the houses are swinging in the wind no doubt…and I’m going to make sure that technician comes out on Wednesday to triple-check all my connections. After all I pay that extra $6.99/month for the privilege when it used to just be $4.99/month. Ah, the price of technology and its maintenance.

Oops, the screen is pixilating a little, and the internet connection is blinking a little as the wind roars like a train engine coming round the bend out there. While I can, I’m going to get a little rest until some phone rings telling me I’m now with Altice Mobile. It won't be a call from Christy. I texted her today (on her personal cell number she gave me so I wouldn't be bounced around 100 reps?) and she told me that she had moved to another city and quit her job at Suddenlink (who sold the Altice mobile product to me) because her uncle had died. Sigh. I expressed my condolences and...well, you just knew that was going to happen, didn't you?

E-mail me if you need me until I get the other communication devices in and out of the Mercury in Retrograde in Scorpio Repair Shop. That's where I believe we'll all be for the next 8 days.

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