Monday, April 12, 2004

On The Line

Our phone line has been getting increasingly fuzzy over the last couple of weeks. I finally got to calling the phone company today. Over the fuzz, I talked with a lady who told me that if the problem was internal, I would either have to pay a $90/hour fee for inside service, fix it myself, or add inside service to my account for $3.95. But if I wanted the inside service I had to do it immediately, before she transferred me to the service department. I chose the last option, and was transferred to the service department where another lady explained that to test whether the problem was internal or external I would have to locate a gray box on my house, unscrew a screw, plug a phone in outside, and make a phone call to test it.

This sort of household fiddling is not my cup of tea and it has been pouring rain all day, but DOB is still on crutches and we were both very tired of the fuzz, which was making conversation nigh impossible. So I put on my raincoat (which fortunately is still buttonable) and boots, found a screwdriver, and ventured forth. Sure enough, right outside the garage door were a number of gray boxes with wires, and one of them had a special section just for customers to unscrew. To be sure it was a Phillips screw and the lady on the phone had said to take a flat-head driver, but it worked just fine to unscrew it, so I did not worry about it. Inside, howerver, there was no phone jack.

I was perplexed, so I summoned DOB, who donned crutches and slippers and hopped out to look. He informed me that this was the wrong box, and I must extend my search to the other end of the house. So he went back to work while I rescrewed that box and searched farther afield. Sure enough, at the other end of the house was yet another gray box (I had no idea houses had so many), this one not only with a friendly customer access option, but with a flat screw and a label that said "Phone Line." So I was pretty sure I was on the right track. I unscrewed it, and sure enough inside was a phone jack.

I turned to go inside and get the phone to plug in, when I suddenly felt myself lurching forward with my feet entangled. I looked down and saw a wire waving in the breeze, with a tag at the end that said, "If this wire is loose, call Verizon." Feeling a sense of dread, I went inside and discovered the phone line was, indeed, dead. I told DOB what had happened, and he put on his shoe and his jackets and hat and crutched out to look. He determined that the situation was serious, but suggested I test the phone in the box before calling Verizon just to make a full report.

So I came in, got the phone, plugged it in outside and stood in the pouring rain making a phone call. Sure enough, it worked fine. So I returned to report this to DOB and was about to call Verizon from the cell phone to report it when it occurred to me that I could make the call from the outside phone line. Faced with the option of standing in an ice cold downpour, my feet in a puddle, holding a large kitchen phone and a screwdriver while listening to hold music, or racking up cell phone minutes, I made the obvious choice.

I should have taken gloves, though. They answered surprisingly quickly, considering, and the fellow on the other end was very apologetic. "You're actually standing in the rain? O my g**, O my g**, Is the rain actually hitting you? Oh my g**, I'm so sorry." I was ready to dispense with the apologies and get on with fixing the phone. He informed me that the inside service was not showing up on my account, and that anyway the $3.95 was only if you waited 30 days for it to activate; immediate activation meant a $39.95 charge for the first month. I was standing in the rain and my feet were getting wet and our phones were dead. I said to go ahead and please send someone out ASAP. He promised someone by 3:25 tomorrow.

I returned inside, where DOB had verified that we still had internet access even though the phones were still dead. Mystifying. There seemed nothing to do but wait, so I dealt with a few remaining outdoor tasks, put on dry socks and tea, and sat down to collaborate on the spreadsheet he was working on. Shortly thereafter, the doorbell rang and outside stood the Verizon guy, coming by to check on how involved the problem was. He went out back to look, then came in a few moments later. We tried the phone lines: dial tone, no fuzz. The repairman reported that the phones were probably dead because I had jerked the connection out when I opened the thingamajooker in the box outside; as to the fuzz, well, maybe it had been loose. Anyway, it should be no charge so not to worry. Asked about the loose wire, he said it was just a grounding wire and he would go make sure it was secured. And off he went.

So now it looks like I paid $39.95 for nothing. I wonder if they'll let me take it off now. Bleh.

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