I'm old enough to remember going outside and turning an antenna pole to tune in a television channel. If we were lucky we got all three networks and a fuzzy PBS station. We had one television and it wasn't a color one until I was in the third grade - or maybe the fourth. I'm not sure now. I do remember the screen. It was round. The remote control was the youngest child being ordered by Dad to get up off the sofa and change the channel. Surfing didn't happen.
When I was in the seventh grade neighbors told us about cable tv and something called "Home Box Office." I was fascinated with the idea of being able to see a movie anytime you wanted. The miracle of video tape recorders happened while I was in college. Not that I could afford one. Who knows what kind of degree I would have had, if I hadn't been required to schedule classes around my daily viewing of Ryan's Hope.
Today I own three televisions, all with remote controls (the ones you put batteries in), two dvd players, one leased dvr, and a couple of outdated vhs recorders. I also have digital cable with more channels than I can watch. One would think I should be happy with my tv viewing experience.
One would be wrong.
It's all about expectations.
When I was a child I was happy to run outside in the freezing rain and turn a metal pole so I could watch a grainy black and white episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents on a 20-inch screen. I didn't expect more.
Today I pay big money to watch too-many-to-count digital cable programs on a 42-inch, high definition, color, flat screen television. And in exchange for my investment in expensive equipment and hefty cable bills, I expect perfection. Or at least the ability to view an entire episode of America's Got Talent without pixilation (the image scrambling) and the sound dropping out every ten seconds.
Yes, I'm coming off a week of dealing with the dreaded, despised, cable tv company. I know some of you feel my pain.
My first sign of trouble was a couple of months ago when the "cable company provided" (and required for HD channels) dvr started randomly turning itself off and then rebooting. This happened without warning when I'd use the remote to access the menu/guide, change channels, or - hey, sometimes I'd just look at the remote funny and it would take offense and shut off.
This happened once or twice a month - not enough to make that "pain in the you know what" service call. But last week, the problem escalated to three or four meltdown events a day. I couldn't ignore it any longer. Plus the pixilation and sound problems began interfering with watching any HD channel. I was paying for an expensive "something" that I wasn't getting - and you can imagine how I felt about that.
The cable company claimed to be there to help and would send a technician out between 10 and 2 the next day. Since this wasn't my first rodeo, when they asked for a contact phone number, I gave them my cell number. Cell phones are wonderful tools in dealing with the cable company. Remember when you used to wait at home all day for the cable guy to show up? And since they never wanted to waste a service call on someone who wasn't home, you'd have to sit next to the phone, ready to take that all important verification call? Remember when after eight hours of waiting and they didn't show up, you complained? And remember when the cable company's response was that the cable guy called before coming out and you didn't answer, so they cancelled the appointment? And remember the rage and helplessness you felt at their lie? Evil, I tell you. Pure evil. Today, cell phones with call logs have changed the cable customer's world.
So at 2:30 pm that day, the cable guy rang the doorbell. (Note: he was only 30 minutes outside my appointment time). He looked at the reception on the television - a little pixilation was all that was occurring. He started the "nothing wrong here" and "you've got to expect a little flickering" speech. I showed him what I had recorded from the night before - the episode of Rookie Blue where the sound for every other word was dropped and whole scenes were unwatchable. He told me he couldn't do anything since the problem wasn't happening currently. I could sense him inching his way backwards, towards the door. I protested. He started the "I could schedule another appointment" if the problem returned, when a miracle happened. The dvr box shut off and rebooted. Right in front of him. He stared at the tv. I sent up a prayer of silent thanks. There may have been some hand pumping. The cable guy sighed, defeated. His apology for implying I was crazy consisted of, "It's not supposed to do that."
So, happy ending right? Not exactly. Although I had complained about the dvr when I scheduled the service call and requested a new one, the cable guy hadn't brought one with him. But since he now had to do something, he went outside, climbed a ladder, checked a connection and reported it loose, but now fixed. I inquired about the dvr. He told me to call the cable company and tell them the technician said I needed a new dvr.
He left. I made the call. Two days and another vacation day wasted later, I had a new dvr. That evening the pixilation and sound problems were the worst it had ever been. Murder did cross my mind but reason prevailed. Third time was always a charm, right?
I called and scheduled a third service call for Saturday morning, all the while wondering what kind of television reception I might get with an outside antenna on a pole. They still make those, right?
Conclusion: On Friday night my cable reception mysteriously improved 100 percent. Picture was better than it had ever been. Sound was perfect. Something had happened - maybe divine intervention again. More likely a service call in the neighborhood fixed the problem. Tempting fate, I cancelled my service call. I hope the reception is good for tonight. New episodes of The Closer and the debut of Rizzoli and Isles airs on TNT.
aka The Southern Half of Evelyn David