The Cablecles
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Right, so Iím sitting here at 4:32 in the afternoon waiting for the cable guy from Charter Communications to come, so he can fix the inside wiring so my cable modem will work. This whole cable modem thing is a long story, it started a month or so ago when I called Charter because I had heard that cable Internet service was available around here now. When I called though, they said it was only available in the City of Kalamazoo, and not the Township, which is where I live. They took my name and phone number down and said that they would call me back when the service was ready. So, two days ago, I get a phone call saying that they're going to be starting up the Internet service in the township, and that I should come out and get my cable modem the following day. So, yesterday, I had a bunch of doctorís appointments that my dad took me to. Incidentally, nobody actually believes that I had doctorís appointments to go to, they all think I was skipping school, but I wasnít. So anyway, between the two appointments, my dad and I had lunch out a Fazoliís on Westnedge, and on the way out there, we stopped at the Charter office on Westnedge to pick up the cable modem. When I went in there however, the lady at the desk said that the service wasnít available yet in Kalamazoo Township. I told her that that was strange, since another lady from Charter had just called and told me to go there to pick up the modem. The lady behind the desk tried to stonewall for a while, but I really wasnít having that, so she called the general manager on her Nextel phone, and he told her that it was up and running just fine. She then told me that they didnít have any modems there, and that she was sorry, and that someone would come out to my house to install it when they got some in. I was pretty pissed by this time, and my dad had just come in from the car wondering what the hold-up was, so I just told her that, "Iíd think about it," and walked out and went to lunch.

After lunch, when I was in my car on the way back to school (even though I had to leave again later for another appointment, I still wanted to try to get to as much of my military history class as possible, since Mr. Cahow teaches it), I called Charter on my cellular phone, and they said that they were really sorry that they had made the mistake of sending me to their office on Westnedge, because it was their office way out in Portage on Commercial Avenue that had the modems, and I could either come out there and pick it up or they could UPS it to me, which would mean that I wouldnít get it for like five days. So, after my second appointment, I went on out there and picked up the modem. When I walked in there, I looked up at the counter and noticed that there was this kid up there getting a cable modem. I guess I wasnít paying too much attention, because when I looked again, I realized that it was Nathan LeZotte and his mother who were there getting the cable modem. So I said, "hey Nathan!" and we talked for a while and then they left. So then it was my turn. I told the lady that I was there to pick up my cable modem and she looked our file up in the computer and was about to go get the modem, but then she tried to baller block, saying that the person whose name was on the account (my dad) had to be there in order to sign for the equipment. I told her that they were about to give it to me at the other place that they had told me to go to that didnít have any modems, and I think that she knew about that situation, because while she was looking my account up on the computer, I noticed that on the last line of this one field it said something like "MODEM Ė BIG MESS, APOLOGY," so she sort of asked the other lady sitting back behind the counter if it was O.K., and since I had the same last name and address on my driverís license as my dad does, she gave me the modem anyway.

So, I get home and hook the modem up to the cable TV line and the laptop and plug it in, and wait for the cable link light to quit flashing and go on solid, meaning that it had linked up to the cable. It said in the manual that this could take up to 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, it was still doing it, so I accessed the web-based configurator program for the cable modem and I found out that after it acquired a downstream channel, it tried to acquire and "range" (where the cable head-end tells the modem how strongly it should transmit onto the cable system) an upstream channel, but this process kept failing, and it started the whole thing over again indefinitely. I wasnít too happy about this, so I called Charterís tech support 800 number, where I was told that it was probably a signal strength problem and that they would send somebody out the next day (today) between 3:00 and 5:00. By the way, itís now 4:47 and nobody has shown up yet.

Anyway, last night, after this tech support thing, I thought maybe it would be a good idea to disconnect the incoming cable line in the house from the splitter that sends the signal off to all the televisions in the house, and to plug the cable modem directly into the incoming line. I did this, but it didnít make any difference. So I plugged everything back in and left the cable modem alone for the rest of the evening.

Today, when I got home from school, I went outside and looked at Charterís big greenish box out in my front yard. I noticed that it was unlocked, so I opened it up and took a look inside. I then went and got the cable modem and a big extension cord, and unscrewed the cable line running to my house from the big cable box, and plugged the cable modem into it instead. When I plugged the cable modemís power cable in, it had connected to the cable system just fine after about 10 seconds. I figured that the Charter technician might get kind of pissed if he came by and I was fiddling around in their box, so I disconnected the cable modem, hooked the houseís cable line back up, and put the cover back on the box. I then got the bright idea that I might check to see if there was a problem in the line between the cable box and the house that they just installed a couple of weeks ago (so itís not buried yet or anything). I went and got a wrench and disconnected the cable line from the little coupler right outside where it goes into the house. I then dragged this cable up near the driveway where I had the cable modem and plugged it in and it still worked! Just for the fun of it, I went and got the laptop and hooked the cable modem up to that out in the driveway, and sure enough, it got on the Internet, at a pretty fast rate. Actually the rate was only 256kbit in and 128kbit out, instead of the 512kbit in that it was supposed to be, but I figured weíd deal with that problem when we come to it (i.e. after the modem works inside my house at all). So anyway, then I went and reconnected the cable TV line to my house and took the laptop and modem inside. I decided that it would be a good idea to test the modem inside my house one more time just in case they had fixed something on the system somewhere (like turned on an amplifier that theyíd forgotten to turn on before), but the modem kept doing the same thing it had been doing inside before, not connecting to the system.

Now, there were a couple of things that I wanted to do this afternoon, one of which was to clean up the laptop packaging and some other packaging materials (like the ones for the cable modem and computers Iím building for people) in the basement, and the other was to call *****, in order to ask her out. I didnít really want to do either of these things before the cable guy showed up though, because if I was in the basement, I probably wouldnít hear him and he would leave. And of course, if I were on the phone with *****, it wouldnít be too slick to be like "So, yeah, anyway, want to go ouÖ <ring ring> Uh, I have to go, the cable guy is here. Uh. Talk to you later ok?", would it? Now maybe a normal person would not think anything was wrong with it and would have called her anyway, but Iím not, so I didnít, ok? So anyway, I decided that I would put both of these things off until the Charter guy had left. While I was outside playing with the laptop and cable modem in the driveway, a UPS truck had come and delivered the case and IEEE 1394 card for a computer Iím building for a neighbor, and most of the other parts had come a few days ago, so I brought all the stuff into the living room, right next to the front door, where the cable guy would presumably be coming, and got to work on building his box. This was fun but kind of hard work because the case wasnít the easiest one Iíve ever worked with, and I had to fish a bunch of hard drive cables around and install the heatsink on the 1200MHz AMD processor and stuff, making sure not to smear the thermal compound around too much so that the CPU doesnít overheat and blow up.

So I finish building this guyís box except for a couple of things like RAM and a CD-ROM drive, which havenít come yet, and itís about 4:30. I was thinking that it was kind of strange that nobody had shown up yet, since the last time somebody came out here to "look at the wiring" (just in general that time, not for cable modems or anything; they just thought that it would be a good idea to look at it because a lot of people in my neighborhood had been complaining about poor picture quality), they showed up about 5 minutes into the appointment timeframe. So, Iím kind of wondering what to do, so I go lie down on my bed for a while to rest because I had walked into the bedroom to look out the window for cable trucks, and, upon not seeing any, felt a bit tired. I lay there for maybe five minutes when the phone rang and it was the doctor Iíd seen yesterday returning a phone call. (I was thinking that maybe it was going to be the cable company or something.) Well, that had pretty much woken me up, as I guess I wasnít really that tired in the first place, so I decided to clean up the mess I had made while building Danís computer in my living room. After I got this cleaned up, it was like two minutes until five, so I went and looked out the window for two minutes, until the Nextel All-Digital National Network indicated, through the time display on the phone, that it was 5:00PM, at which time I called Charter Communications. Now at this point, I felt that the situation called for a quote from a certain Ken Kaniff song that I'm sure you're all familiar with, but I wanted them to send somebody out here, not blacklist me, so instead I just told them that somebody was supposed to be here between 3:00 and 5:00 and that itís 5:00 and theyíre not here. They looked up my account and said that yup, sure enough, someone was supposed to be here, but they must be running late. In fact, she thought that they had gotten held up on a job (not at gunpoint, but like delayed) earlier this morning and it had thrown them off for the whole day. I was about to say something sarcastic like, "and why couldnít somebody have called me and told me this so I didnít have to [waste the whole afternoon | screw up my social life | take the afternoon off from work]," but she had already given me twenty bucks off this monthís cable bill for missing the appointment, (even though she was like "well they didnít really miss it, but I guessÖ") and I guess I must have been feeling soft-hearted or something so I kept my mouth shut. The lady at Charter said that if I wanted to keep waiting, the technician should be here by six oíclock, so I said I would wait. It looks like that was a mistake, because it is now 5:49 (I did some other things besides write this the whole time, like talk to Nathan and Jeremy on the telephone, and talk to my dad for a few minutes when he got here a little while ago), and the guy STILL hasnít shown up!) My dad and I are planning on going out to dinner in about twenty minutes, so I donít have all night to wait around here waiting for the cable company to get their delinquent little selves over here, so in about ten more minutes Iím going to call them back and demand another twenty dollars off the next bill. Of course, they arenít going to give it to me; theyíll say something like, "well, SIR, weíve already given you twenty dollars off on this, and when she said six oíclock, that really wasnít a promise of a second appointment, blah blah blah," but I figure it wonít hurt and will maybe make me feel a little bit less pissed off about the whole thing. I guess the only good thing about this is that Iíve made up my mind that Iím just going to try to find***** after school tomorrow and ask her out for the weekend, rather than doing it on the phone. That will probably be more fun anyway, and at least then Iíll know whether she wants to go out or not. On another note, the neighborsí cat just ran by the window and I thought it was maybe the cable guy, but obviously it wasnít. I wish that I had some wireless networking equipment right now, because Iím getting a little bit bored and have six more minutes to kill before I need to call Charter again, and getting on the Internet and seeing if there is anybody to talk to in IRC, or reading the latest Slashdot headlines or customer-reviews of Charter Communications on dslreports.com (why do they rate cable modem companies on a website called dslreports.com? beats me!) would be a good way to pass the time.

Well, the time passed without the assistance of the Information Superhighway, and now Charterís phone system is screwed up. I called them up, pressed "1" on my DTMF phone to indicate to their system that I am indeed calling from a DTMF phone, and then pressed "3" to talk to a "customer relations advocate" or whatever the heck they call them these days. I then got put on hold, as usual, and after a while, the phone started ringing, also as usual. What was not usual was that this time, nobody picked up the ringing phone after five or six rings, and the darn thing dumped me back to the original main menuÖ

In any event, I eventually got through to them, and sure enough, they didnít give me another twenty dollars, claiming that this was really still the same appointment. They rescheduled the appointment for tomorrow, so I guess weíll just have to see what happens then, or maybe Iíll get industrious with some coax cable and just fix it myselfÖ