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Phoning It In

by Stephen Lautens


February 7, 2003

I got home after Christmas to find my home phone was dead. It took two days to notice the blissful silence. It took another day to decide to get it fixed.

I called the phone company to report my non-functional line. "If your phone isn't working, how can you be talking to me now?" the operator asked, apparently proving I was an idiot. She seemed to assume I couldn't tell the difference between a phone that worked and one that didn't. "I'm using my cell, which works because I get it through another company." She had after all thrown the first punch.

"Have you added any new equipment to the line?"

"Nothing." I've been down this road before with the phone company. They will do anything to try to pin the blame on anything else.

"Extensions? Computer? Fax?"

I sighed. "Those would all be covered when I said 'nothing new'."

"Answering machine?"

"That also comes under the category of 'nothing new'," I pointed out. "Look, it was working when I left to visit my mother in law, and when I came home it wasn't - so it couldn't be anything I've done, because I wasn't even here." She was still unconvinced I wasn't somehow to blame.

"If the problem is inside your house, we'll have to charge you for fixing it." She had the stern, lecturing tone of a bitter fourth grade teacher.

So after taking down my details, she did what always happens when you call any company that provides a service - she tried to sell me something. "I see you don't have any additional features on your phone. You should get our call waiting." I pointed out again that my phone wasn't working at all at the moment, and I couldn't see the benefit of not getting two calls at the same time over just not getting one. It's kind of like trying to sell an extra set of snow tires to someone who has just had their car stolen.

The phone was fixed in a couple of days. It was apparently a broken line somewhere down the street. Except now there was a loud clicking on the line.

I called back to report the clicking. My new phone company rep was far less accusatory. "So is it a buzzing noise or more of a hum?"

"Neither - it's a clicking noise."

"I don't have anything I can check off for clicking," she said. "I'll just call it static. By the way, I see you don't have call waiting…"

I politely declined and made a bee line for the liquor cabinet.

The repair guy came by the next day. "So you have static on the line," he said. "That's usually because you've added new equipment."

I took a few deep breaths and explained there was nothing new in the house, except the large throbbing vein over my right eye, and that it wasn't static, it was a clicking noise that I've enjoyed ever since they repaired the line two weeks before.

"Why didn't they say it was clicking? They should have told me we repaired the line recently. That explains everything."

He was cheerful and seemed to know what he was doing, so I wasn't going to suggest the phone company might want to consider investing in a pad of paper and writing it down whenever they fix something.

Half an hour later it was fixed.

My first call? The phone company with a customer satisfaction survey, which ended: "By the way, I see you don't have call waiting…"

© Stephen Lautens 2003

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