Today we observe a somber anniversary. Three months ago this day we changed, foolishly and audaciously, cable TV providers, switching from a well-known satellite-based television megacorp, to a global media and entertainment conglomerate, home telephone, broadband internet, and cable television provider.
For anyone contemplating such a move, let me just say, it is not for the faint of heart. What may look at first glance to be a safe and sound undertaking, in truth, is more like a New River Gorge buggy-jump with sketchy equipment and a questionable outcome. That is to say, if you don’t already suffer with angina or similar infirmities, you may well smart from one by the time it’s all over. So proceed with caution.
Since I’m generally not one to swerve into oncoming traffic or march into fixed bayonets, it’s unclear to me how this cock-up happened, exactly. Except that, looking back, I reason it’s most likely because we naively wanted a more affable dance partner—the old one having let herself go, and was always smelling of Vicks.
So, I suppose we heard what we wanted to hear from the salesman that day, with his Lance Armstrong-like hornswoggling, supplying us with promises galore about a better multimedia tomorrow—bundling the services that include phone, internet, and cable. The word alone, “bundling”, at the time, appealed to my manish appreciation for efficiency. And all this with great customer service, abundant on-demand content and cheaper prices—we were spellbound. We had finally found our new dance partner, and she was stunning.
And so with no test-drive or foretaste, and stoned on notions of vastly improved service and significantly lower monthly fees, we pulled the trigger, signing the agreement without fully understanding the various knotty glitches so often inherent in transactions such as these.
But, bit by maddening bit, we came to lament our opting.
The first red-flag appeared on day-one, during the setup and installation. The curiously awkward, mouth-breathing “technician” arrived early, nearly two hours so—no eye contact. This is strange I thought. He was a contractor, this he told me—my experience being that cable contractors often reek of work-release programs. Quick, hide the valuables. Oh wait, we don’t have any. Alright then, hide the semi-valuables, like my extensive collection (spanning five proud years) of umbilicus fuzz, stockpiled in jars by shade and tinsel-strength. Or my daughter’s ever expanding and highly semi-valuable candy wrapper collection—she aspires to one day be recognized by the authority in all things bizarre and unusual, the Guinness Book of World Records, for having the largest assemblage ever. How could a father not be proud of that? Really.
A mixed-media crackerjack our technician was not. Turning out to be, well, less cracker and more jack, demonstrating only a cursory understanding the product, the customer service experience and who’s focus seemed more on vamoosing than installing, finished or not. This is no-doubt why he arrived early to our house in the first place; having departed his previous assignment hastily, perhaps abandoning it while still in progress—fleeing even—just as he was preparing to do to us.
Next red flag, the on-screen user-interface guide. All I can say after trying to pilot the thing is wow! And so I will hazard the following radical suggestion: Assemble a small posse of gamers and freshmen computer-science majors in a basement furnished with a dozen laptops, a pallet of Mountain Dew, and regularly scheduled provisions of Domino’s pizzas. And within a few weeks they would more likely than not emerge triumphantly with something worthier and superior, possibly Siriesque, whereby the user could simply and effortlessly command their device to “Change to Honey boo boo” or “Record Doomsday Preppers”, thus making obsolete the existing hodge-podge mangled mess currently in operation today.
Red flag number three. Although there are a reported 200 plus channels, I can’t seem to steer the remote near any of my favorite programs, or for that matter, find anything worth watching (unless you’re so inclined to suffer through masterpieces like “Flashdance” circa 1983, “Roadhouse” circa 1989, or the more recent epic “The Three Stooges” circa dreadful).
Yet, in an odd twist of serendipitous fate aimed at my wife, our bedroom TV seems steadily fixed on her preferred network, HGTV. All attempts to adjust or change it have been unsuccessful—it’s HGTV and more HGTV. Which compels me to wonder aloud if it’s possible that my wife—tiring of our spirited tussles for command of the remote, and wanting to stake her claim promptly and aggressively—could have slipped the jackleg a few extra bucks, or worse, a semi-valuable, when I wasn’t looking? Of course, this situation presents an enormous problem because no straight man, given the choice, would opt to watch HGTV of his own free will, even for one minute, resolving instead to be mulled by grizzly bears or gored by running Pamplona bulls—anything but HGTV. Anything.
All is not lost, however, as this hapless debacle has had the unintended consequence of driving the kids—also flummoxed by the inability to track down suitable programming—to more industrious pursuits like fort building, couch jumping and coloring placards for each other with inspirational messages that read “Keep Out, Stay Out, and NEVER come in. That Means You Mackenzie.” and “Keep Out. Emma is not allowed. NEVER EVER!!!!!!!!!” to display in billboard fashion on their respective bedroom doors.
So in all fairness, maybe our old dance partner wasn’t so bad after all. Sure she had her faults, but nobody’s perfect. Looking back, her dowdy appearance and peculiar aroma now seem more endearing than annoying, which, when you think about it, could be a soft metaphor for marriage. The partners we choose aren’t perfect either. And, like cable TV providers, it’s basically too hard and complicated to swap them out for another.
So, for now anyway, I think I’ll be groveling back to my old cable TV provider, and minding my wife too. Because while they both have their own unique set of maddening idiosyncrasies and various peculiarities, there is comfort after all in the familiar and the mundane. My new motto: Love the one you’re with!