Thursday, March 19, 2015


I finally cut the cord – not the umbilical cord, but the other one I’ve had attached to me for the last eighteen years. Not my son either; you know the one the front desk guy at RetroFitness thinks I have who drives a BMW? As if I would allow a child of mine to drive a BMW.

The cord I cut belonged to Comcast.

For the last year or so, I have wanted to find a way to release myself from Mr. Master Man. If he were a hot muscle-daddy, that would be OK. But, this Mr. Master Man drives around in a white truck and has a serious attitude equal to his serious butt crack. Add to this charming package a total indifference to your life and time.

“Your technician is scheduled to arrive between the hours of eight and two.” Translation: “He’ll show up when he damn well pleases with the wrong equipment and no knowledge of how our service works.”

When I moved to Rockville (the armpit of Maryland), my appointment was between eight and two, and he showed up at nine o’clock at night. No apology. Nothing.

You can’t blame anyone. The idiot you talked to on the phone is sitting in a basement in Manila, learning phrases like, “Hey, bro,” “I like Taylor Swift,” and “Go Lakers?”

In addition to all of this delight is my favorite term, “bundling.” In other words, buy all our services, or we’ll charge you $75 for every service you refuse. If you only want to watch the four major networks, that will cost you $575 a month. Should I squeeze your balls a little tighter?

Bundling is the main reason I wanted to find a way to cut the cord.

It all started when I couldn’t dial my rotary phones anymore. Apparently, Comcast quit supporting rotary dialing. Have they no mercy? Where’s the humanity?

I asked them if I could cut out the phone service.

“Yes, but that will cost you an extra $75 a month not to have phone service.”

“What if I just keep the internet and cut out the television, too?”

“Yes, you can do that, but it will cost you $275 a month.”



Did our grandparents bundle? Grandma and Nana both could watch television without paying anyone for the privilege. Not only that, they could watch Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz, Vivian Vance, and William Frawley, Milton Berle, Burns and Allen, Martin and Lewis, Abbot and Costello, Amos and Andy, Nat King Cole, Dinah Shore, Jackie Gleason and Art Carney, and don’t forget the best, Ed Sullivan via an antenna.

To talk to any of us, they used their rotary phones, which were leased from and maintained and serviced by Bell Telephone.

They had a phone bill. That’s it!

In the 1970s, Ma Bell was broken up because she had become a monopoly. This meant you now had a local phone company, and then you chose your long distance carrier if I remember correctly. Actually, I do because I soon learned and you will, too, that some things have not changed.

What I don’t understand is how the aim was to break up a monopoly, yet we have more monopolies now than we ever had.

For example, I have one choice for cable television: Comcast. There is no competition.

Sure, there is the Dish, but that’s comparing apples to oranges.

For internet, we have one choice: Comcast. Again, there is no competition.

Fios is not available where we are, only DSL if you don’t go with cable.

That is not competition. To me competition is having more than one cable company, or more than one satellite company, or more than one internet company.

This lack of competition means they can treat you any way they please, and you have to smile and let them fuck you like the whore that you are.

Not me! My whoring days were over!

That was when I started investigating.

If broadcast television is free, why am I paying for it? What do I watch that is so important that I need cable? All I need to see are the news and Good Morning America. Everything else is background noise. I go to bed before any good shows come on, and I use my DVR for those, which presented the first problem.

So first, I subscribed to Hulu. Now, I can watch any “must sees” the next day, which is what I was doing anyway.

What about the telephone? Well, I could no longer dial out, so I decided to go with an old fashioned landline. I called Verizon. For $17.99 a month, I could have a basic telephone line with no frills. Or at least, I thought.

The day came for them to connect my phones, and I soon remembered why I cancelled my landline eleven years ago.

When I lived in Mount Pleasant (which is neither a mount nor pleasant, discuss), I had a landline that couldn’t receive calls. I could dial out, but I had no idea no one could dial in. I just figured no one wanted to talk to me. Then, Mother asked me why I never answered my phone. I told her it never rings. A dozen service calls later, I cancelled the service since they could never get it to work.

In a mobile home, and this is still about mobile home living, the wires for the phone jacks are under the house where the fuse box is located. Mr. Verizon was able to wire the one jack on the side of the house with the connection that Comcast drilled into the exterior wall the day I moved in without asking me first because he didn’t know the wires for the cable lines were under the house. 

I asked if Mr. Verizon could hook up the wires for the other jacks, and he told me he was too busy, and I’d have to make another appointment. It would also cost me $95 for each jack to hook up those other wires.

I argued that I made an appointment, and he told me to take it up with his supervisor.

He left and went back to the main switchboard and called to be sure my phone was working. I received a call. There was one problem. I couldn’t dial out without a passcode. Then I spent the day trying to get ahold of someone at Verizon until a customer service rep informed me that the reason I couldn’t dial out was I didn’t pick a long distance provider.

“I’m trying to call my own cell phone, which is in the same area code and in the next room, and my neighbor who is across the street.”

“Yes, but the area code doesn’t mean it is local or long distance. It is all about ‘exchanges.’”

“But, I have regional calling.”

“Yes, that covers you for twelve miles.”

“It isn’t twelve miles across the street and certainly not from the kitchen to my bedroom.”

“It’s about the ‘exchanges.’ Everyone is on a different exchange.”

This was weird. I couldn’t even dial 911 to inform them I was going to cut a bitch if my phone wasn’t working in ten minutes. I could dial Baltimore, but not my own cell phone! I learned that this is what has happened with people taking their phone numbers, area codes and all, with them. Area codes are meaningless – they’re just something you have to dial now.

In the end, my basic $17.99 phone service ended up costing me $67 a month, and that is without call waiting or voice mail. I hate call waiting, and when a friend puts me on hold, I hang up. An answering machine is cheaper than $11 a month. Apparently, maintaining landlines is expensive, hence the price. 

At least I could rotary dial again.

Now to watch David Muir, Ryan Smith and all the other male models on ABC News, I had to get an antenna.

I first tried a twenty-mile antenna, but I could only get two channels. Then, a thirty-mile, which gave me four more. Thirty miles my big Jewish ass. The farthest station is twenty miles away. I went on Amazon and bought a sixty-mile antenna. Anything more powerful would require a Saturn V Rocket and a payload from Northrup Grumman.

During my first channel scan, I had twenty-three channels. I went online, while I still had internet of course, and researched this. For your benefit, I give you the following:

If you go with an antenna, pick one with at least a sixty-mile range and hang it in a window behind the blinds. Mine is white, and the blinds are white. It’s hanging in a side window, so no one can see it. Before hooking it up, run a channel scan on the TV. You will get no channels, but you will be deleting any competing settings or data. I had no idea there were competing settings or data.

Then, hook up the antenna and run the scan again. I ended up with forty-five channels. ABC, two NBCs, CBS, five, yes five, FOXs, QVC, HSN, four PBSs, and a whole host of other channels that play old TV shows all day (I can watch Hazel and Leave It to Beaver whenever I want) and others that play Maury Povitch and Wendy Williams non-stop. There is a sports channel, an all-news channel, and also several Spanish-language channels. You’ve got to have your Telenovelas!

Digital signals are strange. The picture is much clearer than with cable; however, it sometimes goes in and out when you first tune in to a channel, which led me to another dilemma, also discussed below.

Now, what about the internet? I got to thinking. If my phone can get the internet without cable, why can’t my computer and Roku? Well, they can with a hotspot modem. I know that isn’t the technical term. I went to AT&T and added a hotspot to my plan and got a free hotspot modem. I chose a 30G monthly plan based on my internet and Netflix usage. The other advantage is my internet connection is mobile. If I ever get wealthy enough to buy a weekend trailer, I won’t have to hook up any internet or cable or phone. I take my hotspot modem (I know it isn’t the right terminology) with me.

I finally was ready to cut the cord.

I unhooked all the equipment and packed it all up, including the cables and remotes. I drove to the Comcast service center up the street. I handed them the equipment, and they didn’t care. They didn’t try and stop me. They didn’t try to retain me. They just told me my bill credit would be mailed in four to six weeks.

Seriously? I’ve been a loyal customer for eighteen years, and this is it? Don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out? You’d think I had a one-night stand with them. Tricks have treated me better than this. I’m glad I no longer give them money. My pocket book is closed for business.

So far, I was saving $50 a month, and unless a satellite fell on my head, my internet and TV were always working. I would no longer have to wait during six-hour windows for a cable guy to come over nine hours after the window closed and give me attitude.

However, there was still one lingering issue.

I was using more than 1G of data a day watching my favorite shows on Hulu. There had to be a way to record shows on a digital television. Back in the day, we used VCRs. Do they still make VCRs?

They do, and Walmart had one, but they didn’t have the blank VCR tapes. It was also huge. I wonder if it was a leftover Betamax?

Again, I was doing research, and I found a solution – Mediasonic Homeworx PVR: a porno video recorder. At least I think that is what the P stands for, or could it be personal?

This little machine works as a digital converter if you have an old timey television. One advantage is the Mediasonic Homeworx also transmits the channel guide. If you hit the EPG button, you get a list of all the shows on that particular channel for the next twelve hours!

It will record your shows onto a thumb drive you leave in it all the time, and you can take the thumb drive with you and watch the shows anywhere.

But, it’s a little complicated.

They tell you that you can’t watch one show and record another. Well, you can. Hook up the antenna to the PVR then to the television. Then, hook up an HDMI cable from the PVR to the TV as well. Use the HDMI port for watching normally for an even clearer picture than with just the antenna and for recording. If you are watching one channel while recording another, set your recording using the HDMI port, then when it starts recording, switch your watching to the antenna port.

There are some glitches. You will notice with digital antennas, channel surfing is slow. It takes about five to ten seconds for a channel signal to be received. After a minute of two, the signal gains strength. This is OK if you aren’t recording. If you are planning a timed recording, make sure your PVR is tuned to that station at least five minutes before the recording is to start. You will ensure the strongest signal. If you are going to bed, turn the PVR to the channel first, let it come in clearly, then you can turn off your television, but do not turn off the PVR.

If you don’t do this, when the PVR switches channels to begin recording, the station won’t be tuned in immediately, and the PVR will assume there is no such station. It will do two things: one, it will cancel the recording, and two, it will cancel all future timed recordings on that same channel, since it assumes the channel doesn’t exist.

It took me a few tries to figure this out. I kept checking to see what I recorded, and there were no programs. Half of my future programmed timer recordings would disappear as well. I finally got it when I realized the show I wanted and the future disappearing shows were always on the same channel.

The little machine also records on military time, but even though it is not hooked up to the internet and only gets its signals from digital TV stations, it knows the date and time. You never have to set them. No blinking lights like the 1980s.

Yes, I like rotary phones, but that doesn’t mean I’m a technical idiot when it comes to audiovisuals. You don’t watch this much man-on-man action over the internet for two decades without learning something about signals, clear pictures, and playback.

Once all the dust settled, I notice my leftover data didn’t roll over as planned, so I called AT&T. Whenever I call customer service, I always ask them how they are. This throws them off because no one ever asks how they are doing.

I asked the AT&T guy what happened to my data, and he said sometimes it takes a day or two to catch up, but since I was such a good customer, he was going to offer me a deal. If I were to forgo the rolled over data that first month, they would cut $95 off my bill each month as long as I kept that data plan for as long as I wanted, and my future data would roll over. I thought for a second and said yes.

In the end, cutting the cord saved me $145 a month. More importantly, I no longer have bundles.

Oh, and about those other phone jacks? They never showed up for the scheduled service call to hook them up. No call, no letter, no text. It was like one of my relationships.

I searched online, and there is a tutorial on how to open up the phone box on the side of the house and hook the lines up yourself on the customer side, and it is perfectly legal because the phone box has two sides.

I’m living the life of Nana. I can talk on my avocado green, wall-mounted, rotary phone and smoke a Kent cigarette, while Make Room for Daddy plays in the background.

I would try to live like Grandma, talking on my white, rotary desk phone, smoking a Winston and listening to Lawrence Welk, but I can’t seem to find his show.

Don’t worry, I will.

1 comment:

  1. You are too funny - recently we downsized into a beachside condo here in New Smyrna Beach Fl- we were talked into switching to U-verse phone/internet - which is great but now our 1970 harvest gold princess phone won't work with the system - how sad it that! Love the book - maybe next time - we'll buy a mobile home -