Saturday, January 06, 2007

Comcastic Christmas

Each year around December 23 we make the long drive to Illinois so we can spend the holidays with our families. Dean and I grew up in the same area, so visiting family is easier than for many transplanted offspring.

We've lately avoided staying at my parent's house - it tends to be too crowded there, and my dad sometimes has trouble with anger management - by either staying with my aunt and uncle in South Elgin or my brother in Batavia. However, this year in May, my aunt and uncle moved to Mississippi. My brother's house was not an option either because he'd recently relocated (along with his two teenagers) to my parents house for a while.

So we knew we were in for an interesting time of family togetherness this year. And in retrospect, it was not bad. Dean was bored out of his mind, but he had places to go and things to do to keep him occupied when he got up at 4 or 5 AM. (Although the first hour or so for him was difficult, as every comfortable place in the house was being used as a place to sleep.) It was nice spending long periods of "do-nothing" time with my parents, brother and his family. I don't get to do that very often.

Dad was on his best behavior and only lost his temper a couple of times. It can't be easy for him - he confided to me that he feels useless. He has no independence at all. He never had any real hobbies and can no longer do the things he really liked to do. His one passion in the past decade has been to lie on the couch and watch TV (well, channel surf actually).

For Christmas this year my mom got digital cable and cable internet. The digital cable was hooked up when we got there, but the internet was not. Unfortunately for my folks, the digital cable remote and interface is pretty complicated. Mom sort of understands it, but it is totally lost on dad. Every fifteen minutes my dad needed someone to either get him a movie or change the channel. Several of us had tried to show dad how to go up and down the channels with the remote, but he never remembered how to do it. There is no way he will learn how to get a movie for himself. He may actually be able to channel surf, but mom doesn't want him to do that because she fears the remote will get all sticky. I suggested putting it in a plastic bag. Dad needs something to do. He was about to go to bed at 10 am one morning when he couldn't watch a movie (more on that later).

I'd brought my old "B" router along so I could connect wirelessly with my laptop, so was anxious to get the cable internet system up and running. The day after Christmas Dean and Kevin routed the coaxil cable under the front porch to the computer (in between watching a football game on TV). They connected it to the cable modem and connected that to mom's computer. Following the directions from Comcast I called the appropriate number and talked to a technician. He was concerned because he couldn't see the modem from his location (or whatever they see there in Comcast-land), so scheduled a service call for us for the next afternoon.

The Comcast technician arrived within the time he'd been scheduled and was friendly enough. However he had a slight attitude about being there and it was obvious he wanted to go home. He also said that he got 28.50 (or something) for the service call if it was a troubleshooting call - which meant it was free for us). If he was to do something else he'd have to charge $69 or $99.

So he fiddled around with the wires and modem, looked at the way everything was set up and after what seemed to be a long time said we were connected, but I had to set up the computer to work with the modem. I did that while he checked something at a basement connection. When he got back, it was apparent we were not connected any longer. He said it must have been something I did when I followed the directions on the computer interface, so he fiddled some more, made some unhappy noises and said that the really best thing to do would be to make a direct connection to the computer from outside, but that would cost us between $69 and $99.

I asked what he had done in the basement and he swore under his breath. He went back downstairs and when he came back we were connected. Apparently he disconnected something downstairs and forgot to re-connect it. He did something and said I still needed to do the computer portion of it.

He wrote up our ticket and I thought he was charging us for the service call, but he said he was treating it as a troubleshooting call after all. I gave him a Christmas Cracker and he gave me his name (Roland) and his cell phone number in case we needed help within the next half hour and then he left.

A few moments later the doorbell rang and he was back and said he decided to do more for us, no charge. So he did the computer stuff and we were really up and running. I was so impressed I handed him a $20 bill out of gratitude.

We went out to dinner and my niece and kids used the connection that evening.

In the morning however, we could no longer connect to the internet and the correct lights were not flashing on the modem.

So I called Comcast again. This time two technicians came out. They used a device that measured something on the cable cord and said that it was very low -19 units. They fiddled around and got it up to +5. I mentioned that the guy last night said the best thing would be to have a direct connection and they concurred. I asked if they could do that, knowing it would cost money. They said it would not cost anything (Roland lied?) and the hooked it up for us. As far as I know, the connection is still working great.

Now for the TV issues. The On Demand aspect of the Cable interface was not reliable. Sometimes it worked but often it resulted in an error message directing us to call the cable company. After the technicians left that day my dad wanted a movie, but we got the error message so I once again called 1-800-comcast and once again made an appointment for technicians to come out. This time mom dealt with them and by the time I got home the cable was fixed. But for how long? I've since returned home to Maryland and have not spoken to my folks so I don't know if they are still ok, or if the cable is acting up again.

4 comments:

matt said...

Interesting story, but of course kind of sad, too. Reminds me of a recent post by my mom. I'm "only" 38, and I'm already starting to think that getting older thing isn't always so easy. My parents have taken to the computer thing fairly well, but their children still haven't been able to convince them that cable internet is worth paying for.

matt said...

Interesting story, but of course kind of sad, too. Reminds me of a recent post by my mom. I'm "only" 38, and I'm already starting to think that getting older thing isn't always so easy. My parents have taken to the computer thing fairly well, but their children still haven't been able to convince them that cable internet is worth paying for.

matt said...

oops...had trouble with this blogger comment thing on someone else's blog and thought i was having issues again...but hey the more comments the better, right!

Susan said...

This was like a big chunk of a good movie.