Sunday, September 28, 2008

Comcast Enhances Its Rep for Excellent Customer Service While Desecrating the Memory of Our Town's Namesake

When the grades are passed out for post-Ike performance---we’re sure the Chronicle will get around to this, once it finishes reporting on how the storm brought together and/or renewed the faith of each and every ethno-religious sub-category in town*---we hope that Comcast, the city’s cable TV monopoly and our own erstwhile Internet provider, gets a big, fat, red F.

Something like this: F.

Yes, we know, it’s unseemly to be grousing about our lack of Internet access and Cable TV when so many people went without electricity for so long**, or still don’t have it---like many of our blacked-out neighbors, some of whom took to the streets a couple of days ago for a sign-waving protest against CenterPoint that drew Jeff McShan and his Channel 11 camera (had we been apprised of the gathering we would have wandered over with our guitar and serenaded the protesters with a couple of verses of Ohio). But as of this writing it’s been more than 2 weeks, and what has us riled is not so much that we’re missing Project Runway and can’t stay up-to-the-minute on the imminent collapse of the U.S. financial system, but that Comcast has done such a dreadful job of explaining itself to its customers (namely us, for starters). On top of that, since the hurricane passed the company has been airing an appallingly insulting commercial angling for new customers---while it can’t even service many of its existing ones!---that desecrates the memory of Sam Houston, our town’s namesake and the greatest Texan of all (greater than Willie Nelson, Darrell Royal and your grandma combined).

Just this Saturday morning we rang up Comcast and after being on hold for 25 minutes (we were in a hurry to leave the house and our patience was thin) a harried-sounding woman told us that our area indeed had service and the problem must lie solely at our house. We said this could not be so, because everything looked OK on our drop line and none of our neighbors had their Comcast services, but she said, no, we were wrong and the earliest she could send a technician would be Tuesday. It was then we lost our shit and began asking for the apocryphal “supervisor,” but the woman resolutely refused to transfer us to a higher-up, explaining, “I’m sorry, sir, but there’s lots of customers in your position right now” (meaning, apparently, on the verge of coronary thrombosis). The woman’s explanation was entirely different from the one we’d been given during our previous four calls: that services were out in our area and Comcast couldn’t say when they would be restored. Sure enough, 20 minutes later our neighbor, who had been on the horn to Comcast at the same time we were, related that she had been told that services were out in the "entire area," wherever that encompasses, and it was not known when they would be back up, etc.

It was like that the whole time. On the Monday after the storm we called to report the outage and after the obligatory 25-minute wait we asked whether we would be charged for our non-services and and the woman said “that has not been decided.” The next day we read in the Chronicle that a Comcast spokesman or woman had assured customers they would be credited for the outages. Then we ran into an old guy we know at our YMCA who was using its wi-fi and who said he had called Comcast earlier that day and been told there there would be no credits … Then the next day we read in the Chronicle (again) that yes, customers would be credited, but they had to call or email to request that they not be charged.

And so on Sunday morning we saw a Comcast technician, an affable African dude as it turned out, pull up to a house around the corner from ours.“You here to get us our service back?” we asked after rushing over. “No, I’m disconnecting these people, “ he said, explaining that the residents were tired of waiting for the Great Comcast Resotoration and were switching providers (an option we considered and rejected, since we've found that any switching around with technology usually ends up costing us money or some other grief).

“We're connecting and disconnecting," he went on. "But you’re not restoring service to your customers?” we asked. “Oh yes, we’re doing that too," he replied. "But shouldn't y'all be busy getting service back to the people who've paid for it, making that a priority?" we asked. "Exactly!" said the Comcast man, in a very delightful post-colonial English accent. "You need to call them and tell them that," he added helpfully. "Naw, man," said we, "we're tired of calling Comcast---we're gonna go home and finish reading the Bible." "Excellent!" said he.

WHOA … HOLD ON---sure enough, just as we were winding up this tirade with a blast of fact-based invective that was sure to send Comcast stock plummeting by half when the markets open, our neighbor rushed over to announce that her CABLE WAS BACK ON. And so is ours, and our Internet, too. We have been made whole again. But Comcast is still a wretched outfit ... and that Sam Houston commercial, especially that phony Hollywood-cracker accent they put in his mouth, is unforgivable.

*We're wondering when the paper is gonna get around to reporting how the Jews have fared, post-Ike, 'cause we've been worried. Naw, scratch that, maybe a report on how all white people are doing would be better ...

**We were among the blessed who had electricity throughout the storm and afterward, thus allowing us to watch Neil Frank repeatedly liken a hurricane to a "figure skater" while the very winds he was pointing to on the radar representation howled outside. The reason we had electricity is because God looked down and saw that we were among the righteous and deserving. You who went so long without power should take it as a warning to mend your ungodly ways.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Our Tree Fell, and We Are Bereft

Our front yard is our front porch. It is---was---well-shaded, the Chinese tallow and enormous oak and the elm (we think it's an elm) combining at their upper reaches to form a glorious canopy, a towering cathedral-line expanse that on more than one occasion led us to look skyward and remark, "Ah, yeah ..." We usually had three or four lawn chairs and a bench from the backyard picnic table set upon the lawn, and on the weekends, when we were up too early, we'd sit out under our natural canopy, read the paper and sip our coffee. In the evenings we'd plop our self in a chair and watch the passing parade, maybe enjoy one of those dark, bitter brews we allow our self once in a while. It was a Peckerwood's Paradise, and for it we were thankful. 

Our porch, alas, is no more, since sometime around 5 a.m. on the morning of Ike, when the winds viciously uprooted the oak and left it sprawling across our front yard and over both lanes of the street. On the way down it knocked loose the streetlight---the bulb is still hanging by a wire and shining, now directly into our front yard---and came partly to rest atop the one fire hydrant on our end of the block. The top of the spindly Chinese tallow---our region's champion "trash tree," but beautiful when its leaves turn---went down in our driveway, while two monster limbs from the elm (or whatever it is) completely covered our neighbor's yard and blocked our driveway. We had, literally, tons of fallen timber out front. Much of it, thanks to our trusty Stihl (fine German craftsmanship!) and the muscle of neighbors and relations, has been cut into movable chunks and placed curbside. But most of the oak still lies in the yard, its roots grasping out into the thin air. We cleared the street and uncovered the hydrant early on, but removal of the root ball most likely will require a large piece of heavy machinery (although one drive-by guy swore his "crew" could dig it out with shovels; we took his card). 

But we're in no hurry to see it go, for already we miss our tree. We miss the shade it gave our house in the bald heat of the afternoon, we miss sitting beneath its branches and marveling at its solid, seemingly indestructible mass. We even miss glaring at the two noticeable incisions a dopey friend of our son's once imparted to its bark  after we unwisely left a machete lying in the front yard (and our mind grinds fine, wondering whether these now-ancient insults somehow weakened the tree and contributed to its toppling). As a native of these latitudes we've long been partial to the genus, even before we learned that the surname our grandfather brought from the Old World meant "of the oak" in his native tongue.

We are not a tree hugger---we're a tree humper, and it's always seemed to us that the gift of so many varieties of trees hereabouts was karmic compensation for our otherwise featureless local landscape. So we just might pull out the lawn chairs again and let our tree lie for a while, until the neighbors complain or the authorities tell us it must go. 

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Mayor Cusses, Entire F-ckin' City Falls Into Swoon

Hurricane Ike brought Bill White the kind of favorable publicity an elected official ordinarily has to purchase, providing the mayor a stage on which to burnish his image as a decisive, take-charge guy. And nothing that White has said or done in the aftermath of the storm has resounded louder than his reported use of the word "fucking" (or perhaps, more informally, "fuckin' ") when addressing ... two ladies from the Georgia Forestry Commission.*

Judging by the letters to the editor in today's Chronicle and the comments affixed to the newspaper's story on said incident (as well as the predictably approving column by stay-at-home columnist Rick Casey**), the news of White's deployment of the f-word as an emphasizing adjective (As in, "You need to be getting these fucking [or fuckin'] trucks out of here.") is being wildly applauded as an expression of the public's general pissed-offedness and fed-upness with the way some aspects of the "recovery" are going.

We, however, would have been more impressed had we learned that the mayor had used a bad word while bossing around two burly 6-foot-plus linemen from Georgia, or had stood up during a news conference and declared the CEO of Centerpoint to be a "sorry c-cksucker." Or maybe even barked a expletive or two at whoever's in charge of fixing all the stop lights in town (a task we believe is within White's purview).

But we do see a nifty slogan in the making should the mayor wind up in a gubernatorial match with Mofo Perry: "Bill White: So Tough He Cussed the Women and Made 'Em Cry."

*We know FEMA works in mysterious ways, but does the Georgia Forestry Commission's expertise really lie in the collection and distribution of emgerency supplies?

**Who, for his first post-Ike offering, actually got out of wherever he offices, driving all the way over to the east side to report that---hold on here---Galveston got it much worse than Houston, which, according to Casey, "got what you might call an electrical storm." Yeah, you might call it that, if you were blind.

NOTE TO READER(S): We intend to resume semi-regular posting here, assuming fuckin' Comcast can one day again supply us with fuckin' Internet service (hey, this cussin' really feels great!).