Archive for April, 2011


An Un-Happy Un-Customer

   Posted by: Michael Bernier   in Today's Reality

I have written previously about my attempts over the years to have high-speed Internet service installed in my house, and how all of my efforts have failed. I recently tried again with our local cable company, Cable One in Sherman.

When we first moved into our house in 2000, there was no cable service anywhere close by, not even in the subdivision that borders our north property line (which also marks the city limits of Denison). A couple of years later, Cable One extended their lines from the city into the subdivision, and I was hopeful we would soon be able to sign up for service as well. But, it was not to be. They did not run the cable the extra distance to reach our street – they literally stopped at the city limits.

With no hope of ever getting cable service, I installed a satellite Internet system. It works as well as it can, but it costs about twice as much as cable, the speed is nowhere close, and to top it all off there is a bandwidth limit. In the six years since we got it, our usage has grown just like it has for everyone else in the rest of the world – keep in mind Facebook, YouTube, and all those sophisticated websites that have complex graphics and streaming media did not exist five years ago. Now, we routinely exceed our bandwidth limit and have our service slowed to an almost-useless speed as “punishment” (you may have seen my previous blog posting about being “FAPped”). I work from home 80% of the time now as well, so when our connection is slowed it directly impacts my job.

To make a long story short, we really need better service.

As luck would have it, there were some new homes set up along the street to the east of us (I say “set up” because they are all doublewide trailers, not stick-built houses like mine). Shortly after two new homes were set up within 300 feet of my house, I saw Cable One trucks out running lines down our street. They ran lines to reach ALL of those new houses, but then they stopped! They attached the end of their cable to a power pole on the front edge of my property and then left (I can look out my windows and see it). Why did they stop? Surely they could see there were five other homes (and potential customers) nearby?

Apparently not.

In the four years since then, I have periodically called Cable One to ask if they were going to offer service to my house. Each time I was given the same answer: “No, we don’t offer service to your address, and we never will.” Not a very friendly response, but it was direct and to the point.

We recently went over our bandwidth limit again, and on Monday I decided to give Cable One another try. This time, the call was very different. After checking my address the saleslady said, “…well, if you are on the north side of the street we should be able to set up service.” When I confirmed my house is on the north side, she said “okay, I’ll send a technician out to have a look.” At first I thought she was simply teasing me, just like that cable at the street has been for the past four years. But sure enough, on Tuesday I saw a Cable One bucket truck rumbling down our street.

Could it be that FINALLY, after all these years of patiently waiting, Cable One was going to give me service? It sounded too good to be true.

It was.

When I did not receive a call by Wednesday morning, I called Cable One. The saleslady said she would talk to the technician and call me back. Five hours later with no return call, I called her again. She said, “I left a note for the technician, but he didn’t call me and he’s already gone home for the day. I’ll check with him first thing in the morning and give you a call.”

This morning (Thursday) comes and the phone is still silent. I decided it was time to chat face-to-face, so I drove over to the Cable One office. The saleslady punched in my address on her computer and then realized who I was. “Let me run back there right now and find out for you,” she said. A couple of minutes later she came back. Clasping her hands together, she said, “I’m sorry, but we can’t provide service to your house.”

“Why not? The end of your cable is sitting on a power pole in front of my property.”

“The technician said your house is set back too far to run the cable.” My house sits about 700 feet away from the street.

“I’ve got neighbors that are only 300 feet away from me, and they have service. It can’t be that hard to run a cable up my driveway.”

She continued to toss out one statement after another, possibly in the hopes I would become befuddled and leave quietly: “The cable has to end somewhere.” “There’s a cost for running a line from the street.” “We don’t install lines unless the density is at least 25 homes per square mile” and so forth. I continued to listen patiently, replying with comments and questions when I could fit them in: “There are six homes along the other half of the street.” “My neighbor is only 300 feet away from me and has service. Why could you run a line up his driveway and not mine?” “Sure, the cable has to have an end, but why did you stop halfway across the front of my property?” “I have service from all the other utility companies; they didn’t seem to have any trouble getting to my house.” At one point I even drew out a picture showing her how the street is laid out, the location of my house and the neighbors nearby, all the poles running up to my house, and where the cable is sitting at the street.

While I did not come right out and reveal to her that I have 30 years of experience in the IT industry (including work with fiber optic cables just like the ones they use, so I know what they are capable of doing), I think she finally figured out I was a bit more technically-oriented than the average customer and stopped tossing out statements. She offered to have the technician call me and provide an explanation. “Yes, I would very much like to have a technical explanation for why it can’t be done” was my reply. I then thanked her and left.

This all took place at about 10am. My phone was silent the rest of the day. Given their previous track record of returning calls, I do not actually expect to ever hear from the technician. So, instead of wasting my time waiting for a call that will never come, I put it to use contemplating whether to escalate this to a higher level of management within Cable One.

I could start with calling the local office manager to discuss it and ask if they would reconsider. If they stand firm on their decision, I could then contact their headquarters in Arizona and appeal to them… but as big a company as Cable One is, the chances are they will simply sweep me under the corporate rug as one “unhappy local” who is not worth their time and go on with their day. Some of you readers may suggest other options I could take, including legal ones; but, I am not a spiteful or vengeful person and cannot imagine myself raising that kind of ruckus just to get a cable installed. I will share my experience, though, and voice my displeasure with their decision.

Yet, when all is said and done, I suppose Cable One does have the right to refuse to offer me service (and they have, in so many words). So much for progress…


Going Under The Knife — Again

   Posted by: Michael Bernier   in Today's Reality

It has been several weeks since my last posting; once again, I have been extremely busy with work, both for my job and around the house. I also have been somewhat lacking in subjects to write about, but hopefully this will improve in the coming weeks. Of course, not all of the subjects are exciting or pleasant; such is the case with today’s posting.

One evening near the end of March, I developed what I first thought was a case of indigestion a couple of hours after dinner. I spent the next several hours attempting to relieve a constant pain that seemed to be just below my sternum (for those less medically inclined, this is the bone that runs down your chest that your ribs are attached to). I tried a variety of remedies – antacid tablets, water, even attempting to vomit – but nothing seemed to help. Finally, at 1am I did something I have never done before: I asked my wife to take me to the local hospital’s emergency room.

Once I entered the ER, the staff seemed to swarm all around me… even though the pain was in my stomach, because I had coronary bypass surgery in 2009 they were required first and foremost to run tests to determine if it was heart related. They quickly ruled that out, and so they started looking for other reasons for my discomfort. After three hours of poking, prodding, medicating, testing, and even being ultrasounded all around my lower abdomen, the verdict was in: I had suffered a gall bladder attack. What’s more, the ultrasound indicated my gall bladder was filled with “sludge”, which apparently is the first stage in the development of gallstones. The ER doctor gave me some very strong antacids (think “industrial strength Maalox®”) to relieve the pain (which it did), then told me to keep taking more antacids at home and check with my regular doctor as soon as possible. His own recommendation was that I consider having it removed.

After getting home and having a very short night of sleep, I called my doctor’s office and explained what had happened the night before. The scheduling nurse found an opening in his calendar to get me in the next day. When I went in to visit my doctor, he had already reviewed the report and test results from my ER visit, and used the same word as the ER doctor to describe what they found in my gall bladder: sludge. Always trying to find at least some humor in my situation, I remarked, “I’m beginning to feel like an old car engine!” We discussed the options, and his recommendation concurred with the ER doctor’s – it was best for me to have it removed. He referred me to a surgeon to discuss it even further and to learn about the procedure.

I visited the surgeon a few days later, and once again I heard that now-familiar term: sludge. His recommendation after reviewing all the results was the same as the two previous doctors: remove it.  He discussed more about what my options were, how the procedure works, and what I could expect to happen following the surgery. He then left me to decide whether or not to go through with it. After some deliberations within my head and discussion with my wife, I decided to go ahead with the procedure.

The date is set for tomorrow, April 20th, at 7:30am. I have to arrive at 6am to be prepped for surgery. The plan is to use a laparoscopic procedure; this involves making about four small incisions into me and using special scopes and instruments to go in and remove the gall bladder. However, if they find it cannot be removed that way, they will immediately switch to a more traditional procedure and “cut me open” to remove it. Either way, I expect to be sleeping while they work on me; I will learn what they ended up doing when I wake up.

Which one they use will be important for my recovery; if their first procedure works, then I will probably be allowed to go home the same day and actually resume a somewhat-normal life the next morning. If they have to switch to the second procedure, I could end up staying an additional one to three days in the hospital and my recovery at home will take much longer.

How do I feel about what is about to happen to me? Well, I am nervous; I would think it strange if I was not at least a little apprehensive about someone poking around inside me. I am a bit anxious as well, mostly from not knowing whether they will be successful with the first procedure or if they will have to use the second. If there is one thing I do feel comfortable with, it is that I know the doctors, nurses, and staff at the hospital will do their very best to take care of me. When I had bypass surgery almost two years ago I spent six days in the hospital; there wasn’t a moment when I felt neglected or unimportant to anyone there. The physical location of the hospital may have changed since then, but I have no reason to think the staff is any less professional than before.

And so, my readers, I am off to prepare for tomorrow… a little nervous and a little anxious, but confident everything will work out for the best. I hope to be back soon with an update.

UPDATE (4/28): The laparoscopic procedure was a success, and I was able to go home later in the day. It has been over a week since my gall bladder was removed, and I have had absolutely no complications or issues with eating any of my usual foods and snacks.