Vern & Peggy

Over the weekend I noticed our internet connection had slowed to near dial-up speed. Dripping faucets, cabinets that won’t quite close, and cobwebs along the edge of our fourteen foot ceilings I can live with. But given the amount of time I spend online, a slow internet connection required immediate action.

First I rebooted the computer. No change. Next I turned off the wireless router and again rebooted the computer. Same story.  Then I disconnected the cheap-ass cable modem we rent from the cable company for $5 a month because I keep forgetting to buy one, turned off the wireless router, and again rebooted the computer. No luck.

Charter Communications is the cable monopoly in our area. Given my experience in dealing with them in the past, I was reluctant to call for assistance. A return to something like dial-up speed urged me to action. On Monday I called the dreaded phone tree hell that Charter calls customer service.

The robotic voice asked me to describe my problem. I said “problems with the internet connection and HD channels.” The “and” apparently blew a circuit as I was immediately transferred to a live operator. I explained that our internet connection was super slow and that some of our HD channels refused to appear.

OK. In truth the thing about the HD channels only happened twice. But to me it was evidence that the problem was on their end. Apparently the robot and the real live person the robot forwarded me to agreed. I couldn’t believe my luck. Like getting a live person so quickly wasn’t enough, she told me a technician would be out between eight o’clock and ten o’clock Tuesday morning to fix the problem.

My good luck continued. The technician rang our doorbell at about ten after eight. We’ll call him Vern. Vern came in and did some things, went outside and did some more things, then came back in and messed around with our modem some more. As he was leaving he explained that he’d switched out some of the connections, but the problem revolved around the return signal being too strong causing the modem to be unable to separate the noise from the signal. Vern said he’d have to call in a work order about the signal problem. I nodded like the stuff he said made sense and thanked him for all his hard work.

Last night, the problem persisted so I once again, took phone in hand to call Charter. To my surprise, a live person answered after the first ring. We’ll call her Peggy.

Peggy told me I needed to bypass the router, hook the line from the cable modem directly to my computer, and of course, reboot the computer. She then waited patiently for me to comply with her orders. Things went downhill from there. Rather than just being slow, I was unable to access the internet at all. Peggy said the problem was my computer. I begged to differ and reminded Peggy that prior to calling her, the service was just slow rather than nonexistent.

I mentioned Vern’s comment about the return signal. She said that was the craziest thing she’d ever heard. I pointed out that it came from her technician, and remarked that taking off work for his visit had apparently been a big waste of time. She said she didn’t know because there were no notes about what Vern had done. Great.

Peggy told me to try turning the connection around–switching it so the end currently plugged into the modem would be plugged into the computer and vice versa then asked me to again reboot. Fortunately, my younger and far more technologically savvy partner arrived on the scene in time to hear her request. He said her suggestion to swap ends of the cable clued him into the fact that Peggy didn’t have any idea what was wrong.

He checked some things and within minutes, we were again able to access the internet. The connection was slow, but at least it connected. I told Peggy we’d fixed it ourselves, no thanks to her, and hung up.

Unfortunately, the problem hasn’t been fixed. Our internet connection is barely faster than dial-up. I’d call, but figure I’ll either get Peggy or they’ll send Vern back out to…

My Glass House