Saturday, September 5, 2009

Wire, Wire, Pants On Fire

Q: How many AT&T personnel does it take to install an internet connection?

A: It depends. If you believe their propaganda, you shouldn't need any personnel at all - you can do it yourself!

Q: Is that true?

A: Maybe for wireless, but for a DSL connection - well, what does "wire, wire, pants on fire" mean to you?

Let me explain. You'll recall, two posts back, my jubilant announcement that I had finally gotten an internet connection and would post to this blog soon (which I did - incidentally,the Geranium is glad to sign autographs if you're willing to come pick them up in person). I'm afraid I oversimplified, in the hopes that the troubles I had had were temporary. Now, however, it's time for full disclosure.

Monday, 23 August - After my parents help me unload everything, get it in the apartment, and have left, I walk to the AT&T store on 53rd, just two blocks away, and set up my internet with a friendly agent (AT&T personnel #1). I get $10 off my service per month because I'm an AT&T phone customer already. Great! Everything goes fine until she tells me I won't get service until next week Monday (the 31st). You mean I have to wait a whole week for my internet? But there's no way around it, so I grind my teeth and accept it.

Friday, 28 August - After failing to deliver my modem on the first try (sometime between 12 and 3 - I was out of the building doing some grocery shopping), UPS unexpectedly tries again on the same day - around 4-ish, after I have returned, found their notice of attempted delivery slip, and ground my teeth down several centimeters in frustration. Much to my shock - I expected that I'd have to trudge to the Post Office to pick the package up in person - no hitches here. I take the modem upstairs, get the cords and such arranged. But, bear in mind, I have no service until Monday the 31st! So I look at my modem longingly for a while, and then turn on some music and clean things.

Monday, 31 August - According to the packing slip in my modem box, my service will be activated at 8pm - so yes, Monday, but only barely. I spend the day on tenterhooks, and then at 8pm plug everything in, turn it on, and signal. I unplug, replug, ascertain that everything is securely where it needs to be, restart the computer several times, pray, etc. Nothing. So I call Tech Support (AT&T personnel #2), and after an hour on the phone, we manage to determine that there's a service outage, and that's why nothing is working. So I set up my account on the phone and wait for service to be resumed, which it is, but only after an hour on the phone. Tech Support Guy expresses his relief, and promises to call me back the next day to make sure everything's OK.

Tuesday, 1 September - Tech Support Guy calls back this evening (AT&T personnel #2 again) and I confirm that the internet is indeed working. Excellent, I think - everything should be fine now. Ha.

Wednesday, 2 September - Math Camp begins today (more on that later) - and I walk home for lunch, thinking I'll read the BBC over my sandwich. But my connection is gone. OK, I think, perhaps it's just because the computer went to sleep and lost the connection - I'll restart it once I have time in the afternoon (after classes are done). So I do, and I can't get a signal. Uncertain what to do next, I call Tech Support (AT&T personnel #3), and the lady on the other end, after confirming that there is no outage, advises me to restart my modem as well as my computer. After untangling the spaghetti of cords, I do so, and the connection is restored. Excellent, just a blip, right?

Thursday, 3 September - Happy Birthday to my little sister. No internet problems today. Everything is solved, I think. Calm before the storm, Fate says to herself with a smirk.

Friday, 4 September - Half-day for Math class today, so I go home, have lunch, and decide to cruise the net a bit for entertainment. But I have no connection. So I figure I'll just do what I was told by Tech Support on Wednesday, and that should solve the problem. But it doesn't. I re-read the troubleshooting guide, restart this and that, unplug, replug, and finally give up. So I call Tech Support (AT&T personnel #4) and, after several tests (no service outage in my area), tells me that he'll send a report to the Maintenance folks, and they'll do some tests from the office. If that doesn't resolve the problem, they'll call me via their automated system and tell me. This does, in fact, come to pass, and the robot/computer on the other end explains that they may need to send someone to look at my physical hookup, but they'll call and let me know if that needs to happen.

Saturday, 5 September today) - At 8:55am, at which time I would not normally be awake, but I was today because I had someone spend the night, AT&T calls. A technician (AT&T personnel #5) is on his way and will be at my building in about a half hour to look at things. Grateful that my guest has just left, I grab a hasty breakfast, make the apartment presentable, and do some dishes. The technician arrives, and after much (two and a half hours of) investigation of the phone jack in my apartment, the central hub box in the hallway, and the box out in the alley in back, determines that the wire (circa 1950 - shown above) is faulty. He replaces it, and promises to have the central office direct my signal through a slightly different route that avoids the faulty wires he's found outside. Just wait a few hours and everything will be resolved. Bless him, he overestimated - I have internet by noon.

[Here I will insert a completely irrelevant but very interesting observation - of all the service people I've dealt with in the past week, not a single one was European-American, but rather, African-, Middle-Eastern-, and South Asian-Americans. Fascinating.]

So are my internet problems solved? I should certainly hope so. Only time will tell, and I'll keep you posted - provided, of course, that I can get a connection.


  1. The phrase that caught my eye was: "because I had someone spemnd the night." Do tell.

    Also, I've always wondered, what are tenterhooks?

  2. Nothing came of it really, so there's very little to tell. Turns out we don't get along, so I doubt we'll be spending any time together.

    But tenterhooks I can tell more of. Of course the idiom means painful suspense, but the real word? According to, a tenterhook is "one of the hooks or bent nails that hold cloth stretched on a tenter." What's a tenter, then? The same source tells us that it's "a framework on which cloth in the process of manufacture is stretched so it may set or dry evenly."