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We had some rough weather in Georgia last week as a front moved through, bringing with it high wind and rain. A tornado was even spotted in nearby Troup County. The next day I found this in the backyard:

Can you hear me now?

It looked like a power line, but my building still had power, phone, and cable. To be on the safe side, I did what they tell you to do: I called the local power company. After listening to a brief automated message recorded by Scott, a county resident who also does voiceover work on the local radio, I was transferred to Customer Service where a man with a gruff voice took my number and promised to investigate. The whole experience took 5 minutes. An hour later, he called to tell me that it wasn't a power line but a phone line. "Call AT&T," he said. So I did.

AT&T is a much, much richer company than my local power company, so of course its automated message had been programmed to speak digitally by someone with a weak grasp of the English language. No big surprise that the system was completely befuddled when I told it I needed to talk to Customer Service. Eventually, it gave up trying to understand me and said, "I'm sorry that I cannot understand you. Let me transfer you to Customer Service."

The very polite woman who eventually answered told me that my problem would be handled by the Technical Support division and promised to transfer me if I would please hold the line. This is when AT&T really started playing dirty. Their hold music isn't even Musak, but some mariachi music played on out-of-tune instruments, all recorded by a drunk session engineer using an Edison wax cylinder at the bottom of a well. This "music" was what I would use if I ever had the opportunity to torture a Guantanamo Bay detainee. After about five minutes even AT&T couldn't take it anymore, and I was transferred back to Customer Service.

This time I got a different lady who thanked me for calling AT&T and warned my that my call might be monitored. "I live in America. You learn to expect it," I said. I then explained (for the second time) that I had called because a wind storm had knocked an aerial line out of my house. She promised to pay more attention to me than the last representative had then asked me to wait while her computer called up my information. While we waited, she casually asked, "so, how's the weather out there in Georgia?" I took this as a bad sign.

Eventually, this woman in the Philippines put me on hold so that she could call Atlanta to set up an appointment with a technician. My call to an 800-number about a downed line in Coweta County, Georgia, had been routed to the Philippines so that someone in the Philippines could call Georgia. Does anybody else remember when long distance used to be expensive?

The next day, the technician came and took a very brief look a the line and said that it was a long disused trunk line. "Someone cut it and just left it attached to the pole," he said. "It must have blown down in the storm." I asked him what he could do about it. "I can tie it back up there." What happens the next time it blows down? "Just call AT&T and we'll come tie it back up." Thanks, but no thanks. Next time that line falls down, I'm leaving it there.

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To be continued...


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