Shhh – Keep this Quiet

Shhhh.  Don’t tell anyone about this post.  I can’t believe I’m even writing it.  Frankly, I expect more out of my self, but that is often the problem.  I expect too much out of myself.  Today, I’m letting something slip, I’m letting go.

I’m going to complain in public.

Sure, I complain to friends and family every once and a while, but I don’t want to be a labeled a “complainer” so I try to keep it to a minimum.  Right now though, it’s all I can think to do.  There is just so much to complain about.

Obviously I’m not oblivious to the things I have to be grateful for.  I’m just having a hard time seeing those things.  All I can think about is the stuff I’m annoyed at, the things I don’t want to do, and the people that are frustrating me.

For example, take this repair guy that came over to my house.  His name is an odd spelling of a name that I have associated with a famous female singer, so we’ll call him Jesika.  That’s not his name, thank goodness, but that’s what I feel like calling him.

The back story behind why we had a repair man over is long and if I were to bring it up I would begin ranting up a category five hurricane.  Let’s just say we have a short in our telephone wiring in the house and we called the maintenance company for our rental home to have them send someone qualified to take a look at the wiring.

Our past experience with this company tells us that most of the time they will send out some gross high school drop-out with a bucket of paint to literally cover our problems up.  “Leak in your piping?  Let me paint that over real fast and call it done.”  So this time I called and made it very clear that this was no paint bucket job.  Someone who actually finished high school was going to have to come out and run diagnostics (something other than listening for a dial tone) to figure out where the short is and fix it.  I insisted and made myself crystal clear.

They sent Jesika.  Jesica is six foot three (or so), looks and acts like his dog (who I haven’t met, but one can imagine) and behaves just like the three-year-old child he fathered but couldn’t support.

Maybe I’m being a little harsh.  Nah, you’ll see.

He knocked on the door, then stepped away to go inspect our telephone wire box (or whatever that thing is called).  I poked my head out the front door to look for him.

Of course, he’s very polite.  “Hello sir, I hear you’re having problems with the phone lines.  Did you call your phone company and make sure everything is hooked up right in the box?  It doesn’t look like they hooked you up yet out here in the box.”

“Uh, yeah…  We’ve been living here for a year and a half and the phones have been working fine the whole time.  We only started having problems this weekend.”  I tried to cock an eyebrow at him, but I’ve never been very good at it.

“Oh, wow.  Really?  This isn’t a new service?  Oh.  Wow.  OK.”  Defeated, Jesika’s head hung a little as he carried his bag of tools over to the front door.  He unzipped it and pulled out one of those dummy yellow handsets that are used to test the lines for service.  “Show me where your phone jacks are.”

“We’ve only got two…”

“Of course you do.  Show me.”  He wasn’t listening to me at all, so I kept talking.

“…and they’re both working fairly well – we can place outgoing calls just fine.  The problem is when other people call us.  No calls are coming in.  Sometimes it rings, sometimes it doesn’t.  I called the phone company and they ran some diagnostics that said we have a short in the wiring.”

While I talked we arrived at the first jack in the kitchen and he ripped our plug out to stick his tester thing in and check for a dial tone.  “Hum, yeah.  Sounds like it’s working just fine.”

“I think I already mentioned that we can place outgoing calls just fine from both jacks.”  Of course there’s a dial tone, moron.  I really wish I had finished that thought, we could have gotten the visit over a lot sooner.  “We can’t receive calls.”

So, Jesika dials his cell phone with our phone.  Yeah, that’s right.  He placed an outgoing call.  His cell phone rang.  I really wish I had reeled back in shock and exclaimed, Oh my gosh!  You fixed it!  It works, you’re a genius!  Of course, I didn’t.  What a shame.  Should’ve, would’ve, could’ve.  Oh well.  “Well, that’s my phone ringing, it’s placing calls just fine.”

“Yeah, I told you we could place calls just fine.  We can’t receive any incoming calls.”

So he whips his cell phone back out and asks me what our number is.  As soon as I begin reciting it he finds it in his incoming call log (he knew how to use his cell phone?!?) and hits “Send.”

Every once and a while a call will come through.  It’s rare (most of the incoming calls are dropped) but it does happen on occasion.  Lucky for us, his call didn’t make it through.  I breathed a sigh of relief, and his brow furled.  “That’s odd, it rang twice then went to a strange busy signal of some kind.”

Wow, really?  You mean it didn’t work?  Good thing you’re here to fix it!  “Yeah, that’s what’s happening.  Sometimes that busy signal comes on, other times the call just gets dropped and the caller gets silence, and every once and a while it’ll ring on our end but still drop the call.”

Another side note:  The day before I came home for lunch after trying to reach my wife all day and went around the house trying to figure out what the problem was.  I pulled everything out of the phone jacks, I called the house several times, plugged individual items in, and just ran some basic troubleshooting steps to see if I could isolate the problem.  At the end of all the fiddling I was able to call the house.  The problem appeared to have resolved itself, but later it reappeared.  I don’t know if fiddling with stuff fixes it for a call or two, or if the problem is an on again off again thing, but somehow it worked for nearly an hour yesterday.

Today, though, it wasn’t me fiddling with stuff.  It was good ol’ Jesika.  I followed him past our front door and down our hall on the way to the second jack in the bedroom (after our major breakthrough at the first jack).  I was explaining to him that I already knew the problem wasn’t with our phones – we got good dial tones and outgoing calls on both jacks from both devices.  I reexplained that the phone company’s diagnostic revealed a short in the wiring, which is why I had requested that a specialist come out to check all of the wiring for shorts.

I think I even went as far as to tell him that listening for a dial tone on the other jack would be a waste of time, or something to that effect.  He turned around to face me in our narrow hall.  “Well if you’re saying that the wires need to be checked I’m not going to do that.  There’s no way I’m going to rip all the wires out of the walls to check them.”

“Well, I know the jack is working just fine.  The problem is in the wiring in the walls, not the jack.  You’re welcome to inspect the insides of the jack, because the short could be there (though I didn’t see one when I opened it up earlier in the day), but since it’s working fine for outgoing calls I think the wires need to be checked.”  Electricians can use special tools to locate problems along wires in the walls, don’t (or shouldn’t) phone repair people have similar tools?

Jesika became notably upset.  “You mean you don’t want me to check the jack?  You know what, you’re right.”  He pushed his way past me back in the direction of the door.  “I guess I’m not the right man for the job.  Let me get out of your house.”  He was storming off like my son does (my five-year-old son) after I punish him.  “You want the wires checked you need to get someone else in here to do that.”

“Whoa, wait.  I’m not asking you to leave.  You’re here, you’re the repair man, please look at the jack.”  I had to calm my voice as though I were trying to soothe an angry customer, which I learned to do working at the bank for so many years.  “I’m just telling you that there is a dial tone and that there is probably a short in my wiring.  I understand you have experience repairing phone wires, but if this problem isn’t in the jacks I need the wires inspected.  You must understand, I need my phones to work.  As of right now, our cell phones don’t work in the house because the cell phone service stinks here, and our phone stopped taking in calls this weekend so while I’m out I have absolutely no way to get my wife on the phone.  Surely you can understand my situation.”

Reluctantly, like an angry child agreeing to do the dishes – but only because if he doesn’t do them he won’t get dinner – Jesika turned back around and went into the bedroom.   The rest of the visit was littered with instances of me trying to be nice and Jesika trying not to show how angry he was.

In the end he left our bedroom with no conclusion about the jack.  He had unscrewed it to inspect it, but when putting it back together he was careful to leave it in worse shape than it was when he found it.  The screws were all loose, though I had left them all tight and secure when I opened it.

He asked for the customer service number for our phone service and went outside to make the call.  A few minutes later he was calling to me through the opened door to inform me that a solution had been found.  “Call forwarding has been activated.  You need to turn it off.”

“We don’t have call forwarding, it’s not part of our package.”  My wife had set it up, and we had gone with the most basic, inexpensive package available.  No call forwarding.

“Well you do now, and it’s turned on.  She says you have to dial star, star, seven, two to deactivate it.  You should hear a beep beep.”  So I grabbed the phone, dialed the code and heard a busy signal.

By this time I was frustrated and wanted Jesika gone.  I used my cell phone (since we were outside it worked) to dial my house phone.  Partially to my relief and mostly to my horror, it rang.  I picked up and the connection was made.

If you’ve ever accused a young child of something he swore he didn’t do, then had to admit that you were wrong later when you learned the truth, you know exactly what face was beaming at me when I looked up from the phone.  “It worked?”  His inquiry was rhetorical, at best.

“Yip, it worked.”

He gloated to the lady in the phone.  “I told him I’m the best repair guy around.  He didn’t believe me, but here he is thanking me for being the best guy they’ve got.”

He was, in his view, quite congenial after that.  He shook my hand hard and eagerly retrieved a customer satisfaction survey card from his truck for me to submit.  He wanted to wait around for me to fill it out right there so he could read my praise before giving it to his boss.  I knew in my heart though that I would be writing about his immaturity, sloppiness and gloating spree.  I told him I’d turn it in later.

He left in a very proud, chipper mood.  A couple of hours later I decided to test the phones.  I sent my mother a text asking her to call our house.  The phone rang.  I picked up and got nothing.  It rang again and I picked it up quicker.  This time she was there.  I asked her what happened the first time and she said she got a busy signal after it rang a couple of times.

Oooooh.  I wanted to throw something and smash it.  Deep down inside though, I was just glad Jesika wasn’t right.  I tested it again an hour ago, and it didn’t even ring.  I heard the ringing in my phone, but no ringing in the house.  I tried that magic code again (even tried dropping one of the “stars” since it only produced a busy signal) and nothing worked.

So now, tomorrow I have to figure out what I’m going to do.  The phone company will send someone out to fix it, but I’d rather not go through them until I have determined for certain that the problem is not in our walls.  If the phone company repair guy find the problem on their side of the fence (from the box out to their company) they will fix it for free.  If the problem is inside our house, they will charge me $55 for the first fifteen minutes of work, and $20 for every fifteen minute increment afterward.  If it takes them forty five minutes to find and fix the problem, I’ll end up spending nearly $100 to have something fixed that my maintenance people should have fixed.

This isn’t the only frustrating, annoying or difficult thing I face tomorrow.  In fact, if I had a “skip one day free” card, tomorrow might be the day to use it.

Oh, if you’d like to send me condolences or your pity, don’t bother trying to call.  I’m completely unreachable at home.  Wait until I leave my house tomorrow or just send me an e-mail.

Well, thanks for reading my rants.  Sorry I’m so boring lately.  It’s been rough.  I think I’m managing to get through everything with most of my mind and a little sanity.  We shall see.  We shall see.

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1 Response to “Shhh – Keep this Quiet”


  1. 1 Andrea October 8, 2008 at 5:31 am

    Hey, MRM — I recall those repair people. Some of them really are nice but most are largely inept.

    Has your wife told you about my outlet near the sinking shorting out mystery?

    Too bad they let Cecil go. He would have known what to do. (former head maint. guy)

    I hope you get a free solution to what ails you. Or maybe really good walkie-talkies. Or a short wave radio. You know, a short wave radio they’d let you haul around on post… one that you’d WANT to haul around on post.


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