Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Also, if You Have an Unsightly Blemish, Try Taping a Ceramic Owl to It

I’ve not written for a few days, figuring I had insufficient psychological distance from the phone-related anguish of the past week, much of it self-inflicted, as always. Well, I guess all of it self-inflicted, technically. I’ll spare you the blow by blow, except to say that, no matter how furious you get, try not to say to any AT&T employee “Just go ahead and disconnect it.” Particularly if by “it,” you mean both your phone and your DSL.

I thought we’d gotten past that crisis point and were in agreement that we were going to fix things rather than disconnect them, but in the ensuing couple of days, while discussing the ins and outs of repairing the phone (and the DSL), it emerged that both actually had been disconnected, meaning that I was now a “new customer.” While the old customer that I was a week ago had a certain local toll calling plan and had been using a particular modem for years without problems, the new customer that I now am can no longer opt for that local toll calling plan and also cannot use that outdated modem.

Well, it was clear who had the upper hand here, so I agreed to everything: sure, you can have my driver’s license number. Yes, I definitely do want the Triple Deluxe Package. By all means, let’s have the faster Internet access. Anything you say—just turn my phone back on. The main pleasure I had in that particular conversation, which lasted an hour, was when I got to say I don’t watch TV and don’t have a cell phone.

Naturally (oh, never mind what I said earlier about sparing you the blow by blow), every time I spoke with someone at AT&T, he or she said the exact opposite of what someone else had said earlier.

Now, theoretically, I could have called my building manager the second I discovered the phone wasn’t working and asked her to take care of it, but after many very unhappy incidents in the past, I’m strongly motivated to get as far as I can without her and I did that in this case, but finally got to the point where it seemed clear the problem was with the inside wiring, so I called her and asked her to please look into fixing it.

Then, predictably, she claimed that the landlord has nothing whatsoever to do with whether my phone works or not and I predictably then provided, in the course of a voluminous three-way email exchange among myself, the building manager and the landlord, the applicable portions of the California Civil Code. I felt a bit rueful that I did so much to avoid having the usual yucky interaction with the building manager, and ended up having it anyway.

In due time, the landlord allowed that it was indeed their responsibility to fix the phone, while the building manager said she had other things to do and would not be available to let the repair person in any day this week! Then she grumbled that she was getting too many emails about my phone. This is the result one might well expect when one starts by attempting to disavow responsibility and goes on to be as unhelpful as possible. If she had said right away, “Sure, I’ll take care of it,” I think she would have found the conversation to be pleasingly brief.

This is about one percent of the entire saga, but last night, the point was finally reached where the landlord, who grew up in the era where people learned manners as a matter of course and is much easier to deal with than the building manager, said for me to go ahead and have the phone company come out and fix whatever needs to be fixed, which was a huge relief—not so much that the phone will be fixed per se, but that I can stop fretting about how the phone is going to get fixed. I have also received the new modem to replace the one that worked fine a week ago, so things are looking up.

In pigeon news, I thought of a way to prevent them from sitting in a particular spot and raining poop down just outside my kitchen door, got the stuff at the hardware store yesterday, and Tom and I installed it last night. It looks like it will do the trick.

Tom also plucked the latest dead pigeon off my fire escape—picked clean by a predator—and helped me with a couple of other things around the apartment, which was very nice of him. You might think the landlords would be in charge of pigeon abatement, but the landlord’s main suggestion on this topic is “You might want to get a ceramic owl.”

That’s fine. I have a regular task now to scrape poop off my windowsills, followed by a squirt of water with a bit of bleach in it, and I might break down and hire someone someday to come and wash the outsides of the windows, which are streaked here and there with excrement. There is also a nest between my fire escape and the wall of the building. Perhaps sooner or later the area will get so soaked with bird pee that it will all collapse into the building manager’s apartment, beneath mine. Then maybe she can get a gross of ceramic owls with which to artfully conceal the rubble.

I will say that she was more civil this time than in the past. I have gotten any number of truly discourteous communications from her over the years, and didn’t this time. Obviously, our entrenched psychological patterns dovetail perfectly, to unhappy result. She will never act the way I think she should act, and I will never act the way she thinks I should act. All we can do is try to stay away from each other, and to do our best when that fails.

This past weekend featured laundry, shopping, cooking and the cutting out of cloth for three pairs of baggy pants (while I was waiting at home for the phone company to show up, which they never did), but the highlight was the magnificent dinner party thrown by Tom’s niece, Sarah, on Saturday night. Several of Tom’s relatives came from Sacramento for Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, and in the evening, we all gathered at Sarah’s: Sarah, Paul and Eva, Tom and Donna, Shannon and Aaron, Dave C., Elise, Matthias and Carolina (a musician couple from Sweden), Steve, and me.

Sarah had put three smallish tables in a row so as to accommodate 13 diners, and decorated each one separately, which was very artistic. The food was wonderful and the whole evening was most enjoyable.
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