JUNE-JULY 2010 issue

Beyond the Blue Verizon...

If you’ve never had to deal with telephone companies and ISDN circuits, this article may hold no interest for you. But if you are familiar with it, you already know what horror stories exist regarding setting up new ISDN service. I’m about to add another one to the batch.

First, let me state firmly that, YES… I DO HAVE A FUNCTIONING ISDN LINE NOW!! But getting it was a nightmare. I was rescued by a Verizon Field Technician named Pat Calhoon who truly believes that it is his job to serve the customer. This is apparently a rare trait among Verizon employees, by my experience.

I ordered the ISDN line on April 14th, while still in NC, anticipating that it might take some time. That was a good idea, because the technician came to install the line on June 17th… just three days after we moved in! I was thrilled… until I turned my equipment on and discovered that all I could get was a message, “SPID error”. I thought this should be an easy fix. The SPIDs (Service Profile Identification) are simply the two telephone numbers of the ISDN circuit, and they are programmed into the user’s equipment as well as the phone company’s central office terminal. The error message just meant that the numbers at Verizon did not match the numbers in my equipment.

So, all I had to do was call Verizon repair, right? Uh huh.

I’ve now taken the grand tour of Verizon’s internal network of department extentions several times. The average trip lasts about two hours. At least one time went past the four-hour mark, and ended with both my cell phone and cordless home phone batteries running out! Nobody knew where to send me, and would just pick a number out of their directory. On one occasion I got a supervisor who promised to stay with me until we got the right person. Twenty minutes of voice-menu choices later we finally reached a live human being who said; “This is the wrong department. You need to call XXX-XXXX…” at which point the supervisor jumped in and said, “No, no, no!! That’s MY number, and it’s not the right one!” After listening to them argue with each other for a while, I just hung up.

Tenaciously, I kept generating repair orders with Verizon. They’d send another technician out to the house, the technician would test everything again and say there was nothing wrong with the line and I had the correct numbers in my equipment. The central office would then say there was nothing wrong on their end either, and cancel the repair order! Things kept circling through this loop of frustration for a month, until Pat Cahoon entered the picture.

After running through the usual tests with the usual results, he took it upon himself to go, in person, to the central office and talk to the technicians there. The eventual cure was very simple. Someone who’d never worked with ISDN before was assigned the job of programming my SPIDs into the Verizon system. Because it is not necessary to dial the area code for local calls here, they entered only the local number… no area code! ISDN always uses the area code in the SPIDs.

When I deleted the area code from my equipment, the numbers at both ends of the circuit agreed and I was able to get a solid lock on the circuit! A quick test with a couple of long distance studios confirmed that I could receive calls from anywhere… crisis resolved! I’m back in business.

To cap it off, Pat Calhoon then contacted the billing department and told them to credit back the first month’s service charges since I had not had service for the entire period. This guy is some kind of saint. Thank God for people like Pat Calhoon!

Growing Groceries...

With all the chores of setting up house in our new location (Wappingers Falls, NY), I‘ve not had a chance to do much more outdoors than mow the patch of dirt that passes for a yard here. I noticed a large weed starting to grow at the corner of the steps to the front porch, but decided to leave that for future yard projects once we’ve got everything settled on the inside of the house.

Each day I’d see this thing getting bigger and bigger… growing at an incredible rate! It looked vaguely familiar to me, and when it suddenly burst forth with huge yellow trumpet-like flowers, it hit me; This is no weed! This is FOOD… a vegetable of some kind.

Irene and I have tried to identify it. She thinks its zucchini squash, I think it’s watermelon. I envision someone sitting on the porch last summer, eating watermelon and spitting the seeds over the rail. The bases of some of the older flowers are starting to develop, but still look like they could be either squash or melon.

We’ve become fascinated with it: our first “garden”. We’re only certain of one thing about our little volunteer...

Whatever it is, whenever it's ripe enough, we’re going to eat it!


Feels Like Dixie!

The charm of a 100+ year-old Victorian house wears thin quickly when the temperature climbs past the century mark!

Irene and I have been schlepping furniture and heavy cardboard boxes full of stuff up and down tiny, narrow, curving stairways in one of the worst heat waves in New York! I threw the budget away and headed for the home center where I bought three or four room air conditioners.

It is now fairly comfortable in this old house, but I tremble at the thought of what our first electric bill will look like!

About NY’s Hudson Valley:

It’s difficult to find a bad restaurant here! Even the battered old diners serve dishes that are delicious and memorable. The real competition is in customer service, because virtually everybody has great food!

Slow drivers use the left lane, speeders use the right lane, and people in a real hurry use the shoulders!

Place names can be a little scary: Peekskill, Fishkill, Stonekill, ValKill, Catskill, Sparkill, Battenkill, Casperkill, Norman’s Kill, Peosten Kill, etc.

On Saturday nights you take a folding chair and a cooler to the nearest parking lot where other neighbors have gathered for a social get-together. Tailgating without a game.

Diets? “Fuhgeddaboudit”! Every fourth building is an Italian restaurant or market where quality is measured in calories and fat-content. Even the grocery stores have little more than token quantities of lo-cal, salt/sugar-free, non-fat, etc. 90% of the people on the street look like candidates for a visit from Richard Simmons.

When we tell people we just moved here from North Carolina, they all look at us and say, “Whaddya, nuts?!”

Trust Me, I'm a Professonal....

You might have noticed that my newsletter for June was missing this year… and this July issue is late. Chalk it up to the trauma of moving from NC to NY! The trauma was considerably more than it should have been, thanks mainly to the cavalier treatment we received from MBM Moving Co., an American Van Lines company operating out of Greensboro, NC. Our experience, in a nutshell, was infuriating.

When interviewing companies to handle our move, the timing was an important element. Irene’s last day at work in NC was June 10th, and she started teaching her first class at Mt. Saint Mary College on June 29th… barely two weeks to get moved and settled before starting the new job. MBM said they could load us up on 6/11 and would deliver our stuff the next week… absolutely no later than 6/19, but probably around the 16th or 17th. They also touted the fact that both ends of the move are handled exclusively by their crew… no temporary local help at either end. This was our third long-distance move in five years, so we envisioned the same guys and the same truck starting and finishing the move, as it had been both other times.

Wrong! We never saw the guys or the truck that took our stuff in NC again. The truck, packed to the gills, was driven to a warehouse where our household was off-loaded and stored for assignment to whatever truck happened to be headed in the right direction. Bottom line – We finally got our possessions delivered on June 24th! MBM said that they couldn’t help it if the driver got sick and delayed the delivery. But they can’t explain why we didn’t get our stuff by the 19th, as promised. That was the same day the driver got sick, and at that point they had still not even loaded a truck. And was this the only driver they had? Further, we learned that the truck that eventually brought our stuff was an extra day or two late because it was re-routed to somewhere in Western PA to pick up some stuff to be dropped off on Long Island before getting to us!

In other words, “…say whatever you must to get the job but do the job any way you want”! Our furniture arrived with countless dings, dents, chips, rope burns, gouges, wear and tear from all the loading and unloading… all of which was completely unnecessary. A couple of antiques were crushed or shattered in transit, beyond repair. But MBM has promised to compensate us. The going rate is 60¢ per pound for whatever got damaged… like a ripped oil panting that weighs two pounds will fetch an impressive buck-twenty!

I hope to never move again. But if I do I’ll sell everything, move nothing, and buy stuff when I get where I’m going. Between what I'd get from the sale and what I'd save on the move, it should work out about even, and be a lot less traumatic.

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