An Unfortunate Disappearance


Part the first, tragedywise, aka A Prequel, also known as stuff that will help you understand the rest of this sordid tale

As one who grew up on a farm in ruralmost Iowa (half way between the Twin Cities and Des Moines which is not to say near a major highway or city of any kind), I am reluctant to call my new address rural. From the end of the driveway it's only a mile into the nearest town and post office, gas station/convenience store, bar, beer store, breakfast spot, restaurant, Methodist church, school of dance, formalwear rental place, coffeehouse, hair salon, school, athletic fields, etc. I think there is a business for almost every house in the village. Yes, I live next to a village which meets the Wisconsin 'village' requirement of one church to three different legal options for buying beer. (Actual towns must meet a 4:1 standard, cities 7:1 and Milwaukee has to open 10 new bars every time a new church moves in.)

Nothing to this point in my story, however, speaks to why I haven't been around CH lately. That has little to do with my general environs and everything to do with my specific place of residence. To get from the road to me, you have to drive through almost half a mile of ski hill property until you reach a hundred-yard private drive that connects to the parking lot of the house I live in.

So far you should be thinking I've got a sweet gig, and that's almost true. Yes, I live in a very nice place with a 3.5 acre lot that insulates the property from its neighbors and the ski hill. The house is beautiful and well furnished, except for the basement where I live which is crammed full of stuff because I moved in with the father of all hoarders. A man with well over 150 short sleeved shirts in his closets (which were just rotated down into the basement for the winter to make room for his long-sleeved shirt collection). Which wouldn't stress the basement's capacity for stuff were there not approximately 15,000 books and pulp science fiction magazines in the basement plus every other durable item purchased for this house since it was built in 1963. And the boxes they came in. But I digress.

The land is low, trees surround the house, the ski hill forms a massive barrier to the west and the half mile plus to the nearest road makes this a sandpile in a sea of broadcast media. Cell phones do work, there is a land line (which won't support DSL), and you can get about 9 broadcast channels (out of the 69 available from the Milwaukee and Chicago areas which I am living half way in between). A media desert this is not except for my little sandy patch.

What my new digs are, is so perfectly situated so as to make internet solutions all but impossible. Time-Warner told me it would cost at least $10,000 to install cable. A dish installer told me my experience would totally suck due to the trees on all sides ('if you can't get regular TV, dish won't be much of an improvement'). The areawide wifi network could only reach us if the ski hill let them put up an antenna (the ski hill immediately clenched their bankrupt sphincter and demanded an absurd amount of money).

Which brings us to the part of the second part in which money is taken, little is given, and much is lost

Because Time-Warner took two weeks to blow me off after moving in (plus the two weeks they blew me off before I moved in) I had to go through complete internet withdrawal before experimenting with the set-up already in place. A set-up that hadn't worked in months. Jon, the owner of the house, used a friend in Chicago for tech support. I'm a power user, not a tech guy, but even I respect the tech support when the guy has a two-letter domain (not entirely sure, but I think he actually knows Tim Berners-Lee).

His solution had been a Verizon jetpack, a mobile hotspot that let Jon go online via wifi for $60 a month. Since driving 20 miles roundtrip to a library to check email was driving me nuts, I started playing with Jon's very old iMac. And I got his wifi going again. Again, I'm not a tech genius. It wasn't broken. Jon somehow deleted the Firefox icon from his dock and that was all it took to keep him offline. 79-year-old people are not naturally inquisitive, I guess.

It took a couple of weeks to figure out how to get said wifi to my Mac in the basement but having done so, I went internuts. Quickly I downloaded the third to last episode of Breaking Bad, the George Zimmerman South Park, left numerous extraneous comments at Canis Hoopus and started watching preseason Wolves basketball.

Then I got curious as to why Jon's device was called a 4G hotspot. To my horror I discovered that Jon's contract only allowed him 4 GB of bandwidth a month. A month!!! Hell, the BB episode alone had been over a gig. Clearly I was at the mercy of Verizon and I radically downsized myself back to email and online radio Wolves streams while waiting for the bill to come. (I could have checked online, but that would have required Jon's Verizon password which he had not written down if in fact he ever had one, which was his stock response to any request for any password for any device he owned, site he visited, etc.)

The bill finally came. $90 plus $60 is $150, except of course when you have to add in the taxes and other Verizon bullshit. The Wolves exhibition season cost me dearly.

I negotiated with Verizon. They graciously allowed me to pay the entire overage and rest of the bill, then lassoed me into a contract for a 14GB connection for a mere $120 a month. I'd just doubled my St. Paul DSL bill while cutting my available bandwidth by about 80%. Welcome to Verizon.

Part the third, not a party to anything and in fact quite the opposite altho ending happily if a virtual prostate exam can ever be said to end well

The second bill came the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. It was ginormous, far more than the $120 I expected. I called to complain and discovered that my new contract required me to pay a month in advance, hence the double charge. Plus overage. A baffling overage since Verizon had sent me a "Hey you've used 75% of your account" notice three days before the billing period ended which even their techs thought suggested that maybe I had not gone 6GB over my plan as the bill said, it being difficult to use 9GB in three days with a jetpack that crashed hourly.

My conversations with Verizon began at 1 pm. I left their store in McHenry, Illinois, at 7 pm. I should probably specify that I left the same day (your Verizon story may be more horrific — if so, my sympathies).

In between calling an 800 number and leaving their store, a tech in Rochester, NY, managed to lock me out of my 'mifi' jetpack. At which point I learned that it was out of warranty, and sometimes these things happen. I should also mention that this tech, along with every other Verizon employee I dealt with, apologized for being a Verizon employee. Repeatedly.

I was sent to the store to see if they could fix the device. The people at the store were amused by that presumption. I was given the option of replacing the device (which would require me to sign a new contract), paying for a replacement outright (which they could not assure me would work any better than the first jetpack), or upgrading to a 'home fusion' device (two-year new contract) with a one-week waiting period but it would actually be $10 a month less for 6GB more bandwidth (20GB altogether but you would know that if you'd been paying attention and/or can read 4-point type).

My in-store experience lasted two hours. Not that I'm complaining. After all, it was my failure to pay the bill the day it arrived that had put the payment hold on the new contract. Also, all the people who were in the store when I arrived were still there trying to get their shit resolved when I left, so I should feel lucky.

The home fusion device is installed.

No, the home fusion device is not installed. When 2 o'clock rolled around on Tuesday I called Verizon to see where the installer was and learned that the order had been canceled. They cared enough to get my name on a new two-year contract, obligating me financially but at that point their work was done so they cancelled the order.

More phone hell but the store that screwed it all up allowed me to drive back to Illinois to get a loaner jetpack, just like the one their tech service people broke in the first place. Because it was foggy, the store is in Illinois and Illinoisians drive like assholes, I waited a day to pick it up. I am, frankly, surprised that they would loan me a device. That they did I attribute to the fact that they listened just hard enough to figure out that another week without internet and I wouldn't be able to pay my Verizon bill.

I have wifi enough for Wolves, surfing and email but I am leery of streaming videos and music sites. Internetwise I am now a castrati after over a decade of Bluebeard-level piracy.

Yo ho, hack, cough, wheeze, ho. And if you don't do business with Verizon, don't. They insist they'll be out next Monday with the home fusion device, but I'm not holding my breath for that. I'm holding my breath hoping that the loaner jetpack keeps working until the home fusion set up is installed.

P.S. I'm still waiting on my Wisconsin driver's license to show up in the mail, but it's still three days short of eight weeks which, as I understand it, is the typical wait since Gov. Walker fired the state employees and subcontracted out to the lowest private sector bidder. I'm guessing that low bidder must have been Verizon.

P.P.S. I'm sure this is inappropriate, but if you'd like to help keep me online until the Wolves beat Miami in the Finals next summer, send your freewill donations to:

Mark "Verizon Victim" Gisleson
PO Box 233
Wilmot, WI 53192

I'll probably just buy booze with your money, but there are worse causes.

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