Guestwords: Between the Pole and Babylon

By Bruce Buschel

    It is Day 12 and I am doing well, thank you. It was rough at first, when my Internet service suddenly crashed. Ugly detox. I had no idea that one week without the Internet could simultaneously recover repressed memories, trigger temper tantrums, damage my standing as a freelancer, drag my fantasy baseball team from first to fifth, place undo stress upon my marriage, and thoroughly disrupt any rhythm of a normal life.
    I would have consulted Dr. Drew had I been able to contact him, but that is nigh impossible without Google. Without Zaba. Without Yahoo. Without Gmail. Without ESPN. Without American Apparel ads.
    Veterans of Betty Ford and Hazelden have told me how important it is to A) keep a diary during withdrawal and B) share your experiences. I humbly and desperately offer some excerpts.
    Day 1. No big deal. Stuff happens. Verizon is not perfect. I make the phone calls. I follow the instructions. I check jacks, cables, wires, filters, router, modem, computer. I reboot. I pray. It takes only a few hours. I retain a fine mood when I am promised that the cause of the disturbance will be fixed from inside within hours.
    Day 2. I make coffee and call 800-VERIZON. Another round of trouble-shooting. And long periods of nothingness. Every once in a while, you hear: “Please continue to hold. Your call is important to us.” You have had your doubts. When a fellow finally tells me, in no uncertain terms, that my router is in disharmony with my modem and both have to be replaced, I am surprised. They have worked together so splendidly for so long. Verizon will FedEx a combo modem/router.
    I go to the Candy Kitchen to buy a New York Times. $2.25? It feels odd reading about world catastrophes without being able to click through to substantiating videos or commentaries or Kim Kardashian images.
    Day 3. I make coffee and wait for FedEx like a faithful dog. I nap like a cat. I eat like a goat. I mope around like a turtle. Late in the day, a brand-new black modem/router is hand-delivered. It takes only an hour to hook up. It takes only a few more seconds to realize it makes no difference at all. I am still unconnected. Unsettled. Crestfallen. I dial 800-VERIZON. I am on hold for 21 minutes. I hear an annoyingly bouncy tune. A prerecorded voice tells me about helpful hints I can find on the Internet at Cruel.
    Eventually, a man named Dominic tells me to type in the Safari address bar. Type admin and admin1. Go to the Status page. Click Internet. Go to Utilities and click a certain icon. No icon? Do you have any other devices? No? Can you get a MacBook? No? If you get another device, we can resolve your issue.
    Let me get this straight, I say: You want me to run out to the Apple store and buy another computer in order to resolve my Internet issue on this computer? Yes, sir. I hang up. Violently. My carpal tunnel syndrome seems to be improving.
    Day 4. I make coffee and call India. Actually, I dial 800-VERIZON and speak to a woman in India. I tell her how much I loved “Slumdog Millionaire.” She is very polite and apologizes for everything wrong in my life. She is reading from a manual. She puts me on hold several times for extended periods. I find myself singing along, note for note, with the bouncy Verizon theme song. It’s a funky fusion number like an early Return to Forever number, or maybe Spyro Gyra. The nice Indian lady tells me that someone will call me back with all the pertinent information I need to get back online.
    I stare at the blinking green lights on my new and ineffective black modem/router. I feel lonelier than ever. Out of touch. No stranded Nigerian is asking for money. Lands’ End is not enticing me with khaki vests. No penis enhancements are recommended. No trade offers come from my fantasy competitors. And no one from Verizon calls.
    Day 5. I wake up, make coffee with Baileys Irish Cream, and call the Philippines. Actually, I dial 800-VERIZON and get a fellow in the Philippines. He promises to get to the bottom of this right away. He too is reading. Finally, he says a technician will be dispatched to my house in three working days. This does not work for me. He puts me on hold. Is there another company that can put you on hold for 10 or 15 minutes two or three times during a single phone call and then not deliver the goods? Maybe I should write lyrics for this bouncy theme song. Does despisin’ rhyme with Verizon?
    A technician will arrive at my house tomorrow between 10 and 2. I say I might have to leave my house at some point and would greatly appreciate a text message when the technician is headed my way. Yes, of course, says the voice, if you are willing to pay for the text. What? There will be a charge for the text message, he repeats. Let me get this straight — I have to pay for a text message from Verizon because my Verizon Internet has failed and my Verizon modem has not solved the problem and I am waiting for my Verizon technician. Yes, sir. I yell something that might get my tongue removed in the Philippines.
    Day 6. I make coffee with Kahlua and wait for the technician. When neither tech nor text arrives by 2 p.m., I dial 800-VERIZON. A computer tells me I have to call another number now, the tech number: 866.995.5632. Tech cannot find my records. I am put on hold for 17 minutes. A woman from the Philippines tells me I have no Internet service and a tech will arrive between 3 and 5. But the appointment was between 10 and 2, which does not incorporate the numbers 3 or 5. She says the tech was held up. At gunpoint? I ask. Silence. She cannot find the answer in her manual.
    The tech arrives at 4:45. He mistakes my computer for a modem. I don’t work on many Macs, he says. Confidence eludes me. After checking the system with a skinny stethoscope, he tells me I have no Internet service. I stare at him. He sits in my ergonomically lousy chair and works on my G5. Nothing. Then he works on the lines outside my house. Nothing. Then he crosses the street to the pole with the Verizon box. At 7 p.m., he tells me he has to leave and I will have no phone service. I ask when he will return. Tomorrow, he says. Tomorrow when? Just tomorrow. And tomorrow and tomorrow . . .
    Day 7. I skip today. Sue me.
    Day 8. No coffee today. Venom is my caffeine. I get a text around 10 a.m.: We have dispatched a technician. These five words will cost me. Even when no tech shows up. High noon, I call 866.995.5632 on my cellphone. After reciting name, rank, and account number for the umpteenth time, I talk to a gentleman in India. He says the tech is outside somewhere and my issue will be resolved today. I ask if I am allowed to leave my house. I do not have the authority to grant that request, he says. I am now unofficially under house arrest. Murderers at San Quentin have Internet service. I consider the pros and cons of being a con. At 7 p.m., I start to drink Jack Daniel’s. From the bottle. You got a problem with that?
    Day 9. I make coffee, take two yellow pills, and call Verizon. Yada, yada, yada. A woman asks me questions. She knows nothing of my status or struggles. She says the tech is working on the problem and I will receive a call when it is fixed. I ask for an approximate time or day. She cannot help. She thanks me for being patient.
    Do I sound patient, lady? Maybe patient like a mental patient ’cause I am going batty without news, without weather, without YouTube tangents, without Wikipedia, Netflix, e-mails from family, friends, enemies, Canadian pharmacists. She apologizes. I tell her that I could have Optimum replace Verizon within two days. She thinks I said Octomom. I scream at her. She hangs in there. I string together a filthy bracelet of unmentionable expletives. She is still there. I am starting to like this dynamic. I hang up fast.
    Day 10. I do not get out of bed. I do not make coffee. I call 866.995.5632. I beg to speak to a technical specialist. I get an American male voice. The trouble is between the pole and Babylon, he says. That is a great title for something, I say. He continues: The whole shelf is out. It’s a flooded station. It will not be repaired until 24 other people complain. What? It takes 25 people to fix a station, he says. That’s another good title, I say. Don’t ask me why, he says, but your neighbors have not complained in sufficient numbers. Maybe they are weekenders or on vacation or whatever. I suggest you mobilize your neighbors.
    Mobilize my neighbors? I have not heard that phrase since the war in Vietnam. I must mobilize my neighbors. I am having an acid flashback. Thank God for medical marijuana.
    Day 11. I make coffee and eat a cheesecake. I think about shaving. I look in the mirror. I put down the razor. I call Optimum. They have no bouncy theme song. They play Coldplay. There is a loud knock on my door. I ask Optimum to hold on. At my front door is a man in a Verizon shirt. My hopes soar. My atria fibrillates. He asks if my Internet is running. I ask him if this is a joke. He says no. I say no. He asks how long. I tell him 10 days. He shakes his head and then shakes my hand. I feel the compassion. I tell him my rehab is going well. He looks right, he looks left, and says, softly, conspiratorially, “Off the record, I think Verizon wants you to quit.”
    “Say what?” I say.
    “I have worked at Verizon for 15 years and there is no other explanation for what’s happening.”
    “What’s happening?” I ask.
    “Transfers, open tickets, outright negligence. Ugly things.”
    “Follow the money.”
    “What money?”
    “The East End is a loser. They employ too many people and too many disasters and too few customers. You can’t get FiOS, can you?”
    “No, but . . .”
    “They want you to quit so they can dump the business.”
    “Verizon wants me to quit Verizon?”
    “You didn’t hear this from me.”
    “You mean Verizon wants me to sign up with Optimum?”
    “I am going door-to-door in 2013. Think about it.”
    Deep Throat turns and walks to the end of the driveway and disappears. Optimum is still on hold. I cancel my order. I refuse to be a pawn in their game. I want to contact The Washington Post or The East Hampton Star but my flashing green lights are now frozen red. I sit down with a pad and a pencil and a bottle of Jack.
    At the top of the page, I write “Between the Pole and Babylon.”

   Bruce Buschel is a writer, producer, director, and restaurateur who lives in Bridgehampton.