Well, I finally quit cable.
It had been a long time coming, and for many reasons – number one being that Television Is Terrible! I felt like I couldn’t turn the thing on without running into a Kardashian (if only), or that pregnant beach prostitute Snoopy, or whatever she calls herself. Also, my stratospherically priced service was spotty at best. Here in my underprivileged neighborhood, TimeWarner has a monopoly; this means that when the DVR mysteriously decides to boycott Project Runway, or Intervention (I can’t get enough of those addiction shows), as compensation the customer receives absolutely zip. In addition, when you go to pay your bill online, somewhere between the summary page and the payment screen, a bonus dollar inexplicably gets added to your total. I don’t pay it and it disappears, but in the old days before I noticed and just shelled it out, I wasn’t aware of anyone banging down my door to give it back. In their latest burst of inspired creepiness, the company recently sent out an innocuous-looking postcard announcing their plans to charge a new, five-dollar-a-month “modem rental” fee.
I don’t know about you, but I prefer my bloodsucking corporations to be a bit more direct in their money-grubbing practices. So I quit. I went to El Targhetto and bought my own modem, which will pay for itself in less than a year. I also got a wireless router so I can watch Netflix in bed. However, a note of caution to all prospective bedtime viewers: nodding off with a paperback compares not at all to smacking yourself in the face with an iPad.
So far, I’ve experienced zero separation anxiety (and it’s been almost a whole week!!!!!!!!!!!!!! But I’m fine!!!!!!!!!!!!!). The debates are streamed live online, and I can watch network stuff a day or two after its original broadcast, which is what I usually did anyway – provided the DVR was ever working. Listen. I held on as long as I could, just as in all my other dysfunctional relationships. But this time I had to face the fear and just cut the cord, or in this case, the coaxial cable. I realize that my job as the consumer is to be screwed, or quit griping and just get out of The Burning Bed already. The corporation is simply fulfilling its predatory role in nature, through no fault of its own. (Back when I could afford a therapist, I was complaining to her about an associate who constantly sabotaged her artistic endeavors. “She’s like that quail in Bambi,” I grumbled. “When the hunters come and everybody tells her to stay down she panics, then flies straight up out of the bushes and gets shot.” [It's true: watch it with your kids.] “Well, that’s what quails do,” my therapist mused. “You can’t get mad at a quail for being a quail.”)
And now, a word or two about the Phone Helpers. The TimeWarner ones have become conspicuously super-nice over the last couple of years: you can practically smell the fear on the other end of the line. I know that I’m far from the first to defect from the fold, and word must have come down from the top that they can’t be sullen anymore. After running the customary gauntlet of automated prompts it takes to reach an actual person, it feels like you’re greeted with “Good afternoon, TimeWarner. I’m so sorry; how can we help you?” Indeed, this happened all five times I had to call before getting to speak with someone who actually knew how to activate my new traitorous modem. Everyone was over-the-top courteous, if profoundly uninformed. But I don’t blame the corporation – training must be expensive!
“I’m here to return my equipment,” I declared at the service window of the TimeWarner store – conveniently located 105 blocks from my front door.
“Why you returnin’ it,” the service representative…announced? (He certainly didn’t ask.)
“Because I am done.”
“Okay,” he sighed, taking possession, “I get it.” From there, a perfectly pleasant transaction ensued.
I hope Hulu is hiring.