Time Warner Cable Guy: Thank you for calling Time Warner Cable Technical Support, my name is Ralph, how can I help you?
Me: I’m trying to figure out why I can’t get the HD broadcast of the basketball game.
TWCG: Let me check that for you.
TWCG: I see here that you don’t have a set-top box.
TWCG: Well, to access those channels, you need the box.
Me: Even though those channels are included in the service I’m already paying for, and my television is perfectly capable of processing an HD signal on its own.
TWCG: You need to have the box to access those channels.
Me: Let me guess—you charge more for the box.
TWCG: Yes. It’s ten dollars a month.
Me: I have to say, it really bothers me that you’re pretending this is some kind of hardware issue. I mean, I already get the HD broadcasts of the major networks just fine. It’s not like my TV is a Trinitron, man.
TWCG: But the channels you’re trying to access require a set-top box.
Me: You can keep repeating the same thing if you like, but that doesn’t mean it makes any sense.
TWCG: Because those channels are digital, you need the box to access them.
Me: Correct me if I’m wrong, but all broadcasts are digital now, and have been for a while, as per federal law.
TWCG: Well, that’s true.
Me: So, given that, how is it that these channels’ being digital is the problem? Because presumably all the channels I already can access are also digital.
TWCG: You need a set-top box to watch those channels, sir.
Me: You’ve created a problem whole cloth to justify milking me for another ten bucks every month. It’s bullshit. You know it’s bullshit.
TWCG: You need a set-top box to watch those channels, sir.
Me: Have you ever seen Barton Fink, by any chance?
TWCG: I have not, sir.
Me: That figures. Thanks for your help.
TWCG: Thank you for calling Time Warner Cable Technical Support, my name is Roger, how can I help you?
Me: I just read that one in four Americans believes the sun revolves around the earth.
TWCG: I’m sorry?
Me: I was trying to watch the basketball game, but the low-definition broadcast looks so bad on my flat-screen that it made me want to kick the dog, so I started fooling around online instead.
TWCG: Are you having a problem with your Internet service, sir?
Me: No, it seems to be working fine. This was how I discovered that 25% of the American population thinks the sun revolves around the earth. It occurred to me that while that doesn’t necessarily mean ours isn’t the greatest nation on the planet, it almost certainly means it won’t be for much longer. Don’t you think?
TWCG: Honestly, sir, that’s pretty far outside my purview, as a Time Warner Technical Support representative.
Me: Because people are always going on about how America is so great, but realistically, how can we stay as great as they claim we are when a quarter of us are unaware of a basic scientific truth that was conclusively demonstrated six hundred years ago?
TWCG: I happen to think America is a fine country, sir.
Me: A fine country, sure. But also sort of a schizophrenic amnesiac who wipes her mouth with the hem of her skirt.
Me: Is this the result of evangelism, do you suppose? Or just plain ignorance?
TWCG: Is what the result of evangelism?
Me: That so many people think the sun revolves around the earth.
TWCG: Sir, do you have any questions for me related to your television service?
Me: Actually, yeah. I was wondering if it’d be possible for you to show Cosmos more often, on more channels, at all different times of the day. Maybe slide it into the Entertainment Tonight slot one night a week? Or else preempt The Real Dogsitters of Terre Haute, Indiana every once in a while?
TWCG: Sir, as far as I know that isn’t a show that actually exists.
Me: Even still. Is that something we can manage?
TWCG: Sir, that is not a decision we make in the Time Warner Technical Support call center.
Me: No, I suppose not. Thanks anyway.
TWCG: Thank you for calling Time Warner Cable Technical Support, this is Justin, how can I help you?
Me: Hi, I called earlier about the HD broadcasts of channels that I don’t have access to despite the fact that I’m paying for them each month.
TWCG: OK, I’d be happy to help you with that, sir. What did they tell you earlier?
Me: That I needed a set-top box to access those channels.
TWCG: I’m seeing here…yes, that would appear to be the case.
Me: See the thing is, it’s still really bothering me, so I thought I’d call again. I mean, I’m pretty angry right now. That was a great basketball game and I didn’t get to watch it.
TWCG: Was the standard-definition broadcast of that channel not working?
Me: It worked, but it was sort of unwatchable. All pixelated like a bad acid trip. The players looked like characters from Super Mario Brothers.
TWCG: Please tell me what I can do to help you with this problem, sir.
Me: Well, seeing as how it’s after midnight and I don’t intend to pay you even a penny more than I already am, not much, I guess.
Me: See the thing is, as I’ve gotten older I’ve really been trying not to be so angry about everything. I don’t want to be one of those guys who drops dead of a heart attack at age 47 because he’s been running on high-test rage his whole life.
TWCG: Certainly not.
Me: Like my old man, for example. Oh, God, did I just say that out loud? Jesus.
TWCG: You did. And as was mentioned at the beginning of the call, this is being recorded. For quality control purposes.
Me: Terrific. Anyway, I find that it’s well and good to resolve to be less angry, but that’s a difficult resolution to keep with all the stupidity we’re exposed to these days. It comes to us wholesale. Big bales and pallets full of it. Sam’s Clubs of stupidity. Flatbeds of fatuousness.
TWCG: I wonder if that’s really any different from any other time in human history, sir.
Me: Well, sure, but have you actually watched any of the stuff you guys broadcast? For example, though I did not get the basketball game in HD, I am lucky enough to currently receive TLC in HD, which enabled me to watch four episodes of something called My 600-lb Life.
TWCG: I’ve seen that one.
Me: Well I realize it’s not exactly Kandahar, but nevertheless I still feel like I’ve been forever changed. And not for the better.
TWCG: I suppose in the end we all choose whether to engage with it, sir. The ubiquity of it is not, ultimately, the problem.
Me: I know, I know. Believe me, I do not have the same level of self-regard that I had before sitting through four episodes of that show.
TWCG: Sir, have you ever considered therapy?
Me: Briefly, from time to time. But then I think it’s just another form of outsourcing: taking the job that used to belong to our friends and family, and paying a stranger $150 an hour to do it in their stead. Besides, I figured since I’m paying you $150 a month for a service you provide poorly—when you provide it at all—I might as well get my money’s worth for it.
TWCG: Is there anything else I can help you with, sir?
Me: I guess not. Unless you can deliver a large thin-crust pepperoni. And maybe also a fresh bottle of Jameson.
TWCG: I’m afraid not, sir.
Me: Never mind, then. Thanks.
TWCG: Thank you for calling Time Warner Cable Technical Support, this is Braden, how can I help you?
Me: I’d like to cancel my cable service, please.
TWCG: May I ask why?
Me: Well I tried to cancel the service on your website, but that seems to be about the only thing I can’t do online. Interestingly enough.
TWCG: No, I meant why do you want to cancel the service to begin with, sir?
Me: This can’t come as a complete surprise to you. We haven’t been seeing eye to eye for quite a long time now. Maybe we never really did, when you stop to think about it.
TWCG: Perhaps there is some problem that I can help you resolve?
Me: I really doubt that, at this point.
TWCG: All right, sir, well I’m certainly sorry to hear that. Unfortunately we can’t cancel services here in technical support, so I’ll need to transfer you. Can you please stay on the line?
Me: You’re asking me as if I have a choice.
TWCG: Thank you for holding, this is Tony, how can I help you?
Me: I’m surprised there’s anyone working at this hour.
TWCG: 24/7 customer support, sir. It’s just one of the ways Time Warner Cable helps you Enjoy Better.™
Me: Not me. Not anymore. I’m cancelling my service.
TWCG: Well, of course we’re sorry to hear you want to discontinue cable service, sir. Is there a particular problem that I can help you with?
Me: The other guy asked me that, too.
TWCG: Well, if you’ve made your mind up we can certainly go ahead and discontinue service. But you should be aware that once you cancel you won’t be allowed to take advantage of any introductory offers for six months.
Me: Why should that make a difference to me? I’m not taking advantage of any introductory offers now.
TWCG: OK, then, just wanted to let you know. You should also know that since we’re past the 15th, you will be charged for a full month of service even though you’re cancelling today.
Me: It won’t be prorated?
TWCG: I’m afraid not.
Me: How can you justify that, exactly?
TWCG: This is hardly a matter of ethics, sir, or even of common sense. It’s a matter of legality, and because you signed a contract stating you would pay a full month’s fees if canceling after the middle of that month, you’re on the hook. Also, since you’ve decided to stop purchasing services, we no longer have any motivation to keep you happy. So feel free to get as angry as you want, but you’ll still owe us for a full month.
Me: Fuck me.
TWCG: Language, sir.
Me: Let me speak to your supervisor, please.
TWCG: If you wish.
TWCG: Thank you for holding, this is Charles, the section supervisor. I understand you want to cancel your cable service?
Me: Never mind. Can you just hold one of those set-top boxes for me? I’ll come pick it up tomorrow.
TWCG: Very good, sir. Is there anything else I can help you with?
Me: That’ll be it, thank you.
TWCG: Then thank you very much for calling Time Warner Cable, and have a pleasant morning.
Ron Currie Jr. is the author of three novels, the most recent of which is Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles.