Being without a landline for weeks every time it rained was driving me insane. Actually, being without the landline was an inconvenience; it was dealing with the phone company that was making me crazy.
At one point, they told me they were installing fibre optic lines. The representative insisted the work was being done in our area as we spoke. Really, I said. My first thought was that we'd finally get high speed internet through the phone lines. My heart raced with this exciting news. I'm so gullible. For the next four years I scouted sideroads for 'Men Working' signs or even signs of men working.
During another outage, we were doing yard work when a repair van pulled into the driveway. There's over forty of you without service, he told us. He laughed when I said, I'll be glad when the new lines are in. 'What new lines? They won't be installing new lines out here. 'Sides they know everyone's going to cell phones.' He had a point. Some of our neighbours had already done that.
Often, during a bad-phone-line time when service was sporadic, I could hear other conversations when I was making a call. One woman asked me to hang up because she was calling to book a doctor's appointment. I could understand her need for privacy. I could hear who I assumed to be the office receptionist asking her if she was on a party line. No, we both answered at once, just before I hung up. Do party lines actually still exist?
Another time, I was speaking to a friend when she asked if I could hear other people talking. I could. Then in a raised voice she asked the other people on the line if they could hear us. I guess they couldn't; they didn't respond.
Finally, enough was enough. My husband agreed that we should cancel the phone. I tried. After three frustrating calls, I was near tears. No, don't send a service man to our house, I said.
Yep, within the hour−record time or what−a guy showed up.
The problem is not in the house, I insisted for the umpteenth time. Everyone in this area is without service. This has been going on for years, I blubbered. Years!! A meltdown was clearly in progress.
Then I couldn't believe my eyes. He actually held his hands up in front of him−as if to calm me−and slowly backed away, saying, I'm here to help you. (They must receive training−or maybe it's just a lot of experience−in dealing with irate customers.) No, I said, I've had it!! You are NOT coming into my house to check anything. The problem is not in my house....At that point, I collapsed a bit, just at the knees−maybe not enough for him to notice.
I stopped ranting and tried being nice. Even tried smiling. Assuring him that I knew this wasn't his fault. But he continued backing away with his damn hands held out in front of him like he was dealing with a crazy. I took a deep breath and informed him that he was one of a steady progression of service men who all ended up saying the same thing. The lines need to be replaced. At this point, I should have taken another deep breath instead of screaming and slamming the door.
I watched him from the front window. He was sitting in the van making notes, and I worried he was red flagging me as a madwoman or phoning the cops for backup.
I grabbed my cell phone. Disconnect our phone, I told them. Wait...it's already disconnected...stop billing us. Then I spoke to the supervisor and told her. Each of the people they transferred me to asked the same thing−why was I cancelling.
I keep telling you, I sobbed, it doesn't work. The phone doesn't work. How can I make you understand that the @@#% phone doesn't work?? No, it's too late, I told them. Forget about giving us a discount on our bill. We shouldn't have a bill. My voice was rising. We don't have service!
My husband took the phone. He was calm and firm. I listened to his side of the conversation. Yes. No thank you. Yes, that's right. Thank you very much.
It was over.
I looked out the window and the service truck was gone. No sirens or evidence of advancing medics with white jackets. Though shaken and breathless, I was relieved. It was finally over.