I took last week off from work, hoping to do some observing. Unfortunately the last thing I saw was Mars on Friday night a week ago – in poor conditions as the clouds rolled in. For the rest of the week the cloud cover was total at night, though a couple of hours during the day looked promising towards the end of the week. Finally last Saturday seemed to be improving and I went downtown in the afternoon for a book buying session at BakkaPhoenix, had dinner at the Green Mango – the fast food version rather than the fancier restaurant across the street, and bumbled back home expecting to open up the skyshed and do some observing.
It didn’t work out that way.
The first sign of trouble was the sound of the alarm system beeping quietly to tell me there was a problem. I assumed there had been a power failure which had drained the batteries, but when I checked around I couldn’t find anything wrong. I went looking for the manual, and noticed the phone was showing a red light – but no-one was using the phone. Looking closer, I found the phone display read “Check phone cord.” Oh-oh. Not a Good Thing.
After plugging and unplugging in every phone in the house, the phone system was still showing the same message. I used my cell phone to call Bell Canada and reported the problem. It was after six by this time, and the technicians were all off duty. “Off-duty” isn’t a concept recognised at my 24/7 place of business, but Bell Canada apparently only works from 8-6. At least they schedule work every day. I was promised service (at a minimum $65 if the problem was traced to a source inside the house) the next day, Sunday. By this time the clouds were rolling through, and I closed up the SkyShed.
On Sunday I stayed home to wait for a service call or at least to see the phone lights change. I waited all day, but by 6.30 Sunday I had received no call from a technician and tried to call Bell again. The original number – 905-310-BELL – no longer worked (and it had on Saturday according to my cell phone log), so I had to make contact through a different area code. After a bit of effort the operator tracked down my records and I was told the call was logged as a ‘missed appointment’ with no explanation. I asked for and got a reschedule for Monday – again from 8 to 6.
Early on Monday I phoned in (cell-phone again – time mounting up) to work to let them know I wouldn’t be in, and settled down to wait again. Around 10 am I got a call from Bell and was told the problem was not theirs, but that I was now a Sprint customer, and Sprint would have to make the fix. I’ve been waiting to switch from Bell to Sprint, but haven’t had any notification when it would happen. When I called Sprint, I found that they had no idea that I was switching over on the weekend. Lots of discussion, considering whom to sue….
A little after that, Bell called back to say they now recognised there was a problem with the line, and that they would look into it. Somewhat mollified – God knows why since I was still unable to do anything worthwhile – I settled in to wait again. Around 1.30 my alarm system started to beep again. Apparently the phone was connected for an instant and the alarm system reset, then started beeping when the phone line went down again. Next, around 2.35 the phone line apparently came up working. I started to retrieve my email, but by 3.30 the phone was dead again. Then at 4 pm I once more got a working phone, and this time the phone technician called me to tell me that the phone was fixed.
I asked him what the problem was, and he said the line was on the wrong line pair – how long had I had my phone? – Eight years [though now I think, it’s more like seven]. A puzzlement – with the arrangement I had, the phone should never have connected properly. All the tech could suggest was that the line had been tampered with.
As I rolled off to work on Tuesday morning I noticed a swarm (well, two) of Bell trucks around the Bell junction box, so I assume there were a lot of lines to sort out. On previous occasions I’ve noticed that the box has a loose cover, so I suppose it’s possible someone got into the box and tried to change (or fix) a connection and did it wrong. That, or CSIS is after me….
Now, I’m glad to be once more tied into the web, but the way this incident unfolded is disturbing. We give the various telcos a nearly-complete monopoly on phone service — another company can break into the market, but it’s not easy. In return, we should be — and once were — able to expect a level of service which is a cut above that for the more usual grubby item. That level of service is apparently no more. Tis true, ’tis pity, and pity ’tis, tis true.