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E.T., Don't Phone Home: There's No Phone

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Johnny Depp said that he could live in China. I wonder how the phone service is now? I lived in China... as a child... and what an adventure it was for me at a time when everyone was forced to wear grey, and we could light up a woman's face simply by waving the gift of a lipstick at her. The Chinese made it easy to live among them -- warm friendly people at a time when you paid someone for everything and it got done somehow, which got morphed into a dictatorship and capitalism. But there was no luxury -- they barely had soap or phones. My old friend from Peking believes she is one of the lucky ones because her formerly poor family became wealthy quite by accident, and we still laugh about training foreigners in the ways of OUR country. Take today for example.

I have two phone lines and they were both dead. I called Time Warner, the company to which I pay my phone bill. (I have a package where they provide phone, cable and Internet.) They told me that I no long have phone service with them as Verizon cancelled it. "Did I cancel it?" I asked Fred, my Time Warner representative (Fred is a pseudonym for Frank).

"No, they did," said Fred. "And because they had a cancellation order, we cancelled it."

"Where did they get the cancellation order?" I asked Fred.

"From you, more than likely..." he answered.

"Hmmm," I thought, "I live alone." I have been making my own decisions for a long time and wonder if this is a new form a photobombing. Canceling someone's phone service? I couldn't think of any known enemies I had -- I even have an ex-husband whom I still really like as a person, and think that the feeling is mutual. Maybe he has a girlfriend now and she is photobombing -- I mean, disconnecting me. After I trained my ex-husband really well for the next woman in his life? She would be grateful, me thinks! Send me a new car or something great!

My thoughts continued: Fred had used the always ominous word: they, making it sound like Hitchcock himself had just filmed the word being uttered from the mouth of the director explaining tonight's villain and depicting him on the big screen careening in a downward spiral as he has just fallen from a rooftop and fate is having its way with him as he faces his bad guy karmic demise. SPLAT!

"Fred," I said. Then, I said it again for emphasis. "Fred?" This time I asked politely. "Are you sure someone just didn't screw things up and give my phone number away by accident?"

"I really don't know," said Fred. "But frankly. I think this is exactly what happened. I am from China where we kill people for less. And we kill people for more. Actually, we kill people for the same thing. And we kill tigers for their penises or rhinos for their horns, or is that in Africa where similar bad judgment is shown?" I may be slightly exaggerating here but I know everyone has problems with the phone companies and I think it's really dreadful what we as consumers have to go through with them.

The bottom line is that evil exists and it exists in really large parts in our phone companies who use exotic words like "port" because when I called Verizon that's the very word they used: "port." "Yes, the representative said, you 'ported' your numbers over to us." It sounded so chic!

"I never ported anything except on a website with a similar name. And it was high fashion: Pret à porter. I asked Verizon that since had i already been "ported" to them if they could please make it work because I NEEDED PHONE SERVICE.

I was on my cellphone with Verizon for over two hours while they researched my dead phone lines which they had taken from Time Warner without my permission and were now holding hostage. They told me that I had been paying for these two phone lines for years! What!!! Just as I had been paying Time Warner! So, I have been paying two phone bills for the same numbers -- which makes me glad that I am helping support two mega-companies, one of which is trying to merge with Comcast, to try to grow even bigger! There's an idea! Let's all have one phone company! Oh, wait, isn't that the dreaded monopoly we are trying to avoid?

Verizon decided that sending a phone repair man out might be a start of a solution for my problem -- an idea I liked because apparently Time Warner doesn't have any. But I would have to wait for three days. And I did. The first fellow they sent out was Roberto and he couldn't fix both the phones because he only had a tag for one bum phone and I had two. I will say that he was good and got one fixed, bless his dear little corporate heart.

A few days later they sent another repairman over -- and I swear this is true -- this man looked like Adonis and could have accessed my neighbor who was practically begging him to, but he wanted access only to the phone room but could not, thanks to the management of my building which thinks we are going inside there to light fireworks or let terrorists in or something. I have yet to know -- I'm just the one who pays the large homeowners fees each month only to be told that they will tape the door shut before the phone man comes and will release it when he leaves, leaving me to feel like a naughty schoolchild who has just pulled the school bunny's tail and is about to get in to trouble.

Eventually, phone service was restored, my neighbor may have a date with the phone man, Time Warner will probably merge with Comcast even though the Writers Guild of America opposes it, and Verizon continues to put people on hold forever then thanks them for choosing Verizon.

The phone companies are not about choice -- they are about what we are forced to live with. Johnny Depp can choose to do whatever he wants to do. He has money and can pretty much create his world wherever he wants it. I'm glad I lived in China as a child. I thank my lucky stars that I live here as an adult -- I just wish the phone companies had some decent competition.