The Time Warner Way (Part I)


My father was a college professor who had five children and an old 14-room house: he knew how to fix things. I grew up watching him analyze broken stuff and then figure out how to fix it. If it was a broken floor lamp then you started by checking out the lightbulb, followed by the wall outlet, the socket and the wiring. When you had located the source of the problem then you fixed it.

Time Warner came to fix my telephone this week. Actually, they came twice. In the same day. They don’t use my father’s method.

My phone hasn’t been working right for months. What it does is drop the first few seconds of every phone call. The phone rings, I pick it up and say hello, and I hear nothing. I say hello louder. Then I yell “Hello! Hello!” Then the caller says hello. The caller hasn’t heard me for about the first 20 seconds.

I live in a HUD-subsidized secure apartment building, which means that a visitor has to ring up my phone from the vestibule in order to gain entrance. I answer my phone, then press 9 to release the door catch so my visitor can enter. Except that that is in the first 20 seconds so the door doesn’t get the message to open. My visitor and I have to go through this rigmarole about three times before s/he can enter.

Of course, I called Time Warner. The customer service girls repeatedly told me to unplug the phone, wait five or ten minutes, then plug it back in. Well, this worked, although I had to do it every week or so. In the beginning. In the end, i.e., the past two or three weeks, I’d have to do it every other day.

There were two problems with that: first, a month ago I had a myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME)/systemic exertion intolerance disease (SEID) “crash,” which is a really bad thing. I no longer could bend over and pull the plug out of the power strip on the floor. If I tried, I had a tendency to fall on my head. Second, my aide could do it but she only works three hours a day.

So I called my Power of Attorney (POA) and begged for his help. He said he would call Time Warner. I have called Time Warner a bazillion times in this life and have found them, without exception, to be unhelpful—particularly when it comes to scheduling a service call.

I am a multiply-disabled person who lives alone. My telephone is my lifeline. Literally, it is a matter of life or death for me to have reliable telephone service. Time Warner doesn’t care. They will schedule me for the first-available service visit even if it is two days hence, and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and reasonable accommodation be damned. I’m bedridden and can’t even buzz my aide in to help me. That’s just fine with Time Warner.

In my considered opinion, and based on too much experience, Time Warner sucks.

So my POA calls Time Warner and gets scheduled for a service visit in two hours. Girls working a telephone bank respond differently to a man’s voice than to a woman’s voice. And there is no supervisory policy to direct them to treat woman and men the same.

So at 10:00 a.m. my POA shows up with the Time Warner technician following right behind him. I spend five minutes explaining the history of the problem, then leave for a health care appointment. When I get home, the furniture has been moved and not replaced. Thanks a bunch, Time Warner. Exactly how do you think I, in my wheelchair, am going to move the television and its table back against the wall?

Time Warner techs don’t care at all about returning things to the way they found them. They lack all courtesy, respect and empathy.

Time Warner sucks.

So I call the POA and he tells me that the tech removed the amplifier from the wall. He did that because, he said, the amplifier is usually the first thing to go wrong.

Oh. Well. Not exactly my father’s way of identifying and repairing the problem, but what the hell, as long as its fixed.

Three hours later, I pick up the phone and discover it’s not working again. Instead of getting a dial tone, what I get is a visual message that says “searching . . . out of range.” After the 20 seconds of dead air, the phone sooner or later quits working entirely and gives me this message. The tech guy who came in the morning did not do anything to fix the problem.

I have three choices: call my POA, call Time Warner—whoops, my phone isn’t working. I can’t call anyone. Do I not have a cell phone? Yes, I have the government-issued cell phone that is virtually unusable: the buttons are so small that I have to dial about three times before I can get the number.

So I opt for the third choice: take a nap. When dealing with Time Warner, it always is best to take a nap first. It reduces the amount of swearing when trying to work with their simpering young girls in Customer Service. So I take a nap then pull out the offensive cell phone and call Time Warner. They have the records of all the service calls, and probably some notes about how much I hate them.

We establish that my phone—supposedly fixed in the morning—is not working in the afternoon. She schedules me for another service call between 8:00 and 9:00 the next morning.

Fifteen minutes later, Dispatch calls to say they’ve got a cancellation between 5:00 and 6:00 that afternoon—should the come? Yes, please, sure, okay, thank you, do that.

It is after 5:30 when two Time Warner techs show up. Discussion reveals that the tech to which the call was assigned had checked the record of what had been done in the morning. A new modem had not been installed and the tech did not have a new one on his truck so he called around and found another tech who had one on board and the second tech met up with the first tech to provide the new modem, should it be needed. (To be continued)

About annecwoodlen

I am a tenth generation American, descended from a family that has been working a farm that was deeded to us by William Penn. The country has changed around us but we have held true. I stand in my grandmother’s kitchen, look down the valley to her brother’s farm and see my great-great-great-great-great-grandmother Hannah standing on the porch. She is holding the baby, surrounded by four other children, and saying goodbye to her husband and oldest son who are going off to fight in the Revolutionary War. The war is twenty miles away and her husband will die fighting. We are not the Daughters of the American Revolution; we were its mothers. My father, Milton C. Woodlen, got his doctorate from Temple University in the 1940’s when—in his words—“a doctorate still meant something.” He became an education professor at West Chester State Teachers College, where my mother, Elizabeth Hope Copeland, had graduated. My mother raised four girls and one boy, of which I am the middle child. My parents are deceased and my siblings are estranged. My fiancé, Robert H. Dobrow, was a fighter pilot in the Marine Corps. In 1974, his plane crashed, his parachute did not open, and we buried him in a cemetery on Long Island. I could say a great deal about him, or nothing; there is no middle ground. I have loved other men; Bob was my soul mate. The single greatest determinate of who I am and what my life has been is that I inherited my father’s gene for bipolar disorder, type II. Associated with all bipolar disorders is executive dysfunction, a learning disability that interferes with the ability to sort and organize. Despite an I.Q. of 139, I failed twelve subjects and got expelled from high school and prep school. I attended Syracuse University and Onondaga Community College and got an associate’s degree after twenty-five years. I am nothing if not tenacious. Gifted with intelligence, constrained by disability, and compromised by depression, my employment was limited to entry level jobs. Being female in the 1960’s meant that I did office work—billing at the university library, calling out telegrams at Western Union, and filing papers at a law firm. During one decade, I worked at about a hundred different places as a temporary secretary. I worked for hospitals, banks, manufacturers and others, including the county government. I quit the District Attorney’s Office to manage a gas station; it was more honest work. After Bob’s death, I started taking antidepressants. Following doctor’s orders, I took them every day for twenty-six years. During that time, I attempted%2
This entry was posted in disability, HUD-subsidized housing, Poverty, Powerlessness, Values and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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