Photo Corners

A   S C R A P B O O K   O F   S O L U T I O N S   F O R   T H E   P H O T O G R A P H E R

Enhancing the enjoyment of taking pictures with news that matters, features that entertain and images that delight. Published frequently.

The Last Day Of Summer Share This on LinkedIn   Share This on Google   Tweet This   Forward This

22 September 2015

Yesterday, when we were Going With The Flow, it was 15 degrees hotter than it is today on the last day of summer. That's how we do things in San Francisco. We adjust.

Summer Fog. The broadcast tower is barely visible.

Things are, as we like to say, back to normal as our natural air conditioning kicks in. And, more or less, they are back to normal in the bunker, too, where we've spent the last two days switching from our POTS or Plain Old Telephone Service with DSL service to VDSL with VOIP or Voice Over Internet Protocol.

We aren't big on switching.

A friend of ours (who lives out of town) switches whenever his promotional period is up. He's wired for every service by now, so it isn't as big a hassle as it sounds. And usually, just the threat of switching brings discounts of its own.

Our approach is more going with the flow, as we said. And the flow is to get us off copper here and into fiber optic. So the switch, we graciously conceded, was inevitable.


But ours is an economy of errors. Nothing is ever done right. And it keeps a lot of people employed.

There are the people who get it wrong to begin with, of course, usually taking a lot longer to screw it up than it would take to do it right.

Then there are the people employed to handle the backlash of wronged customers. Answering the phones at call centers, yes. Building and maintaining non-functional Web sites and automated problem report lines with waits of several hours. Not to mention the fictional people who speak Spanish when you press 1.

Followed by the people employed to fix all these errors. Who should probably have been sent out first, but then the prior two categories of employees would be looking for work.

And they don't always get it right either. In fact, they usually leave some issue or other hanging.

So you end up buying some product you had no need for previously just to get back to where you were. More or less.

And wait until the first bill comes.

Then you have that branch of the customer service industry that looks up your account and confirms that the bill is in error, apologizes, adjusts the charges and asks if there's anything else they can do for you today?

But take heart. As inefficient as it inevitably is, you are keeping the globe twirling on its axis. Money, that is, is changing hands.


We know this inevitable bumbling rubs some people the wrong way. They demand this. They demand that. Because if you don't demand stuff, people walk all over you. And they are pretty sure people want to walk all over them as the shortest distance to somewhere else.

Not us.

We don't get in the way, but we like to know what's going on. We discuss the situation, the approach, ask a few questions, get on the same page and get out of the way. Before you know we've made a new friend.

Yesterday it was the young AT&T Internet installer. Sonic leases the AT&T lines for its Fusion FTTN service. So he came out to plug in a Pace router and activate the service using one of our phone lines.

He didn't know we had VOIP on it, too, and would need some backwiring. Or that our internal phone wiring was something of a rat's nest thanks to 67 years of previous technological evolution.

But he also didn't know we had spiders.

Spiders would be, you'd think, an occupational hazard for anyone installing electrical stuff. Ask any spider where they like to hang out.

He was well versed in reasons to fear the things, he was explaining as we caught him in our arms after he leapt back in horror from spider residing in the Network Interface Device on our outside wall.

Not just big spiders but small ones too. Their venom is potent, he explained. Or the other way around, he couldn't remember. Couldn't remember where he learned that either but thought it was probably the Discovery channel.

Some other day we'll talk about the state of modern television, though. Today is too close to the Emmys.

And to think that the day before we'd thoughtfully hosed down the NID to get rid of the spider webs. You know, just as a courtesy.


He got the VDSL line in and activated, plugged in our new router and even connected the ATA box Sonic sent us to provide a dial tone on VOIP. And backwired two jacks in the house to use the new phone service.

He explained he was only supposed to bring the Internet service in. But we were having such a good time with the local wildlife, he went the extra mile. Which nobody ever does when they want to walk all over you.

So no one would be able to reach us for 12-24 hours. Which, when you think about, is not all bad.

The trouble was (oh, there's always trouble), he killed our POTS line. The phone line, that is, that everybody uses to call us to invite us to dinner, give us their used clothing, sing Happy Birthday and invite us to contribute to worthy causes of their own devising.

Nobody could reach us.

He had no idea what to do because he had never been trained as a phone installer. So he suggested we put a call in to the POTS repair line (you know, using our iPhone) before giving us the number and his card in case we ever have trouble with our Internet line.

You know how that repair call went.

Interminable hold prevented by the automated system which assured us "after testing" that it was our fault (even though we had it on the authority of an AT&T technician that there was no dial tone at the NID) and hung up on us without issuing a ticket number.

We tried the repair Web site (our first use of the VDSL setup) but it was down. At least it told us that before we filled out 12 screens of forms.

We called the repair line back and they miraculously picked up after we entered our number. They knew we'd been there before. Or maybe they were afraid of spiders.

The customer service person (we can never hear their names and have, for the most part, stopped asking them to repeat their name) was very cordial, apologized just long enough with convincing sympathy (but then she'd had an awful lot of practice) and promised to get a repair person there. Tomorrow. Sometime.

So no one would be able to reach us for 12-24 hours. Which, when you think about, is not all bad.


Early the next morning (today, that is, right after we'd published our Horn article), we got a call on our iPhone (which we don't much use as a phone -- or didn't until yesterday) from an unidentified caller. We didn't pay much attention to that until they also left a voice message.

It was the AT&T repair guy. He's on his way, just wanted to talk about the problem, see what we could tell him.

Now that sounded efficient, so we were suspicious. We blocked the number right away.

He got to the house a few minutes later and we showed him the NID and, well, he was a talker.

He didn't care very much for what the installer had done. "He took my drop," he complained after confirming there was no dial tone on the line. He used to teach this stuff, he said, so he talks a lot and he's loud, he apologized, because his hearing is bad because he used to work on these noisy systems before earplugs were invented which the Union insisted they all got because....

We covered about two dozen topics in that kind of detail. Meanwhile he went out to the box a few blocks away to find a line for us, climbed the pole (our installer was no climber; he was a snorkeler; and without his GoPro, he wasn't even that), made a few connections as the pole bowed under the load and came back to earth to wire us up at last.

We'd plugged our bedside phone into the jack he connected to our POTS line and waited for him to call the number to test it.

It didn't ring.

He was mortified. "Must be your phone," he said. And then we remembered we had, 30 years ago, turned off the ringer on the phone because we didn't want to be startled awake in the middle of the night. We flipped it back on and it rang. We both laughed.

He was so relieved he offered to remove our old DSL box which now attached to nothing in the NID and we took him up on the offer.

As soon as it came off the window frame to which it had been screwed, a family of spiders scattered.

"Oh," he said, "can't bother those little fellas. My wife's native American and every time I go after a spider she says it's her ancestor so leave it alone."


It's the last day of summer. We survived yesterday's sweltering heat and today's chilly fog. We transitioned from POTS with DSL to VDSL with VOIP. We got one jack back with POTS until AT&T can release our phone number (a couple more days, we're told).

And we did it with the help of two gentlemen intimately familiar with spiders. One terrified of them and the other who considers them sacred.

But in San Franciso, as we said, we go with the flow. We adjust.

BackBack to Photo Corners