One of the maddening challenges of modern technology is the distance it puts between the company and the customer. In the early days of television, when mass communication was in its infancy, we only had a few channels to choose from and our video reception depended on how well positioned those rooftop antennas were placed.
If you’re old enough you might remember something called “rabbit ears” which was an indoor antenna that usually sat on top of that square box that was often referred to as the “boob tube.” Back then, you’d strive for a clear picture by sliding the antenna across the surface of the box and wiggling it into a position that worked. Antennas were connected to your TV with a pair of terminals clamped down with screws. Even the best of them usually were augmented with coat hangers, aluminum foil, or some other metallic contraption.
No one knew or questioned why this improved reception; it just seemed to work. Yes, there were times when the picture would not be crystal-clear, or when the image “jumped” as we used to call it. That meant that you could see a clear picture, but it would occasionally move up or down, as if someone was adjusting a few frames on a camera.
At times, you’d be watching a movie and see half of the bottom and half of the top, with a line separating the two frames. That’s when you’d resort to a gentle turning of the knobs labeled “horizontal” or “vertical” on the side of the set. However, for the most part, you could enjoy your evening of entertainment, capped with about 15 minutes of news and local weather reporting, without interruption. If you couldn’t handle it yourself, the local TV technician could come over and replace a tube (remember them?) and a small fee would allow you to continue peeking in on the antics of Lucy and Ricky Ricardo.
Life was much simpler then, possibly because we had fewer choices to make and we could normally solve our own problems without having to deal with a large corporation, represented by phone voices from a thousand miles away.
With the advent of massive cable communication we have arrived at a different universe, one in which we are at the mercy of others who have control of those modern day windows on the world. Now, with hundreds of channels to choose from, most of which we’ll never use, but were part of the package deal sold to us, those giant companies are being paid a large monthly fee to provide us with a cornucopia of selections that tend to make us feel secure in the knowledge that we’re an integral part of the swiftly changing culture that shapes our world. After all, what would we do if we missed an HBO special or a Showtime original movie, and it came up during a social encounter? How would we explain why we are unable to view those life-changing events?
It’s bad enough that we’ve become willing hostages to the communication revolution, but it’s even worse when one considers that a disruption in the service may engender hours, days, or even weeks of frustration as we become embroiled in myriad attempts to remedy our problem, while continuing to pay those hefty monthly fees.
Naturally I’m referring to the recent shift from Verizon to Frontier Communications, which has many consumers raging against the amorphous giant for their obvious lack of proper preparation before handling the immense changeover. Some have lost connections in one or more rooms of their homes; others have lost channels they’ve been paying for from the inception of the original service. Still others have seen changes in their billing with no explanation from the company. Phone calls to Frontier have resulted in nightmare scenarios that include bureaucratic shuffles from one rep to another, with several minutes on hold each time. Some have been given times and dates for a Frontier technician to appear on their doorstep, only to waste the day waiting for the unfulfilled promise.
Even the time frames they give you is an example of their total lack of respect. A friend of mine was told that a company rep would arrive “sometime” between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Tuesday. She waited all day, even having a friend come over for a short time so she could run an errand. No one showed up, and no one called to say that the rep couldn’t make it. To add insult to an entire day lost, the next day, a rep called and asked “How’s your day going?” Grrrrrrr!!! And to think that we used to complain about rotating the rabbit ears on top of the set.
Bob Weir is a long-time Flower Mound resident and former local newspaper editor.