Thursday, May 9, 2013

On the Line

A few of things were supposed to happen on Tuesday, and an hour into my phone call with DirecTV Tech Support, it appeared that not only would we fail on all counts, but we may have to begin the search for Internet providers -- if not television as well -- all over again.

The issue with DirecTV was not that the satellite wasn't working. On the contrary, we had watched TV for a couple of nights in a row, and except for the temporary appearance of rainbow-colored vertical bars on the screen on Monday, everything was good. Everything, that is, except our On Demand feature. Granted, this isn't a huge deal, but what it meant was that the satellite was not hooking up to the Internet, where all the On Demand content is stored. It would mean that we'd have access to current programming, but not to anything in the past, unless we DVR'd it. We'd also have no access to the "10,000 movies and TV shows" they say we have, which is a major part of the subscription cost, I would guess. 

As the hour-long call progressed, I became more and more nervous about having to scrap our Clear Internet and go webless for a while longer, until the cable companies got their act together and ran a wire under our street. That's because this weekend, two different DirecTV reps told me the two systems were incompatible. Of course, I didn't believe them-- not because I'm some electronics expert (ha!) but rather because a) Clear assured me I could get between 3-6 mbps for downloads, and DirecTV only required 2 mbps; and b) the Clear sales department directed me to DirecTV-- I used the same phone call to order both!-- so how the heck could they be incompatible?  But now, faced with a 15-day Clear trial period already half over, and a 2-year contract for DirecTV that has $20/month cancellation penalties, I was thinking I'd have to send back the system and not only have to deal with a cable company for Internet service, but at an exorbitant rate, due to us not actually getting cable from them. So as the 1:00:00 mark hit on my phone call, things were not looking good.

Earlier in the day, I had been on the receiving end of a sorry-'bout-that message, as Rory wrote to tell me the plumber couldn't come until Thursday. We have been waiting for him to come hook up the kitchen plumbing for a week now, since not only does it mean we can apply for a certificate of occupancy (and finally finalize our refinance), but also that we could put an end to microwaving water for tea, waiting for ice cubes, smelling a weird NYC-subway-like stench in the storage room caused by an incorrectly-sized waste pipe, and (most importantly) having to wash our dishes in the bathroom sink. Seriously, things like excess milk and chicken soup don't look very nice poured in your toilet-- trust me.

We're also waiting for the last piece of our dining-room chandelier: the lighting. Well, half of the lighting, to be exact. James, a local artist from our old neighborhood, created a larger version of an Anthropologie light fixture Abby really liked. It's installed now, after a process that freaked Abby out, since it involved him standing on the top rung of our step ladder, itself atop a six-foot scaffold on the dining-room side of the great room, with Abby holding things steady as James reached to place the electric box at the apex of the cathedral ceiling. But the install looks great; you don't notice the box at all, silver on the white ceiling, and hidden behind one of the rafters. (That's more than I can say for the smoke detector mid-room, which is still hooked onto the dark rafter like a big blob of marshmallow fluff on a Twix bar.) The unfinished part of the chandelier is that, as we plugged the bulbs in-- Edison bulbs, so as to make sure we pad the Pepco CEO's annual bonus more effectively-- we noticed only four of the eight sockets worked. James seemed unaffected, announcing he knew what the problem was, and that he'd fix it when he came back later in the week to adjust the height of the fixture. I'm still not a fawning fan of the thing, but I think it'll grow on me, and it's definitely a plus to have adequate lighting during dinner.

We did have some things completed this week. On Monday morning, we had our first trash pick-up, following the end of our annoying "please recognize us as an address, since we pay taxes and stuff" issue with the county. We have two different recycling bins, which means that we have to separate paper and cardboard from bottles and cans. And what's really weird is that we're responsible for providing our own trash bin, as opposed to the Supercans provided by DC to residents there. We also have to urge the mailman to start delivering mail to us, since everything's still being dropped off at the property manager's office even though we have our address on the wall now. Granted, we have no mailbox as of yet, but we have a doormat; just put it under that!  It's a pain because the office is only open during business hours, and as mail isn't exactly a priority for me dear wife, we can go a week without retrieving it. (Love ya, babe.) 

Pay no attention to the non-working bulb to Abby's right.
We also found out that our assessment of the plumbing situation wasn’t entirely correct—in both good and annoying ways.  The good way was that it turned out that our fridge actually had been hooked up, and the ice is now being made.  (C’mon, that’s the one bit of progress? I’ll trade you for a dishwasher!) When the plumber stopped by momentarily this week, he apparently was able to do that, as well as to affix the faucet to the countertop—albeit with no actual plumbing hookup underneath the counter.  He said that the subway smell was probably not going to happen anymore, since the washing machine was now working and there was enough water in the pipes to keep burps from the sewer down where they belong—although I don’t know whether I should buy that explanation.   But he also said they’re going to have to install a garbage disposal in our sink.  A disposal had kept showing up very early in the planning process, and we kept telling them that we didn’t want one.  But time and again, there it was on the planning documents.  Well, I guess one of the documents it was on was the plumbing permits, and without an install, we won’t pass the inspection.  So they had to install an accompanying switch on the backsplash to go with it.  My guess is that I’ll be charged for both of these things—whether on a line item or, more likely, buried in other costs—when I explicitly said on multiple occasions that we didn’t want a disposal.  I’m guessing it’ll be taken out after the inspection—again at my expense?—and I have no idea whether our access to the hot-water tap will suffer during that time, but I’m going to guess so.

Which leads me back to the beginning of the second hour on the phone with DirecTV.  Things aren’t looking good.  The lack of 50% of my chandelier, and the lack of progress on my plumbing was wearing on my mind, and I was looking for a way—any way!—to just end the call without pissing the guy off for having wasted an hour of his time.  Abby walks into the room, having spent the last hour (or so it seemed) in the shower, and plops down in front of the computer.  She announces that the Internet’s not working.  Wait, it was working at the beginning of my phone call.  I tell Mr. DirecTV, and we’re puzzled.  I say, “wait: would that switch we threw a half-hour back have changed that?”  Maybe.  I go over, throw the switch, and the web comes back online. And, an hour and three minutes into my call, all of a sudden a message shows up on the TV screen: “Congratulations?  Your DirecTV system has been connected to the Internet!”  Bells ring, angels sing, babies coo.  Happily, I take the piping hot receiver away from my ear, and sit down to watch our On Demand.  Hey—we ain’t got a kitchen sink, but we can watch Tosh.0, and that’s really all that matters, right?


  1. From an outsider, if I may, a garbage disposal is a good thing. You may not really want one; perhaps you are planning to compost extensively. If so, then that's great, but there are sometimes things you don't want in the compost. If not, putting organics in the trash not only makes for smelly trash, but it tends to layer them among plastics in the landfills, something like an indigestible lasagna. If they go into the sewage stream, they can be processed by bacteria and so on into solid waste fertilizers at the treatment plant. I know it's very 'eco-friendly/moralizing,' but a disposal is essentially a recycling tool; most people don't realize it. There are various legitimate reasons (safety, maintenance, cost) to not really want one; but if you are going to have one anyway...

    1. Hi BenK: After reading your comment, as well as persuasive comments from a couple of my Facebook friends, I think we're gonna try to keep the disposal. Thanks!

  2. Ahhh the power of the internet combined with irony. There is an auto-generated ad under this blog entry for DirecTV. Love your blog.

    1. Hi rebecca-- glad you like it! A while back I did a rant about Home Depot, and had a great ad for HD right underneath. Oops... :)