Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Maytag Repairman

Alert readers of this blog will remember the numerous problems associated with the icemaker in our last refrigerator, a Whirlpool. Solutions ranged from cleaning switches, replacing thermocouples, and finally, replacing the whole damn icemaker, twice! The refrigerator itself worked fine for over 20 years although the compressor ran about 23 hours a day. It was a smallish unit with the freezer at the top making every item that wasn’t on the front of the shelf near impossible to reach if you are an old man with a bad back. Every so often, when the bones allowed, I would stoop down and find all sorts of surprises at the bottom rear including a few new multicolored life forms.

The day came and the decision made to replace this antique. The new model, a Maytag, had the freezer at the bottom (no doubt designed by an old person) with ample space up top. It was well lit with multiple bulbs for weak eyes, another blessing. A special vent in the door was discovered to keep milk up to and beyond the expiration date, an event never seen by the Whirlpool. Icemaker? Oh yeah. This baby had a dispenser in the door right alongside a chilled water spigot. If you were mixing a drink, it was one stop shopping with ice and water right there at your fingertips. Hoo Boy. Life was good.

But then, a few months later, I began to hear a strange noise coming from the new Maytag. It was a tap, tapping sound. Only lasted for few a seconds, but the next day, tap-tap…tap. The sound, I noticed, was heard only during start up when the compressor came on. But as the days went by, the tapping grew louder and more frequent. Well sum bitch.

Being under warranty, I call the Maytag repairman—in this case, a woman who takes calls—and describe the situation. I explain that the unit doesn’t make this weird noise in every case but there does seem to be some sort of unnatural act going on in there. The Maytag repair-woman makes it crystal clear that if she sends someone out and they don’t find a problem, I will be billed for a service call. What? So it’s a roll of the dice? If he hears the problem I’m covered, but if he doesn’t and the warranty expires I’m screwed. Is that about it? The answer was, you are and you will be.

I gamble and the repairman comes out. He’s about the size of the guy in the old lonely Maytag repairman commercials, maybe bigger, actually about the size of Sasquatch but not as hairy. I have doubts he can bend over far enough to inspect the parts. I hear a lot of tinkering around back there; battery driven screwdrivers, wrenches and such. Small pieces fly out and hit the floor. I hear grumbling. Finally, like a bear coming out of a winter den, the guy emerges with a scowl and a diagnosis.

“The whatsis was installed wrong. It had liquids where gases should have been and something something was backing up in the whosis and causing the noise. No charge.”

“Uh, okay.” The no charge was the only part I understood.

Two days later the trouble in the whatsis was back.

I reach Sasquatch. “I’ll call the factory,” he says. I wait and watch the warranty days tick away. I get a call. It’s my new friend Sas.

“The factory knows of the problem and has issued a special repair kit. I’ll be out as soon as we get it in.”

Sure buddy, I'll never hear from you again.

A week or so passes and sho nuff, here’s Sas ringing my bell. He crawls behind the fridge and twenty minutes later, all fixed. That was a month ago and no more tap-tap…so far.

Conclusion: Maytag’s aren’t what they used to be and the repairmen are lonely no more.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Cox Box

As some of you may know by now, the Missus had a mishap and broke her ankle. She now spends most of her day in the bedroom reading books, watching TV, and making entirely unreasonable demands such as food and water. Among the many new challenges to come along after the accident, was the operation of the various remote controls for the bedroom electronics; one for the TV, one for the Cox cable box, one for the VHS player, and one more for the stereo. To say the Missus is remote control challenged is like saying shutting down the BP oil gusher in the Gulf of Mexico was a tad difficult. The poor woman has problems understanding On-Off.

And so it came to pass that after a dozen or more summons to the boudoir to program the VCR and record such hits as Mr. Belvidere Goes to College, my frustration hit new levels. For my own mental health, I made the decision to swap out the cable box for a new DVR, a digital video recorder. To operate and record could not be easier with one of these babies; select your show, hit the record button, DONE. No clocks to set, no calendar to find, no program on, program off, no hunting for a blank tape, we’re talking simple here.

A dash to the Cox store and an hour later, the shiny new device was in place. I did the hookup, flipped the TV on and…nothing. Well, that’s not exactly true but every time I picked a channel, the screen said OFF THE AIR-TRY AGAIN LATER. Unless the prophesies of 2012 had arrived a little early, I couldn’t image every channel in the system to be down. I called Cox.

After the normal maddening phone menu, a pleasant sounding woman named Chaney suggested that I be sure everything was plugged in and connected to the DVR. Let’s pause here a moment while I refresh your memory on my electronic qualifications. I did this sort of thing for over 35 years. I helped to install a complete closed circuit TV system on the campus of Oklahoma State University. I worked in broadcast television beaming live sporting events across the entire nation. I had a Federal Communications License. In other words, I knew this shit. How dare some little snip of a girl question my skills in this field? The nerve.

There were more questions but the bottom line, according to Chaney’s analysis, was the new DVR box was defective and she would send a repairman out the next day to replace it. Humph! All right then.

It had been a long day, running around in the heat, buying groceries, emptying kitty litter boxes, and emulating Nurse Rached. I poured a spooker, a double, and thought about it. Maybe, just maybe, I should take a little TV back to the wall jack to be double sure I had a signal. I had signal before I unhooked the old box but well, you never know. That’s when I saw it. I had not one but two wall jacks; one for Cox cable and the other for an old satellite setup, now defunct. Do I need to tell you which one of those jacks I was trying to use?

Luckily, Chaney didn’t answer the phone. I told the new lady I wanted to cancel my appointment for a repair. She asked my reason for cancellation.

“Um, do I really have to say?”

“I have to put something on the form,” she says.

“What are my options?”

“How about, Changed Mind?”

“That’ll work.”

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Celebration? What celebration?

For most folks, July 4th is to pop the fireworks, drink a little beer, salute Old Glory, and all that patriotic family stuff. For me? Not so much. Two years ago on the fateful day, I awoke in the night with what felt like an alien trying to chew his way out of my belly. Wasn’t a kidney stone, been there. This time it had something to do with a misbehaving pancreas. I was in the belly of the hospital for four days, lying there in the darkness, totally alone. Okay, so maybe a nurse type did wander in from time to time to check my pulse but that was about it. The point is, do not go to the hospital on the 4th of July. Reason? The doctors, the techs, most of the nurses, the bed pan lady, the sweepers, and the cooks are all at the lake, getting drunk, and watching their kids blow their toes and fingers off. With the exception of the mob scene in the ER, the rest of the hospital is practically deserted.

On this past 4th (actually it was the 2nd) I had gone to bed around 11:00 or so being a tired puppy. The Missus was up, watching TV, baking bread (yes, she bakes bread in the middle of the night) while simultaneously checking on the welfare of the cats and dogs who are totally freaked out by the din outside. Out here where I live, on the edge of civilization, there are no fireworks laws and the denizens delight in detonating the loudest explosives they can find, some on scale with such well known big-boom makers as Fat Man and Little Boy ( ? ask the Japanese). Rockets red glare continue through the night until A: they run out of fireworks or B: pass out on the lawn. And so it was because of the reenactment of Apocalypse Now taking place next door, that I inserted my super sound deadening devices—otherwise known as ear plugs—and promptly went to sleep…for a while.

Someone was calling my name, screaming it actually, over and over. Ignore it my semi-conscious brain told me, it’s only a dream, go back to sleep. The voice persisted. I flip on the light to see an amazing sight; a crazed woman lying on the floor, yelling something about breaking an ankle. It wasn’t difficult to confirm. While a bone wasn’t actually poking through the skin, it was trying its best. Seems the Missus had slipped in some water on the garage floor and took a tumble.

Brain cells activate, but only a few. “Emergency, emergency, wake up, let’s get moving people.” Like drunken sailors—and some may have been—the rest of the group slowly comes to life and call for a conference. “So, what do you think? A splint? A couple boards? Duct tape? Talk to me people.” The last living cell, and possibly the most intelligent, spoke up, “How about calling 911?” “Brilliant” the other cells shout in unison.

The EMT’s were there in less than fifteen minutes, expertly wrap the ankle, check vital signs, load her up, and down the road we go. The ER people did their job as quickly as possible with the painkillers, the tubes, and the OH MY GOD resetting of the bones (stomach lurches). It was to be the last rapid response by any form of medical staff for the next 48 hours. Call lights go unanswered . The nurses’ station is a ghost town. Screams for help echo down the deserted halls. See a doctor? HA!

Four days later, we are back at the humble abode and suddenly, the situation has reversed; I am now the medical staff. I am learning first hand that the word patient is a misnomer to the nth degree. Patients are not patient at all and in fact, can be quite demanding; meals on time, fresh ice water, clean sheets, it goes on and on.. I say let ‘em wait. I have other duties you know.

Tomorrow, I’m going to the supply store for a set of scrubs.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Ah, The Good Old Days of Telephone

Driving into Tulsa recently, I got to noticing how many people had a cell phone stuck in their ear. It seemed like at least 50%, maybe more. I had a flashback to my days with Ma Bell when cell phones didn’t exist although car telephones were a big part of my job. To say they were crude compared to today’s technology is an understatement. The transmitter/receiver was huge, heavy, and had to go in the truck of the vehicle. A thick cable went under the back seat and carpet, came out under the dash, and connected to a control unit, complete with handset and multiple buttons for different channels. To add insult to injury, we had to drill a ¾ inch hole in the rear fender to mount the antenna. Car owners cringed as we bored through the expensive metals of Cadillac’s and Lincoln Continentals. On one occasion, I took particular delight in lowering a drill bit into a new Rolls Royce.

Our system started off with only two frequencies (channels) which meant that out of all our mobile customers, only two could talk at one time. It worked because few could afford the ridiculous cost, almost $70 per month. But the popularity grew as folks discovered the tremendous convenience of not having to locate a phone booth to call back to the office and conduct their business. Contractors found them indispensible. Others had them for show and to impress the women. Eventually more channels were added for a total of seven. When the handset was lifted from the cradle, you got either a green light and a dial tone or a red busy light meaning all seven channels were in use. When we reached over 200 users, the busy light got a regular cussing.

Rumor had it that a new and wonderful technology called cellular service was on the horizon. But at the projected cost of one million bucks per cell, Southwestern Bell dismissed it as a passing fancy and not worth the investment.

A comment often heard at the time was “Ma Bell makes money in spite of what they do.” It was true. Deep pockets and a monopoly covered a lot of mistakes.

I still worry about my pension.

Actual Motorola Car Telephone