Saturday, October 18, 2014

Why?



Somewhere Over the Rainbow - Eva Cassidy (live)


The Pain Never Goes Away



“It has been said, 'time heals all wounds.' I do not agree. The wounds remain. In time, the mind, protecting its sanity, covers them with scar tissue and the pain lessens. But it is never gone.”

~ Rose Kennedy


We just learned that a woman with whom Anita works, a friend, suffered the loss of her teenaged stepson a few days ago. He died, according to a terse Facebook message, as the result of a “tragic accident.”

For some reason this has hit Anita hard. It’s not because she knew the young man. She didn’t. It’s probably because my partner is extremely sensitive and empathetic and she knows exactly how awful and life-changing it feels to lose someone you love.

Anita and her daddy
Anita’s beloved father was killed by bladder cancer. He died on a Saturday morning at the start of Labor Day weekend in 2007. It was a beautiful day – the sun was warm and bright and the sky was a vivid blue – and yet it remains to her the darkest day ever. She’s still brought to tears by the memory of that day seven years ago.

Anita loved her daddy. He was her hero, her first and best protector, the strong and honest and hard-working man against whom all other men in her life are measured. (We all fall short.) She told me that right after he died, she’d wake up and think, “Is this real? Is he really gone?” She was forced to relive the trauma of his death over and over again during those first days and weeks.

Here’s the thing: the death of someone close to you is at first a nightmare. You’re forced to convince yourself that it’s really happened, again and again, at the start of every day, after every shower and every meal, every oil change and trip to the grocery store, until the part of you that accepts bad news finally lets this in. And if there’s guilt – “I should have done more” or “I should have seen this coming” or “I should have demanded a second opinion” or “I should have been better” – it takes even longer to restart your own life.

(I’ve written about death and loss before. Click here to read, “Happy Birthday, Charles McGlashan,” July 15, 2011; here to read, “Sometimes Saturdays Suck,” July 25, 2011; and especially here to read, “Fragility,” August 30, 2011.)

The incessant drip, drip, drip of horrible news these days that young children and black males and innocent bystanders have fallen victim to gun violence at the hands of the police and the mentally ill and those who’re supposed to love and protect them, not hurt them, guarantees that the empathetic among us find ourselves thinking about death a lot more than we’d like.

The dark, cold, scary fact that it’s inevitable for all of us sooner or later doesn’t make it any easier to accept, in my opinion.

Anita pointed out over lunch one day that you never get over the death of a loved one. You learn to live with the loss and the pain and if you’re lucky, you’re buoyed by love and support from friends and family who try to help you move on. Not to get over it but to move on. Because that’s all we can do.

I hope Anita’s friend can move on at some point.


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Contemplative Chimp


I Try - This Condition


Criticizing Comcast’s Contemptible Corporate Conduct




Monopoly (noun): the exclusive possession or control of the supply or trade
in a commodity or service.

It comes as no surprise to “What’s the Diehl?” readers that I consider Comcast the most awful corporate entity in the history of humankind, bar none. A cursory search of the internet reveals that I’m in good company.

I’ve blogged about this evil company before. I already shared that I’ve devoted hours – and I’m not exaggerating – on the phone with various Comcast “account executives” only to be told that what I wanted, needed or had already been promised wasn’t possible. My phone calls have been disconnected more times than I can count – I bet the telephones at the Comcast call centers are equipped with a “Cut this frikkin’ peon off now” button – and one time I was on hold for so long that not one but both of my cordless phones ran out of battery power and I lost the call.

Our services – Comcast provided our telephone, television and internet service – have been “suspended” (read: cut off) more than once in violation of agreements we made with Comcast employees. We’ve been charged for items and services we never ordered or received and haven’t been able to get anyone to revise our account. Supposed “supervisors” have treated us with smugness and disdain on the few occasions when we reached one. And Comcast’s “confirmation numbers” (the numbers assigned by the company to identify and cement specific transactions) confirm nothing to me except that they’re a bunch of heartless, incompetent, egregious imbeciles.

It’s not difficult to understand how a family of six humans and two dogs can fall a little behind on bills when the household income is slashed due to sudden unemployment. What is difficult to comprehend is how a conglomerate with total assets exceeding $158 billion can callously pull the rug out from under said family and discontinue all services without so much as a “How do you do?”

Do you think Sarah, Pat, Kenneth, Sam, Omar or any of the other Comcast employees with whom Anita and I have sparred recently were inconvenienced by the shutoff of our phone and cable? No.

Do you think it’s right to make payment arrangements with a customer that involve post-dated checks and confirmation numbers, then turn around and unilaterally “cancel” said arrangements without notifying the customer, who acted in good faith and expected the same? No.

Do you think the largest cable and broadcasting company in the world gives a rodent’s derriere about Pat, Anita and our four kids in a suburb of Lansing, Michigan, who rely on TV for education and entertainment and a land line for communicating with four different schools and 911 when necessary? I’ll take another resounding “no,” please.

Comcast, which “serves” customers in 40 states and the District of Columbia, is huge: it brought in around $64.7 billion in revenue in 2013 and employs 136,000 people, most of whom I think I've talked with. (The company is notoriously anti-union.) Headquartered, surprisingly, in the City of Brotherly Love, Comcast received, not surprisingly, a failing grade in 2010 for its corporate governance practices, according to the independent shareholder-research organization Corporate Library, and earned the worst customer satisfaction rating of any company or government agency in the U.S., including the IRS, more than once. (Click here to read, “Massive survey finds Comcast and TWC are the two most hated companies in America – period.”)

There’s even a “subreddit” devoted to Comcast at Reddit.com where people can vent about their “shitty experiences” with the company. (Reddit is the self-billed “front page of the internet” that’s visited by over 114 million internet users/month.)

I wish I were as smart as 32-year-old San Francisco resident Ryan Block. This past summer, he called Comcast to arrange for his service to be disconnected – only he was sharp enough to record eight minutes of his 18-minute phone conversation. Once he posted his recording online, the world could listen to Comcast’s representative refusing Block’s request, badgering him for explanations and arguing with him to a truly unbelievable degree. (Click here to read, “A long day’s journey into canceling Comcast service.”)

I am glad that I’m not Conal O’Rourke, a Northern California resident who claims he was fired from his job at PriceWaterhouseCoopers in San Jose, California, earlier this year as a result of a billing dispute with Comcast. (Click here to read, “Comcast got me fired after billing dispute, says California man.”) Comcast’s hollow apology, posted at its website, is the kind of meaningless pablum that I expect from Fox News but not from one of America’s corporate titans. If I had a job, I sure wouldn’t want to lose it due to the backroom machinations of corporate drones. (Speaking of job hunting, how is one supposed to apply for jobs online without internet access or take phone calls from prospective employers when one doesn’t have a phone? “Not our problem,” I was told.)

"Your satisfaction is our chief concern
here at Comcast.  Not!"
Perhaps the most infuriating aspect of this whole debacle is the fact that whenever I was on hold with Comcast, I was forced to listen over and over and over again to a recorded voice assuring me that the company is totally committed to customer service and really cares about me and my experience. I was asked repeatedly by Automated Voice if Comcast had permission to call me back later to determine how satisfied I was by the result of the phone interaction. Even though I authorized it and was eager to give them a piece of my frazzled mind, they never called back.

It seems like Citizens United v. FEC, which determined that corporations are people a few years ago, was the last nail in the coffin of the “customer is always right” concept. I’ve lamented this loss on many occasions, but never as strongly as when I’ve interacted with what is in my humble opinion the most infuriating, patience-eroding, double-talking, condescending, aloof, insensitive, inflexible, indolent, spurious collection of nitwits and wankers ever to fill an office building.

If you happen to drive by my house, you might notice a newly-installed satellite dish perched on the roof. The folks on the phone who took our order were informative and helpful and the technician who handled the installation was one of the most likable and efficient professionals ever to visit our home. I don’t know how I’ll feel when I have to climb up a ladder to remove snow and ice or make a phone call to report a problem but right now I feel pretty good that we’ve escaped the Comcast monopoly.


Sources: Washington Post, arstechnica.com, soundcloud.com, Digital Marketing Ramblings, Reddit.com, BGR Media, Corporate Library.