Thursday, September 30, 2010
The Cable Guy
On a rainy Thursday, much like this one, sometime in the middle of November about four years ago, I got home from a long day of teaching and grad school to find that our cable wasn't working. I tried the second television (remember, Dirty Artie needed to be able to access multiple football games at once, in the same room), but alas, it wasn't working either. At first I thought the problem might be related to the storm. There was an announcement on the screen imploring the watcher to call the cable company to get to the bottom of the problem, so I did. After the inevitable 30 minutes on hold hearing how "Time Warner appreciates your business. Your call is very important to us and one of our representatives will be with you shortly," I finally got an answer -- no one had paid the bill since June and thus had managed to rack up more than $600 worth of charges. I would have turned off our cable too.
You might be asking yourself, has does one manage to become that delinquent? First of all, with the three different cable boxes and the internet, our bill was pretty substantial to begin with, multiply that by five and you've got quite the bill. How Dirty Artie managed to forget to pay the bill in his name, that came to the apartment addressed to him every month, we'll never know. For my part, it did occur to me that I hadn't paid any bills since moving in. No one had asked me for them, and while I was suspicious, I rationalized away any thoughts of the bills by thinking that I'd moved in at the end of August, making me responsible for September bills that would come in October and be due in November. I mean, no one likes paying bills, so it's pretty easy to pretend they don't exist.
Back to my phone conversation with the Time Warner Customer Service Representative, who was, despite working for Time Warner, perfectly pleasant and actually helpful. I explained to her that I'd just moved in, the bulk of the cost wasn't mine, but I'd had a long week and really just wanted to watch "Grey's Anatomy." She told me the minimum payment needed to turn the cable back on, and I charged about $350 to my credit card. Then I wrote a note. I tried to be nice. I said that "somehow" we hadn't paid the bill in awhile and our cable had been turned off. I calculated exactly what each of the three of us owed, and then what each of them owed me for taking care of the problem. I expected to see checks on the board the next day. If it were me, I would have been really embarrassed that my roommate had had to clean up my mess. Brandon the Bartender delivered and wrote out a check as soon as he saw me. Dirty Artie was another story.
I think one of the reasons why I was constantly frustrated with Dirty Artie was that I assumed he would act like a considerate human being about things, but instead he was as dense as a doorknob about almost everything. Friday came and went with no check from Dirty Artie, no apology. I got angrier. He could watch one of his three televisions at any time because I fixed his mess. The cable company could cut off the cable if we didn't pay, but what could I do if he didn't pay me?
Saturday morning, after Dirty Artie woke me up late Friday night by blasting the aforementioned T.V. that I paid for, I decided to remove the remote controls. It wasn't exactly cutting off the cable, but it would be irritating and make the cable less easy to use. I went to the gym and the grocery store, and came back to find Dirty Artie watching T.V. and using the remote from his bedroom! Curses. My plan was foiled.
At this point, I had to stop being passive aggressive and just confront the oaf. I steeled my resolve and asked him if he'd seen my note about the cable bill. He said he had, and "Oh yeah, thanks for taking care of that." Hmm, shouldn't we be more concerned about the time, effort and money that it took for our roommate to clean up our mess?
"So, do you think you could pay me back? It's a lot of money and I can't really afford to cover you," I say to the pajama-clad couch potato lying inert on the brown and orange flowered frat couch.
"Well, my checkbook is at work, so I can get that for you next week," he says as he stares glassy-eyed at the pre-game coverage of some college football game. I'm pretty sure at this point there was actual steam coming out of my ears. I'm sure that he would have seen a better show if he'd looked in my direction.
"If you're not going to pay for the cable now," I say, my voice careening into a bit of an angry shout, "then I would prefer that you not watch the TV. I spent the good part of an hour and more than $300 fixing this mess so that I could watch TV, so as far as I'm concerned anyone who hasn't paid me back should treat the TV as if the cable company has cut it off." Artie looks at me with this face of dawning recognition, like it just occurred to him that his inability to pay the cable bill for five months might have inconvenienced me. He got up immediately, put on a more respectable pair of pants, and went to the ATM. I was happily reimbursed in less than twenty minutes, and Artie once again had three remote controls at his disposal.