Sunday, August 28, 2016

your circuit's dead, there's something wrong

Sometimes, I catch myself acting like a real idiot. Just this week, as a matter of fact, I behaved like an idiot of the highest (or lowest, depending on your gauge) order.

For years now, Mrs. Pincus and I have gotten into the habit of falling asleep with the television on... and leaving it on all night. At one time, we had one of the first televisions with a sleep timer. That was great. We'd watch TV. I'd set the timer on the remote to shut off in ninety minutes and everything was fine. After a while, I'd forget to set the timer. Then, the timer button on our remote stopped working altogether. Then.. ah, screw it! We just left the TV on all night. Surprisingly, it didn't bother us. We kept the volume low. The light from the television was better — and certainly more entertaining — than any nightlight. It got so we couldn't get to sleep if the television wasn't on all night. We didn't limit this ritual to our home either. We'd leave the television on all night in hotel rooms while on vacation. When we visited my wife's cousin Juniper in Virginia Beach, she graciously offered us accommodations in a spare bedroom in her apartment. While the room was equipped with a queen-size bed, alas, it was without a television. Talk about roughing it. It was like camping.

Earlier this year, we were introduced to Comcast's (or Xfinity or whatever they're calling themselves these days) fabulous and innovative X-1 platform, the greatest thing to happen to television since Morton Downey Jr. died. We bought a 32" flat-screen, high-definition television to replace the big, square dinosaur that previously was perched upon the high bureau in our bedroom. Now, my wife and I are gently lulled to sleep by the soft, panoramic glow of our Samsung Model UN32J4000AFXZA. Every so often, I wake up in the middle of the night and I'll switch the channel from the harsh reality of CNN to the friendlier tones of a fifty-year-old rerun of I've Got a Secret on BUZZR. Then, I'll just fall back asleep. 

Sometimes, I am awakened by the lack of sound. Startled, I lift my head from my pillow and, not wishing to feel around for my glasses squint at the silent television. I can barely make out a message on the screen instructing me to restart the cable box for a software update. I force myself out of bed, careful not to wake my sleeping missus. I unplug and immediately re-plug the power cord from the back of the box and, after a series of messages chronicling the status of service, my television comes back to life and I go back to sleep. This happened a few nights ago... with much different, much scarier results.

Willkommen! Bienvenue! Welcome!
In my sleep, I could sense an eerie quiet in our bedroom. There was the low, white noise hum emanating from the small fan on my wife's dresser. The television screen was bright but silent, an image of a local weather forecaster frozen in mid-point filled its oblong surface. I got out of bed and shuffled to the TV. I fumbled around for the connection at the back off the small cable box and yanked the cord out. The room was plunged into darkness. Again, I felt around and plugged the cord back in. The blue light on the front of the box blinked in an irregular pattern and the familiar and comforting "Welcome" message  appeared on the screen, as it had numerous times before after performing this simple procedure. I slogged back to bed and lay with my eyes closed, waiting for the sound of the television which should be arriving... any... second.

Nothing. A few minutes went by. Long minutes.

Still nothing.

Instead of the usual "Connecting to the X1 Platform" message that appears within a few minutes of powering up, my poor television had this splashed across it:

Did it, did it and did it.

Eeech! I don't want to see this. Instantly, I thought of a trip to the local Xfinity office to exchange my (possibly) faulty cable box. Would they be open when I got home from work? Would Mrs. Pincus have to interrupt her day to return the box? Ugh! I hate to be inconvenienced. I turned the TV off in disgust.

At this point, my alarm went off and I had to get up for work. I went into the den and hit the remote to turn the TV on. The screen flashed to life, displaying a frozen image of a CNN anchor, poised mid-read, her lips locked in an unnatural curl, her right eye slightly closed. I unplugged the cable box and exercised the same procedure on this cable connection as well. 

As part of my usual morning routine, I went to the third floor of my house, to our computers, to post the daily celebrity death anniversaries on Facebook. (Give a "like" to my Facebook page so you don't miss out.) With a touch of the mouse, my sleeping computer awakened to tell me there was no internet service available. I glanced over at the router/modem combination (a "gateway" is was XFinity calls it) and saw that the "online" light was out. Only the "power" light was lazily blinking at the top of the stack of indicator lights. No cable service at all? I panicked. I mean real cold sweat, throbbing temples, can't-think-straight, end-of-the-world panic! (Okay. I might be exaggerating, but not as bad as Ryan Lochte, but, I was really panicked!) I looked at the display screen on the nearby telephone and saw the "No Service" message. (We have the Xfinity "Triple Play" package and are forced to maintain a land line, otherwise our cable bill will skyrocket higher than the ridiculously high cost we are already charged.) No TV. No internet. No telephone. Oh my God! I was stuck on Gilligan's Island except there was no Professor to fix the problem with coconut shells and salt water!

I scrambled downstairs and checked the Xfinity website on my phone, reluctantly eating up precious data units on the 4G network since my WiFi was out. After logging into my account, I was told there was a full service outage in my area. The anticipated restoration of service was in the 10 o'clock hour. 10 o'clock? That was four hours from now. I ran up and down the stairs checking and rechecking all of my many cable connections. And then I checked them again.

I finally went downstairs and poured myself a cup of coffee and fixed a bowl of cereal. I carried my breakfast up to the den and sat in front of the giant screen of my cable-less television, staring at my own sad reflection in the black glass. The only sound I could hear was the crunching of Cheerios in my mouth and the occasional sipping of coffee. No local news. No Today Show. No iCarly. No television entertainment of any type. Time dragged. I sulked. It was pathetic.

Suddenly, the clock on the cable box activated on its own, displaying the correct time. I grabbed the remote and hit the power button. The huge television screen brightened and — oh yeah! — I was connected! Connected to the wonderful world of mindless visual stimulation! My cable was back!

I thought about this little episode and my ridiculous behavior. I played it over again in my head. Disconnecting the cable boxes. Running up and down the steps like my house was on fire. Checking all of the connections like I suffered from an advanced case of obsessive/compulsive disorder.  If I was being watched, I'm sure I would have come across as looking like an idiot.

Well, I may be an idiot, but, I'm an idiot with cable.

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