JON STEWART, MY NEXT DOOR NEIGHBORS AND I have something in common: we all have a pretty low opinion of Time Warner Cable.
How low? Do snails wear belt buckles? Hard to quantify but Stewart made a stab at it the other night. “Congress’s approval ratingrecently has surged from a pathetic 10 percent all the way up to a ‚Äì yeah, 11 percent. Basically puts them right below explosive cruise ship diarrhea and right aboveTime WarnerCable.”
But aren’t all cable companies bad, like all banks? Of course, but there are degrees. The Lakers are bad this year but the Philadelphia 76ers started the NBA season by losing their first 17 games. That’s … TWC bad.
Honestly, I wasn’t the one who brought it up, but when I finally had a chance to chat with my new neighbors, it wasn’t very long before the reviled Time Warner jumped into the conversation.
He, a tech-oriented movie/TV editor, complained that his Internet connection “is not very good, and it’s slow. We unplugged the wi-fi, one time! — and ever since we’ve had to keep resetting our network and password.” She, an engineer for Tesla, a pretty style-minded bunch, laughed that the TWC guide “reminds me of Nintendo, from the 1980s, like it’s never been updated. It’s very pixilated, the user interface is awful, not really intuitive. You can find shows, poorly, but I can’t find the channels I like to watch.”
He then regaled me with the tale of how they scammed him when last he left their clutches a few years ago, by starting to bill him again automatically on his credit card six months later, at his old address. “It was a huge hassle that went on and on, it was brutal, and I don’t think I ever got my money back, I just gave up.”
We value tradition here in Santa Monica, and horrible, snotty cable “service” is a long-standing one. Group W was it when I first came here in ’86, then Century, succeeded by Adelphia (the CEO-founder and son are still in prison), and now Time Warner. Back then there was no competition; your local city council “awarded” you exclusively to one company in exchange for very little in return (“community benefits” — sound familiar?), and you were stuck. Now there is some competition but it doesn’t seem to make much difference.
My neighbors said the installers were great — knowledgeable, friendly, professional. I agree. I should know. I think I’ve had long visits from most of them in the last three months. We’ve exchanged numbers, and I’m invited for their Christmas parties, a bar mitzvah and a wedding.
I’m not going to recount the whole bloody story here, dear reader. Making you weep is not why I write this column. Let’s just say when I’m not waiting for another house call or spending endless hours on the phone to “customer service,” I’m traipsing outside at all hours to my tiny backyard office to disconnect the modem, and wait, reconnect and wait, repeat, sometimes three or four times. I keep looking for my paycheck from TWC for my work, but instead I keep getting billed.
There was one righteous dude I got on the phone who heard my story, and wept, and gave me a decent credit. But the last time I called I got no sympathy, no help, no credit, and when I asked for his supervisor and left a voicemail, well, that was 10 days ago. Still waiting, Supervisor Alex.
But the worst part is the “why” of the particular travails many, I’m sure, are suffering: I’ve had three different TWC employees admit to me that the new modems they made everyone get when they went all digital a few months ago… do not work properly, and won’t until there is a software fix, which is coming — don’t know when. So for this unknowable period of time, I get to pay full boat but have to do most of the constant fixes myself.
Yes it’s sad but it ain’t Ferguson or ebola or ISIL. Why don’t I call Verizon? No time, too busy. Hanging on the telephone and waiting for TWC to show up.
NOISE ON THE BEACH. I went to the community meeting at the north Shores tower on the beach last Wednesday, to see what all the fuss was about.
The room was packed to overflowing with mostly angry, vocal people, most of them residents of the two towers, where noise problems are exacerbated because of height and echo.
A police chief and two high-level city staffers were there to explain their actions regarding two recent incidents, and to listen to people and answer questions.
Here’s my takeaway.
Mistakes were made, admitted the city panel. The police outlined what changes to their procedures they have taken to prevent recurrence. Common sense changes, fitting citizen complaints.
The city staff reaction seemed to me much more defensive that night, and their basic fix, taken right after the incidents and the flood of complaints, was to close two city open areas near the towers to all public gatherings, for good. That’s the easiest thing to do, requiring the least amount of thought and effort (a frequent staff response, in my experience), but shouldn’t closing off our few public areas be a last resort rather than a first?
Unintended comic relief was provided by a woman who told us, each of the three times she spoke, that she was “from Minnesota, I just moved here a year ago. and…” Her last comment, “all these homeless people — can’t you do something?” ignited a roar of laughter. Former mayor Mike Feinstein got another big laugh when he told her, “I’m from Minnesota and I can tell you, a lot of those homeless people came here from Minnesota. It’s cold up there!”
Others complained of people playing basketball, singers on the bike path, even those noisy bars on Main Street. One of the last comments stuck with me. An elderly gentleman dressed in black stood up and said, “All of us who live here are very blessed, you know, and besides the two big incidents, what I hear tonight is a lot of privileged people complaining about the normal activities of people who aren’t well off.” A fitting coda.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “We in the industry know that behind every successful screenwriter stands a woman. And behind her stands his wife.” — Groucho Marx
Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for almost 30 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. You can reach him at email@example.com