An open letter to Ken who may not have been thinking straight.

Ken Arndt
Frontier Communications Inc.
39 Public Square
Wilkes-Barre, PA 18773

Dear Mr. Arndt:

I think we’re off to a bad start.

For reasons I didn’t understand, Frontier decided to buy the customer base and infrastructure of Verizon’s troubled dealings in West Virginia. I can’t imagine what you folks were thinking. While on a smaller scale (by far), it’s akin to someone buying BP’s gulf operations. Perhaps y’all needed a tax loss. Anyhoo, y’all took over the reins on July 1st.

In any event, you’ve inherited me. And hundreds like me – the same folks that overwhelmed the Public Service Commission and the Attorney General of West Virginia with complaints about Verizon’s equipment and nonresponsive customer service. Your website greeting indicates that you were aware of at least some of the problems.

The State’s response was to fine Verizon and impose sanctions that included proof of improved customer service and a significant outlay of cash to improve equipment and coverage. Verizon, responsible corporate citizens that they are, effectively said, “Hell, no” and sold you their mess.

I have to ask. What were you thinking?

My problems with Verizon span about 20 years at a single address with a single phone number. The most concise synopsis of the problem is: when it rains, the equipment doesn’t work. West Virginia boasts possession of the largest rain forest in North America or maybe just a big rain forest.  I can’t quite remember.   Either way, it rains here. A lot. And, by the way, we’re having a fabulously wet July.

A few years ago, Verizon sent me an email taunting me with the news that I could have a DSL connection in my home. I was dubious. At that stage of my relationship with Verizon and their equipment, I could not make an outgoing phone call more than half the time for 3 years. On a somewhat irregular basis, I called the phone number that connected me to what was euphemistically known as Verizon Customer Service and reported, yet again, the problem. With varying degrees of civility, I was told a technician would be dispatched to my house.

Of perhaps the 45 service calls I had in that 3 year period, a technician showed up at my house maybe half-a-dozen times. The technician always arrived when it wasn’t raining and couldn’t find a problem.

Far more often, the technician didn’t show. I would burn vacation time to be at my home between 8 and noon, or 10 and 2, or 12 and 4 or some other four-hour window of time I’d been instructed to be here at risk of having my ticket cancelled if I was not.

The four hours would come and go. I would call. Someone would tell me they’d peered at my phone line from a distance, determined it was working fine and cancelled the ticket.

I was not a happy camper as you might imagine.

So. When I got the invitation to sign up for DSL, I did. I did so in part because I knew they had to send someone to my house to hook it up.

I almost felt sorry for that guy. First of all, it was raining. Nothing worked. He left. He came back. He talked to people at Verizon. He scratched his head. He did this. He did that. He brought in another guy. Another modem. One thing led to another and they assembled things in a nonstandard way that worked around whatever the problem was. It took about a month. They told me, definitively, they didn’t know what the problem was but that this “fix” seemed to allow me use of my phone and DSL connection.

I was happy. For roughly three years things have been peachy. In the most violent of thunderstorms, provided I keep power, I can cruise YouTube while talking to my Sweet Baboo on the telephone.

Well. All coinkydinky, beginning with the first rain after July 1st and continuing through the present, any time it rains there is so much noise on my line that I lose my internet connection altogether. Voice works, but there’s a lot of static on the line that renders it pretty much useless.

Color me unhappy.

It’s a long story that isn’t particularly flattering to me and I won’t bore you with it, but I ended up even replacing the DSL wiring which ensures the problem isn’t on my end. I did it correctly (or at least as correctly as Verizon did) because it worked just peachy until it rained again on Sunday.

I called Frontier Sunday afternoon.

But first let me just copy a quote from your website here real quick. (You’ll want to refer to this often while thinking about me and West Virginia and Verizon and my mastery of Public Service Commission complaint forms.)

Welcome, West Virginia.

We are excited to be serving you.

Over the next few months, you will see that we do things a little differently than your previous Service Provider. Because for us, serving you is more than just a day-to-day operation. Our work is all about you, our customer. We have an ongoing commitment to servicing the communities we work and live in. It is about giving back, growing with our communities and supporting your needs.

It is remembering that you are a person, not just a customer.

I was heartened by those words, though not too much. I am a realist.

(Goodness! What were you people thinking?)

I talked with a very nice gentleman who actually did listen to what I was telling him. He and I agreed I had an unusual setup and he would put through a ticket for a technician to come to my home. I was instructed to be sure and be here between 8 and noon today.

Having to get up at 0’dark thirty so as to be sufficiently caffeinated to be articulate while technically on “vacation time” from my employer is kind of annoying, but I did it cheerfully high on the fact that y’all remember that I’m a person, not just a customer and that y’all are all about supporting my needs.

Well noon came and went.

So I called, my ticket number handy, and was told decisively there was never any intention for anyone to come to my home as my call had been lumped together with a bunch of others in another town for what y’all are calling a widespread outage. Through gritted teeth, I explained the situation and explained that my internet wasn’t out at the moment, but would be the minute it rained and that I had been told unequivocally that I had be here from 8 AM to NOON so that a TECHNICIAN could LOOK at my equipment.

In that false, ever-so-annoying, “I’m sorry for your inconvenience, ma’am” tone of voice, I was told nobody was coming to my house. And that no, I couldn’t schedule a visit because there was a widespread outage in a town near me and my problem had been lumped into that problem without anyone, it seems, reading the ticket or looking at the name of the town I live in.

Did y’all hire all those Verizon people?

What were you thinking?

So. It’s been my experience that online chat with tech support is a better way to go. I chatted with a guy who refuted what the woman on the phone said. He and I went rounds for awhile about my wanting to speak with someone who could unravel why I was being told two different things. Here’s part of the chat transcript:

12:40 PM Connie: James, I took off work to be here. It is after noon and I’ve heard from no one. When I called Frontier, a woman told me there had never been any need for me to be here.

12:40 PM Connie: I’m a wee-bit perturbed.

12:41 PM James A: I definitely understand, and I do apologize for any trouble you have experienced.

12:42 PM Connie: Moreover, the tech I spoke to on Sunday went through my history of connectivity problems with Verizon and the “fix” they finally settled on. He agreed this necessitated an inspection of the outside box.

12:43 PM James A: The engineers will determine the need for onsite access, after diagnosing the lines and equipment on our end of things. That is all the information I have. I apologize.

12:44 PM Connie: I don’t mean to take this out on you. What I do need is the contact information, etc. to file a formal complaint.

12:45 PM James A: I understand. Complaints should be directed to our Customer Service department at 800-921-8101. You can also discuss possible reimbursement for the time that your internet was down.

12:46 PM Connie: I believe that’s the number I just called and was given erroneous information. I’d like a contact name, please.

12:46 PM James A: I do not know what name to give you…

12:47 PM Connie: Is your supervisor available?

12:47 PM James A: We have many Customer Service representatives. I do not know any of them by name.

12:48 PM James A: Unfortunately, supervisor request via our chat platform, are difficult to comply with. If you’d like, you can call our Internet Help Desk at 877-352-7011 opt 2, and speak with one of our supervisors, or you may try Customer Service aswell.

So. I called that number (Option 2, mind you) and spoke with a very pleasant woman who I warned up front that I had my Super Bitch cape on. I vowed silently to myself. I was going to read your website statement to her if she started in with robot speech, but turns out it wasn’t necessary.

She listened (always a good thing) and apologized (without sounding smarmy) and (gasp) called dispatch to find out what she should tell me. I now have a third version of the story of my ticket. She tells me there is a ticket to come to my house, the widespread outage takes precedence, but there are plans to have someone at my house before 8 PM unless they call me. I just fervently hope that technician isn’t wandering around that town I don’t live in looking for my address.

So, um, it’s now 3:00 and I haven’t heard from anyone, but there are miles to go before we all sleep. With any luck, y’all will be here before the 72 hour legally mandated response period is up. And before I’m out of vacation time.

I’ll keep you posted.

And, um, by the way. You should probably make arrangements for your customer service folks to meet their supervisors and learn their names. It’s got to be damn confusing to not have a clue what to tell people like me who can get rather insistent. I once had a Verizon guy tell me that yes, indeedy, he had a time card, but at the end of the pay period he didn’t know who he gave it to, but that, yes, he did give it to someone. And he’d worked at Verizon for 12 years. Imagine! Twelve years and not a clue as to your boss’s name.

And co-workers! A company picnic maybe? Poor James tells me he doesn’t know a single one of his co-workers’ names. (Is this like a sweatshop or something? Or was today his first day?)

Oh. There’s an old geology principle that states the past predicts the future. I know from past experience, the more vacation time I burn, the more PSC complaints I file. Just sayin’.

Sincerely. . .

Cold Tub

Sun Worshipping, Yet Vigilant Willy

In 2002, The Ex and I bought a hot tub, er. . . I mean spa. We had always wanted one, but after we installed the fence to corral puppies, the perfect alcove was created. It would have been a crime not to put a hot tub spa in that spot.

One of The Ex’s most annoying and most redeeming qualities was that he shopped things to death. Except for one notorious car deal, I don’t think we ever paid one cent more than rock bottom on any major purchase. He was legendary in his wrangling which was not limited to just the major purchases. The guys at Firestone still talk about him and his fist full of coupons and competitors’ advertisements. He felt a failure if he paid more than $10 for an oil change.

We schlepped all over three states and the entire internet looking at hot tubs spas. In the course of comparison shopping, we were informed that the cool kids refer to them not as hot tubs but spas. Hot tubs are large vats of hot water. Spas are mini-vacation experiences that involve jets. The number of jets determines how much you get to swagger at the convention of Cool Kids with Spas.

I was pretty sure that standing around in showrooms peering at molded acrylic wasn’t the best way to determine the suitability of any one hot tub spa. I got in them and sat down. Sometimes they had water in them, sometimes not. Through trial error we determined the features we were willing to pay for and the ones we wouldn’t tolerate at any price. We then narrowed brands. Then price. Then swagger.

Finally, we ordered the damn thing. Finally, it arrived.

During the shopping phase, I was quick to say that it was primarily for The Ex. He had always wanted one. When we went on vacation, he gravitated to the nearest hot tub spa and soaked for hours at a time. Hot tubs Spas contented him in a way I never did.

I liked them well enough, but after twenty minutes or so I’d had enough.

Well. We got one. Here. At the house. Bathing suits optional. Privacy guaranteed. Open at any time of the day.


The spa boasts 57 (I think) jets. I fell in love with each and every one of them, but particularly the configuration of five that massage my back in just the right spots. My back that had ached for 20 years, ached much less. My stress levels plummeted. It was all good if pruney-skinned.

Even in winter, particularly in winter, I loved to sink inch, by inch, into the hot, steamy, bubbling water. As long as it was warmer than -10F, it wasn’t too cold to dash naked from the family room to the spa.

The biggest pain was lifting the cover. It was a good sized and, particularly with an inch or two of snow sitting on the cover, getting the cover off could be challenging.

We invested in a lifter – a metal contraption that works on the principle of torque. With one hand, I could rock the cover open or closed. It was better than all good.

I started most days and finished nearly every day with a good soak. I particularly loved morning coffee. That little alcove just the perfect size gets morning sun. After dark, I would turn the underwater light on and sip wine while pretending to be one of the idle rich I was genetically predestined to be but which, through a cruel twist of fate, was not.

During the cool days of spring and fall, Willy and I discovered that sitting on the cover was the perfect solution to wanting to be outside but it being too cold to be outside. The cover absorbed and retained heat from the water beneath and the sun above – the top was 10F warmer than any other place outside. He and I clocked a lot of hours sprawled on the cover.

When the heat of summer hit, I would turn the temp down to lukewarm. Mid-day soaks were still out of the question, but mornings and nights were wondrous.

Vapor barrier, styrofoam and the sweat of my brow.

The cover, and the spa, are now nearly 8 years old. Last year, the cover began disintegrating. The vapor barrier split and peeled. Covers, I learned, are nothing more than steel reinforced Styrofoam. The foam waterlogged. Slowly, as the wet summer of 2009 dragged on, it became more and more difficult and finally impossible to lift the cover.

I kept hoping that if it would quit raining long enough, the cover would dry out and I could Mickey Mouse a temporary vapor barrier that would last me until I could get the money together for a new cover. Styrofoam is more costly than I would have thought possible. Nothing doing. Once the thing waterlogged there was no drying it out.

This weekend, my brain fried by the heat, I decided to wrassle that cover off and at least use the spa as a miniature swimming pool. I figured I’d have to use a boat load of chemicals to keep the algae at bay and still have to drain it regularly, but it seemed like a good idea. There would be no jets and no nifty underwater light as there’s no way to operate the thing without the heater running. I’m not about to pay Appalachian Power to heat the already too hot great outdoors. Stupid design.

Stupid Thing

Wrassling the cover doesn’t begin to describe it. Two 8x4x3” panels of high-density, waterlogged foam hinged together and wrapped in a tasteful brown vinyl nestled in a perfect little alcove are a bitch.

The hacksaw was useless and I figured I didn’t need to be poised over 3 feet of bacterial infested water with power tools. It came down to me, a bread knife, and a pair of pinking shears.

It was ugly. After nearly concussing myself, coming close to stabbing my thigh and almost lopping off a finger, I managed to get one of the panels off the spa and into the yard WHERE IT WOULD NOT BUDGE.

I pushed. I pulled. I prayed.

All this in 95F with 90% humidity.

I had a tantrum and kicked the damn thing. Evidently, I kicked it in just the right spot and the foam cracked like the shell of a hardboiled egg.

The second panel was a lot easier.

After all that, it took the rest of the day to get the spa to cycle completely through the start-up phase of pump priming and whatnot. I was fixin’ to have another tantrum when the pump finally started to pump, the jets began to bubble and the digital readout informed me the 9 month-old water was 76F.

I drained that puppy and cleaned it between attacks of heat stroke. Had I not been able to get it to start up, I was going to take a sledgehammer to the thing, haul it out in pieces and install a $10 kiddie pool from the K-Mart. But it did start and Plan A is being executed.

Oh, Lord, it's cold...mmmmmm

Today, I am finally filling it. In an hour or so, I expect to slip inch by inch into icy water as the sun slips over the hillside and the solar lights begin to flicker on. While it’s possible I’ll opt for a glass of wine, it’s probably a surer bet I’ll be nursing a mug of hot coffee. One of the more gruesome aspects of this heat wave is that my caffeine levels are well below normal.

The cold tub spa will soon be open and I am thankful for small mercies.

Monday Morning Gift

The elegant black of fresh paving.

It’s like Christmas!

Actually, this good news is going to make Christmas less stressful.

I’m so excited I could tap dance if I knew how.

The post office has repaved the parking lot.

Yes, indeedy, yee-haw and Snoopy dancing.

Getting into and out of the post office parking lot is a feat of derring-do that is responsible for my forehead crease becoming permanently deep. My derring-do isn’t daring enough as the adrenalin rush of surviving that parking lot is not the adrenalin rush of victory but that of a near-death experience.

I collect the mail for my place of employment. Five days a week I brave the demolition derby of the Veteran’s Boulevard Post Office. Contrary to stereotype, the folks that work there are downright nice and helpful, but before I can get to them, I have to brave the onslaught of the confused trying to negotiate what seems to me pretty straightforward travel lanes and parking lines.

There’s one old woman who I forgive most of her transgressions while simultaneously appalled that her driver’s license hasn’t been revoked. She’s not particularly short, but she’s so stooped she can’t sit up straight. Consequently, she appears to be one of those little old ladies who can’t see over the steering wheel. Come to think of it, she probably can’t see as she wears coke-bottle thick glasses and strains to read the printing on her mail.

She and I arrive about the same time of the morning. The days I’m behind her when she negotiates the right-hand turn into the parking lot closely followed by another right-hand turn into the handicapped accessible parking space are the days I want to bang my head on the dashboard. I want to do so not because I have no patience with her, but because sure as iceberg lettuce at a ladies luncheon, the person behind me will develop road rage.

Road Rager will, as soon as even an inch or so space opens up, drive around me only to slam on the brakes when learning, suddenly, that Daisy-in-need-of-a-Driver must back up and pull forward a half dozen times before she concludes she has the car properly parked.

While Daisy is negotiating the well-faded lines demarking the parking space, the demolition derby continues unabated in the remainder of the lot. Let me just a draw a picture so y’all can understand the problem.

OK, so I can't draw. Get over it.

If you study the photograph closely, you’ll see that lines, faded though they may be, demarcate a flippin’ nightmare of a traffic pattern. Under the best of circumstances, the parking lot is fraught with potential mayhem. Factor in lines that have faded to almost nothing, the impatience of the average American, and Miss Daisy trying to navigate around the jerks who are so special they needn’t park in an actual spot. (I always wonder if Miss Daisy glares at the jerks while the Road Rager is glaring at her.)

Further, after last winter, the lot had a fair number of potholes and crumbling macadam which provoke swerving and, otherwise, driving where it was not intended for folks to drive.

The drop boxes also provoke confusion. Folks don’t see, don’t read, or don’t care about the One-Way and Do-Not-Enter signs helpfully, but fruitlessly, provided at the entrance and exit to the Parking Lot from Hell. Daily, someone will pull in the out, pull up to the drop box, do all sorts of contortions to drop the mail into the box from the wrong side of the car, and then attempt to go out the in. If Miss Daisy is still trying to get her car into her parking space it can get ugly.

During the peak mailing days of the Christmas Season, all my Fa La La begins to channel The Grinch. April 15th is really a headache, because folk are well irritated before they even get to the post office. And for some reason, the back-to-school period of late August and early September is a busy time.

I always park as far away as I can thus protecting the car, but endangering my body as I try to traverse the distance without acquiring a need for traction.

My car has been hit 6 times in this parking lot – 5 of them while I was correctly parked and in the post office fraternizing with the hired help. I have been nearly run over more times than I can count as I tried to negotiate the derby while walking across the lot.

When I drove in this morning (two cars in front of Miss Daisy), the beauty of fresh black paving lit my soul from within and I fairly skipped to our post office box where I found Daisy working assiduously to get her key into her box. ‘Mornin’,” I said. She didn’t hear me, but I swear her back was a bit straighter and I’m convinced it was due to her happiness about the paving.

I went and talked to the clerks. I need to point out here that lines have not yet been painted on the new paving. I told them I wanted flashing red, LED lit lines, speed bumps, and concrete barriers. They told me that probably wasn’t going to happen. Still, I’m tickled at the mere possibility that a new traffic pattern could be in the works. Contrary to popular belief, it takes so little to make me happy.

Kreativ Blogger Award

The Kreativ Blogger Award was bestowed upon me some weeks ago and I have been remiss in acknowledging it.  Yes, I’m ashamed of myself, but the rules for acceptance are, in part, responsible for the delay.

The rules for accepting the award are:

1. You must thank the person who has given you the award.

Roger, luv? Thank you, thank you. My self-esteem has taken a lot of hits the past few months and recognition of any sort is welcome, but recognition for the one creative outlet I make time for means all the world. It was a good day when you stumbled onto my blog.  Please accept my apologies for the delay in acknowledging it.  In truth, it took me awhile to think of 7 interesting things about me that I was willing to share. 

2. Copy the award logo and place it on your blog.

Woo Hoo! I love a bright, shiny award jpg in the morning.  i think I’ve managed to get it over there –>

3. Link the person who has nominated you for the award.

Roger’s site is a lot of fun – lots of interesting reading there. It’s well worth spending some time at.

4. Name 7 things about yourself that people might find interesting.

I have known all the words to J. Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers The Last Kiss since I was 12 years old – decades before Pearl Jam eviscerated it. I was never much of a Pearl Jam fan, but torturing one of my favorite songs didn’t help matters much. When The Ex and I were dating I discovered that he too knew all the words – it was one of the reasons I married him.

I read a lot. When my life is normal, I average two novels a week. I’m not much of a nonfiction fan. Periodically, I skip the well-crafted, well-written, make-me-jealous-of-the-talent novels and dive into a romantic mystery. As far as I’m concerned, this genre peaked in the late 60s, early 70s. Think Susan Howatch’s The Dark Shore or any of Victoria Holt’s stuff.

I love period movies – it doesn’t matter how bad they are as long as the scenery and costuming are luscious. My first one was Barry Lyndon and I was certainly too young (12, again) to be watching it. The latest one I watched was The Madness of King George.

Since the wizened age of 8, I have been entranced with aquariums. My first experience was with two goldfish named Queen Liliuokalani and King Kamehameha in a large bowl. The King died almost immediately and the Queen died of grief shortly thereafter.

Periodically, I set up an aquarium, stock it with fish (usually angels) and kill them in short order. It’s a mystery – I do all the right things and the varmints still die. I vowed that when I retired, I was going to set up a huge saltwater aquarium and raise seahorses. Then I read about keeping seahorses. Sheesh. They’d be dead before I even got them. The amount of fussing they need is way beyond my abilities.

I love going out to lunch. In the interest of financial prudence I don’t do it much these days, but I sure do miss it. Tom Robbins summed it up best:

L-U-N-C-H. Lunch. I’m fond of lunch. I am, in fact, a lunch aficionado. Give me liberty or give me lunch. Breakfast comes around too early in the day, and dinner can interfere with one’s plans for the evening, but lunch is right on the money, the only thing it interrupts is work. . .I require lunch on a daily basis. I’m insured against non-lunch by Blue Cross, Blue Shield, and blue Cheese. Finicky? Not his luncher….I become grumpy when denied my noontide repast.

I have wanted to change my first name since I was 17 or so. In fact, I had planned to do so as soon as I turned 18, but upon further reflection decided it would be insulting to my parents. My name was a compromise: Dad wanted Monique and Mom wanted Consuela. I have never felt like a Connie and while I’ve spent fifty years with the name, I still don’t think it suits me. These days, I’m still pondering whether to take back my maiden name or keep the name I’ve been using for 25+ years. During flights of fancy, I think about changing both first and last names to something. . . um. . . else. I can never come up with anything. I suppose I could become The Woman Formerly Known as Connie.

I like oatmeal. I like oatmeal raw. Just the flakes. In a bowl. I keep oatmeal at the office along with a bowl and a spoon. Often, my lunch (see above) is oatmeal flakes. My cholesterol levels should be in negative numbers. Go figure.

One of my first acts in the morning is to fire up the Yahoo News site and click on the Most Popular tab. Up comes the news articles that have had the most hits, have been recommended to others the most or have been emailed the most often. This is my personal barometer of what people are interested in. Most days it’s depressing. Today for example, one of the most recommended news stories is the startling information that Rush Limbaugh is getting married. (That poor woman.)

5. Nominate 7 other Kreativ Bloggers.

I am so behind in my blog reading and subsequently haven’t discovered any new blogs lately. Every person on my blogroll (links in the sidebar) deserves the award. Every single one of them. They’re there because I think they’re good. So, I hereby award each and everyone of them the Kreativ Blogger Award.

Besides handing the award to all those folks, I’d like to hand the award to those of you who think you might want to blog, but just haven’t taken the plunge. Get at it! It’s a big bunch of fun and the perfect creative outlet – it doesn’t take up space, create a mess, or cost anything. Everything you need to get started is at:

6. Post links to the 7 blogs you nominate.

If I’ve encouraged anyone to take the plunge, send me your link and I’ll post it.

7. Leave a comment on each of the blogs to let them know they have been nominated.

I haven’t done this yet, but I intend to.