that's con-castic!

cable, cable. where do i begin? i guess it all started a few days ago. while flipping channels with my dad in the room, i got curious. what does it cost per month to have seventy-five channels of nothing? "how much are you paying for cable?" i asked him. "sixty," he answered. "what!" i said, incredulous. "rich pays $65 and he has way more features than us!" normally, i try to stay out of technological innovations - my cousins once stared, mouth-agape, at me when i admitted i didn't know what a blu-ray was - but $60 per month is ridiculous for mom and me to be watching the daily show and the colbert report. truth be told, i could give a shit about extra features - i was more concerned about my dad getting ripped off.

i told my cousin about my dad's outrageous monthly ransom to the roberts family, and he was equally shocked and appalled. so, we trekked on over to comcast's only location in sacramento county: natomas.

i've been to the comcast store before. it's this sad little spot in the midst of unnecessary retail and equally unappealing restaurants. think applebee's, think sunglass hut. inside the comcast store, there's nothing but a receptionist desk and a long counter that seats three comcast sales representatives, each one unhappier than the next. we were greeted by a deadpan blonde, possibly in her late teens, early twenties. i couldn't help but think, she might be cute if she quit this job.

my cousin told her my dad's dilemma. "yeah," she said, uninterested and unaffected, "basic cable is $60." rich told her that he only had to pay $65 per month, and his package includes the extra perks: dvr recorder and hd receiver. so, what gives? she said she would look up his account. "actually," she said, "your bill comes to $80." his eyes widen, jaw hits the floor. a classic looney tunes moment. when this finally sinks in, he says, "but the last time i was here, the woman quoted me at $65." "well," the blonde rep answered, "you might've been on a special promotion." "no," he answered sharply, "there was no promotion. she said, '$65' and that was that." the blonde girl continued typing away, looking at the computer screen. i wondered if, during training, they had been told to avoid eye contact with customers, the kind of advice usually reserved for jailers, interrogators, and zoo keepers.

"well, do you know who you talked to?" she asked. ah. the perfect question to undercut any customer's authority. who ever gets a name? we buy, we buy some more, we sign, we get a receipt. who's shaking hands during this capitalist plague? "no, i didn't get her name," he admitted, defeated. as if he were the type of person who goes around making up numbers to get discounts on goods and services, but never has the foresight to brief his alibis and accomplices beforehand. during this long pause, i am thinking, don't they have records of everything? what happened to the unconstitutional wiretapping, the tiresome message: "this call maybe monitored for your security and to improve customer service," the machines and cameras that document every time we shit and masturbate? it's there, of course it's there. but she doesn't give him the name. "she might be in tomorrow. you can talk to her then if you want."

i can sense the shift of energy, the tension mounting. suddenly, i feel bad for this girl, for my cousin, for everyone. here are these two individuals who could be talking about life, love, politics, change, art, music, ambition; i'd even settle for a discussion about a career, old teachers, the weather, childhood memories. but no, not today. con-castic slaves are reduced to talking about digital boxes, premium packages, discounts and promotions, spools of wire, hbo and cinemax, dvr recorders and hd receivers. why it's better to stick with them, rather than bow down to their only known competitor, direc-tv.

my cousin tries one last stitch effort at obtaining the original offer he'd been promised. "i've been with you guys a long time," he says, "is there any way you can fix the bill?" "there's really nothing to fix," the girl says softly, yet abruptly. the good old-fashioned passive-aggressive tone, the kind a woman makes when she's been washing dishes and folding clothes all day while the man sits on his fat ass, drinking bud, watching the game.

i take my dad's digital box in my arms and cradle it, the dying child of creativity.

inside the car, rich calls comcast immediately. i haven't seen him this angry in a long time. i can tell he doesn't like to be cheated, doesn't like to be fucked with - this much is clear. he talks with a representative on the way home. in his frustration, he repeats words, phrases. "is there anything you can do for me," he pleads and, "i'll be with you guys for the long run," etc. i want him to snap out of it, but he's determined. like many of us, he's been led to believe that there's a better deal out there, that if we argue enough with the corporation, we might win.

dropping out, canceling your account - these are hardly options.

not when there's tits and ass on every channel, laughs waiting to happen, reruns stirring the nostalgic pot, and tragedy lurking around every corner. not when you're in the midst of a terribly isolated, suburban wasteland. not when they've convinced you that you cannot exist without them.

my dad's now paying $65 a month for cable. but, come look at all the new shit we can watch.

1 comment:

Lizzie said...

"here are these two individuals who could be talking about life, love, politics, change, art, music, ambition; i'd even settle for a discussion about a career, old teachers, the weather, childhood memories. but no, not today."

I loved this part.