By George Capsis
Silence. My phone was dead—completely dead, not a sound. I decided to continue working with that background irritation. Then I thought: What is the name of my telephone company anyway? Is it Time Warner that provides my TV and internet service and God knows what else? Maybe the phone?
The next morning, I asked my Mac, “What are the telephone companies in New York?” I recognized the Verizon name, so I called and got the computer voice, which initially resisted my request for a humanoid. The voice that arrived was less friendly and reported that service would not be restored for FIVE DAYS!
“Let me talk to your supervisor,” I demanded. After a soul-draining five-minute wait, I got Kelly, who had been with Verizon and its predecessors for 28 years—a hard-tempered machine lacking any human compassion.
“I print a paper and our advertisers are calling a dead phone. How would you like it if you had no power for a week?” Kelly replied with, “I live in New Jersey and Jersey Power does it all the time.”
“Give me your press office. I’m going to write an article about this,” I demanded. Kelly hesitated (nobody had ever asked for the press office), “Yah have to call the corporate office.”
Guilt seized me as I dialed Verizon in New Jersey: “George you have work to do. You’re wasting time.” And then a dulcet, non-New York voice came on and I explained my dire situation. I, a hard-shelled New Yorker, was shocked to hear genuine concern.
Minutes later, a smooth Midwest radio voice came on to confirm my problem and to ensure that action would be taken. Here is the shocker: Only minutes later, a repair guy-type called and gave his full name (they never give you their full name so that you can’t send a hit man).
An hour later, a repairman rings the bell, requests to see the cellar junction box, and gives me his full name. The next morning, I get a call from a repairman who is in the hole on West 4th and Charles Street. He has repaired my cable and is even calling me from it!
My Midwest radio voice calls to make sure all is OK. I invite him to lunch and he accepts. I figure out that he is the head of the Verizon press office—Mr. Big. Finally, I understand why these repairmen are giving me their full names: They assume I am some big shot. For the first time in my life, I get a taste of life as a celebrity.
I am having lunch with Mr. Midwest next week, and we may add an agenda, but it is nice, very nice, to be a big shot.