Wednesday, November 26, 2014

A pact with the devil

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. I was feeling blessed – extremely blessed – until this afternoon when I called Comcast, the most hated company in America, to arrange for service at the new house to which we’re moving.

Now my head is about to explode.

Every time I write about Comcast, which provides (and I use that word loosely) cable, Internet and phone service to my home  – and I’ve done it often – readers ask why I don’t simply switch to another company.

The answer is: I can’t. We live in a master planned community of 3,500 residences.  When it was laid out in the 1990s, the developers allowed the local cable company to wire it for cable service. That company at some point sold out to Comcast, which now has 3,500 captive customers it can and does treat like shit pond scum. My fellow residents and I complain bitterly but there’s nothing any of us can do about it. For aesthetic reasons, the community doesn’t allow satellite dishes so DISH or Direct TV aren't options. And while CenturyLink offers phone and internet service, it can only deliver snail-speed internet that can’t accommodate streaming media like Netflix or Amazon which many of my neighbors and I watch so we won’t have to pay a penny more to Comcast than we are now paying. In short, Comcast has 3,500 customers by the giblets.

Over the last four years I’ve probably had to call Comcast – I’m guessing – 100 times to complain about slow, intermittent or non-existent service. I’m guessing Comcast technicians have made at least 50 service calls. Despite it all, our service remains iffy. I’ve written letters to Comcast headquarters. I’ve joined Facebook groups like “I Hate Comcast.”  I’ve written blog posts out the ying-yang, one of which was read by a Comcast VP who offered to personally guarantee that my problem would be taken care of –  service was out and the local office said they couldn’t get to it for at least a month. Within a few days it was taken care of. Then it went down again.

Back to my head is about to explode.

Today I called to arrange to have my current service switched over to our new house, which is in the same development.  When I told the automated voice that answered that I wanted to arrange new service, a human picked up almost instantly (as opposed to when I call because of a problem, being placed on hold for a half hour or more and forced to listen to voices telling me how much Comcast values me).

Whenever I talk to a Comcast agent, I remind myself that I'm speaking with someone who isn't personally responsible for his or her company's service and/or my dissatisfaction but I have to admit that I didn't do that today.  I started the conversation by telling the agent that my relationship with Comcast has been the worst, most stressful customer experience of my life and that I wasn’t happy about having to move my service but I had no option other than disconnecting.

She replied that if I did that I’d be charged an early termination fee according to my contract.

“What contract?” I asked.

“The one you agreed to May 18th, ” she said.

"Was this a paper contract?  I have never, and will never, sign a contract with Comcast."

"When you called May 18th you were asked to accept terms of service and you agreed, which constitutes a contract."

"I'm a lawyer," (I lied.) "A verbal agreement over the phone isn't a contract.  I never agreed to anything, much less a contract with Comcast."

“Yes you did, it’s here in my records.”

“Prove it.”

“I'll connect you to my supervisor. She’ll pull up the conversation in which you agreed to a 12-month contract.”

“Fine, you do that.”

Five minutes later she came back on the line. “My supervisor says you refused to authorize the contract we offered so please accept my apologies.”

"So this means I can terminate with no penalty?"


"I wish I could but I can't. I need to move service to my new house, but I'm not about to sign any contract. So what are my options?"

She explained that, because I had no contract, I was entitled to be treated as a new customer and offered a package of 240 cable channels (I have 40 now), 100 gig Internet (I have 20 now) and unlimited long-distance calls for a special low bundle price of $69.99 a month for a year – more than $20 less than I’m now paying.

“That's good!" I said. "And I want to add HBO. How much more for that?”

She said HBO would add $10 but for another $10 more –  $89.99 –  she could offer a bundle including everything in the $69.99 package plus HBO, Starz and Comcast’s version of Netflix. But she cautioned that both packages – the $69.99 and $89.99 – would go up $20 after 12 months.

“I don’t want Starz or Comcast’s version of anything. What if I just buy the same cable package I now have, 100 gig Internet, telephone and add HBO?” I asked.

She said that would be roughly $84 a month.

“Then I want that,” I replied. 

She said that was doable but the phone and Internet would probably each go up $20 per month after 12 months if I chose that option

We continued back and forth for ten minutes or so as she kept suggesting bundle packages that were attractively priced but were sure to go up after a year and I kept asking about a la carte services that were cheaper but sure to go up even more after a year.

I have no clue what I finally agreed to but I think I'll be paying roughly $91 a month for 12 months after which the price goes up to approximately $5,516.20 a month.

I asked her to send an email recapping what I agreed to buy and to acknowledge in the email that I do not have a contract with Comcast and can leave at any time without a termination fee if the service at my new house is as abysmal as it has been at my current house. She said she would send it right after the call to the email address she had on file for me,

“It's Dryden, not driven, and it’s g-mail, not Comcast,” I said.

“Oh, like your last name?”


“OK, I'm sending it now. Happy Thanksgiving and thank you for calling Comcast.”

That was two hours ago and I haven’t received the email.

Knowing she has to use Comcast, it's likely her Internet is down. 


Three hours after our conversation ended I still hadn't received the email. So I called Comcast again.

The agent I spoke with this time said she couldn't send me an email but would be happy to tell me the terms the original agent and I had agreed upon by looking "in the system." I said I wanted written confirmation. She said only the "Customer Care" department could handle that. (She apparently works in the "Customer Abuse" department).

She connected me to a gentleman in Customer Care who, after I provided him all the information he requested -- phone, last four digits of my Social Security, the address of my current service, the address of the new service, my account number, etc. -- said it was Comcast's policy not to send emails confirming customer orders and prices. I asked if I could find details of what I agreed to online by looking under "My Account" at He said no and -- get this -- that I wouldn't receive written confirmation of what I had ordered until after the service was installed. 

I asked why, if that was Comcast's policy, the agent I spoke with earlier had promised to email me with the information I had requested. He said she was wrong to do that and didn't even have the ability to send email from her work station, but that he would look up my order and read it back to me. He did and it matched what I had written down during my original conversation. But he was firm that it is Comcast's policy not to put in writing what the customer has ordered and how much the customer will pay until the service is installed.

I asked if he would buy a car that way -- order it over the phone and agree to a price but not see a quote in writing until after he had taken delivery of the car. He said I had thirty days after installation to cancel the service if I found it differed from my understanding. I said that wasn't the point; I didn't want to find out something had been installed that wasn't what I ordered or that didn't cost the price I was quoted.

Amazing that this company is allowed to stay in business, isn't it?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Prisoner of Love

This post, from 2002, is reprinted here to celebrate the upcoming nuptials of Charles Manson and his bride-to-be, Afton Elaine Burton (above), whose father, I'm sure, can't wait to give her away. Best wishes to the happy couple. And may all your troubles be little ones!

It is said that men are from Mars and women are from Venus


We’re not even from the same solar system.

This was driven home the other night as I watched Barbara Walters on 20/20 as she interviewed Tammi Menendez, the beautiful blonde bride of Erik Menendez.

Erik, as you will recall, is a convicted murderer, the youngest of the two Menendez brothers who mounted one of the most creative defenses in history.

At ages 18 and 20,  Erik and his brother, Lyle, according to their defense attorneys, suddenly realized their wealthy parents were child rapists and threatened to go public with this information. The parents, naturally, announced plans to kill their sons to keep them quiet. Fearing for their lives, the brothers snuck up with a shotgun on their parents as they were eating strawberries and cream in the family room of their Beverly Hills mansion and fired repeatedly. They then went on a shopping spree to forget their grief, buying Rolex watches, Porsches and other goodies with their parents’ millions.

Their first trial ended with a hung jury.

The second time around they got life with no possibility of parole.

Erik’s new bride told Barbara her inspiring story.

She said she was an ordinary Minnesota housewife, married to a man who wasn’t around for her emotionally when she needed him. Fascinated by the Menendez brothers’ trial on Court TV, Tammi began corresponding with Erik in prison.

After the death of her husband (she never said what he died of but I would imagine he died of embarrassment, knowing his wife was writing Erik), she started dating a wealthy doctor, but couldn’t stop thinking about Erik, with whom she was falling head over heels in love.

So, she told the doctor to take a hike and, using the proceeds from her dead husband’s insurance, moved to Sacramento to be near her Prince Charming, where she bought a house with a pool and a Mercedes.

Three years ago she married Erik in the prison visiting room. In lieu of a wedding cake, they shared a vending machine Twinkie.

Tammi now spends her days visiting Erik and, when they’re apart, reading his love letters and chatting with him on the phone about their favorite TV shows which she watches in her swell house and he watches in the Big House. She says she is deliriously happy and that he is her soul mate (not to mention her inmate). Why, he even reads stories to her six-year-old on visiting days!

I ask you, would a man ever do what she did? Specifically, if it had been the Menendez sisters – Erica and Lila – do you think there’s a man on earth who would have married one of them?

No way.

Men know that a woman incarcerated for life can’t make dinner or do laundry, nor can she perform her most important wifely duty – getting out of the car at gas stations and asking attendants for directions when her husband is hopelessly lost.*

A man wouldn’t put up with an imprisoned woman for one minute, much less marry one. But women marry male inmates all the time.

Ladies, I may be betraying my Martian species but here’s a tip. You want a man who will always be there for you? A man who will do whatever you want? Try this:

You: Darling, wanna go to the movies tonight?

Your husband: No thanks, I’m tired from getting up at five and working all day. Can’t we stay home?

You: Fine. Erik Menendez is taken but I’m going to start writing his brother, Lyle. You’ll die of humiliation. With your insurance money I’m going to take the kids and move to California where I’ll buy a Mercedes, so I can drive back and forth to the prison to visit him. Then I’m going on 20/20 and telling Barbara Walters you weren’t there for me when I needed you. What’s more, I’m going to give an interview to the local paper; it’ll appear on the front page along with a picture of Lyle and me eating a Ding-Dong.

Trust me when I say he’ll be your prisoner for life.

* This was written in 2002 before cars and cell phones came equipped with GPS. Women no longer have to ask directions for their husbands. Come to think of it, a lot about this post is out of date. Barbara Walters has retired. Lyle Menendez has now been married twice (most recently to his lawyer). And you'll be happy to know that Erik and Tammi Menendez are still married. 

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Why you shouldn't argue about politics on Facebook

I found my wife facedown on the breakfast table, her shoulders heaving. Her laptop was on the table next to her.

"What's wrong?" I asked, fearing she had just learned some dreadful news.

"Read this," she said, raising her head and pointing to a Facebook posting from a political message board she follows. At that point I was relieved to realize she was convulsed with laughter.

This is an actual post, cloned directly from Facebook. Only the participant names are changed. In case you're unfamiliar with Florida politics, you need to know that we just finished a nasty gubernatorial election between former governor Charlie Crist and the current incumbent, Rick Scott, who was re-elected in a close race during which Crist ran TV ads calling Scott a criminal.


  • Debra Evans Lange   I am glad you said you respect our President even though you don't agree. There are so many right wingers who show no respect and have been downright disgusting in how they talk about him and how they portrait (sic) him. If for nothing else, they should respect the office he holds. That the Majority of Americans elected him TWICE...not once but TWICE!
    13 hrs · Like · 3

  • Susan Fortis  Well I'm in Florida where a criminal was elected governor TWICE and the attorney general is a flaming hypocrite!!!
    13 hrs · Like · 2

  • Mark Abrams  Crist is just an ass kisser!! lol.
    13 hrs · Like · 13 hrs ·

  •  Marjorie Lowe Maness  Oh my, this is crazy. Obama may be president but JESUS is the King of Kings & holds the universe in His hands. My faith & trust is in Him. Sad how so many put a man in office above Jesus. And yes, I know I don't have to read this stuff & all that.
    12 hrs · Like

  •  Tom Marshall I think Mark said CRIST, not CHRIST
  •    13 hrs · Like ·     76

Sunday, November 2, 2014

12 Boomer songs that make no sense to Millennials

1. Do You Know the Way to San Jose? (Dionne Warwick, 1968)

No, but why not program it into your GPS? Or ask Siri?

2. Rikki Don’t Lose That Number (Steely Dan, 1974)

Put it in your cell phone. Better yet, call me right now and I'll be on your contact list. 

3. Kodachrome  (Paul Simon, 1973)

Let me get this straight: You put a roll of something called "film" in a device called a "camera" that was totally separate from your cell phone ... took pictures ... had to take them to a drugstore  ... and wait several days ... then you got back something called "slides?"

4. The Letter  (The Box Tops, 1967)

One of many songs – others include Please Mr. Postman, Take a Letter, Maria and Sealed With A Kiss – about an extinct form of communication, sort of like hieroglyphics.

5. Return to Sender  (Elvis Presley, 1962)

Another song about letters, today it would be entitled, Delivery To The Following Recipient Failed Permanently.

6. Knock Three Times  (Tony Orlando & Dawn, 1970)

Better yet, sext me to show me exactly how much you want me.

7. Gotta Get a Message to You (Bee Gees, 1968)

Why didn't he just text?  It's not like he could call her back if she didn't pick up. BTW, my parents always told me there were three Bee Gees. How come there are five here?

8. 409  (Beach Boys, 1962)

Why would anyone record a song about a brand of cleaning spray?

9. (Gonna Put it In The) Want Ads (Honey Cone, 1970)

You mean “Craigslist,” right?

10. Young Girl (Gary Puckett & The Union Gap, 1968)

This bastard made millions singing, "you've led me to believe, you're old enough, to give me love and now it hurts to know the truth?" What about the poor girl he molested? I hope he's listed in the National Online Registry of Sex Offenders so his neighbors know to watch out for their kids.

11. Please Mr. Please (Don’t Play B-17) (Olivia Newton-John, 1975)

You mean people in restaurants and bars had to listen to music other people picked out? Eww.

12. Back in the USSR: (Beatles, 1968)

Good thing they recorded it back then because even the Beatles couldn't have had a hit with a song called Back in Russia Estonia Latvia Lithuania Belarus Kazakhstan Georgia Ukraine Azerbaijan Armenia Turkmenistan Moldova Uzbekistan Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

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