This is the story of how I became Public Enemy #1.
Ok, that’s a little bit of an exaggeration: I think probably I’m lower on the list. Maybe Public Enemy #14, or something.
And a warning: just so you know, I am apparently a very suspicious character, and there’s a good chance, just in reading this, you might be exposing yourself to radical thoughts and ideas. I wouldn’t want to get anyone involved in whatever I’ve gotten myself into, so you have been warned! Turn back now!
Ok, what? You’re still here? You’re very brave. Total bravery points for you. Ding ding!
Here we go! The story of a social miscreant. One bad apple, if you will. And that bad apple is ME. (Can I be a Granny Smith? I really like those.)
On Wednesday afternoon, I noticed my wifi wasn’t working. Well, it was KIND of working, but not well. So I thought maybe it was just one of those things and I thought I’d check it that night when I got home. (It was working fine in the office, so I knew it was just my house.)
Now, I work nights and weekends, so I get home between 12:30am-1:15am most weeknights. I’ve gotten used to it. No worries. Don’t cry for me, Argentina. (I’ve always been a night owl. I’m ok with it. I love that I get to sleep in.)
When I got home, it still wasn’t working, and my cable company (good old Time Warner, voted least likely to satisfy anyone in the most recent American Customer Satisfaction index) has 24-hour customer service (that should probably be in sarcasm-quotes – “customer service.”) I wasn’t SO tired, so I thought I’d call them. I do so rely on my wifi.
First, I talked to…oh, I don’t remember anyone’s names. Let’s say Ben. I explained what was up to Ben. Ben kept me on the phone for about 45 minutes, trying this and that. One of the things he tried, fo no reason I could ascertain, was to reset my cable box. My cable has nothing to do with my wifi, other than the same company charges me an exorbitant charge to have them. When my cable box came back online, it was 4 hours off. So it said it was 5-something am. I don’t know why, either.
Ben was at a loss, and said “I guess the problem is that you’re going to have to have a code input into your modem, and I can’t do that, so I’m going to transfer you to someone the next level up.” At this point, I was exhausted and annoyed, but not SO mad.
Then I got transferred to…again, who knows what his name was. Claude. We’ll call him Claude. Claude looked over my file and said, “What did you and Maria discuss when she called you on December 20?”
“I’m sorry,” I replied, “I didn’t speak to anyone named Maria from your company on December 20. I haven’t spoken to anyone in your company since August, when you screwed up my move so prodigiously that I have discounted services and free HBO from your company for the next two years.”
(Side note: this is a true story. I have deeply discounted Time Warner services and free HBO for two years because the company so deeply botched my move from Albany to Watertown that it took two full weeks to get things up and running here again. I don’t like being screwed with, and I made my displeasure very vocally known. They replied with discounts. I kind of wanted them to flog themselves in Public Square while crying “I HAVE FORGOTTEN THE FACE OF MY FATHER,” but you take what you can get, I suppose.)
“No,” replied Claude, “it says here you spoke to Maria on December 20 and she marked your account for suspicious activity.”
“OK, there are a lot of things here to reply to,” I said. “First, as I said, I haven’t spoken to anyone at your company since August, maybe early September. Second, ‘suspicious activity’? What does that mean?”
“Well…um…you know…suspicious…like…activity that is…suspicious…and indicates the user and their account need to be flagged…” he said, very carefully.
“Sir, are you telling me this Maria person thinks I’m a terrorist?” I asked Claude.
“We don’t like to use the word ‘terrorist,'” he replied.
“But are you SAYING Maria thinks I’m a terrorist?” I said.
“We really don’t like to refer to people in this situation as ‘terrorists,'” he said, very nervously.
“Um. OK. So you think I’m a terrorist, then, but you’re just using ‘suspicious activity’ instead. OK. Well. That’s fantastic. Claude, how exactly do I get off this watch list that Maria seems to have put me on?”
“I can’t take you off this list. Maria should have discussed your options with you when she talked to you.”
“And, as earlier mentioned, this conversation with Maria never occurred.”
“It’s all really strange,” said Claude. “Usually, there are detailed notes saying what exactly occured with the suspect. But all I have here is that Maria flagged your account, talked to you, and her phone number and extension are here. She wrote ‘December 20’ and a shut-off date of today.”
“Well, this suspect would like to know her options, Claude. Could you let me know if I get a phone call, or will I be read my Miranda rights, or…”
Claude wasn’t amused.
Eventually, Claude told me he would MOST DILIGENTLY continue working on the problem while I slept (and if I believed that, he probably had a bridge in Brooklyn he wanted to sell me, and I have always wanted to own real estate) and gave me a number BOTH for his supervisor the next day, and for the mysterious Maria. He also assured me that this wasn’t done in error; I was most definitely on some sort of watch list and a suspect in something. But he didn’t like to use the term “terrorist.” No, no, no. Well, who does? It’s such a loaded term.
So I slept, and the next day I awoke to many messages from my friends (yes, of course I told Facebook I was a potential terrorist, wouldn’t you?) either saying “what?” or “ha ha!” or, my favorite, “I KNEW IT!”
First, I called Maria. Surprise! Maria’s phone went directly to voicemail.
Then I called the supervisor, who was very rude once he reviewed my file. “There’s nothing I can do until you talk to Maria,” said the supervisor. “Maria will call you back.”
Now. I used to work a phone-based job; I know it’s the worst when people get mad at the operator when it’s not their fault. But Time Warner makes it really, really hard to be Miss Merry Sunshine. They hold the area in a total monopoly and just don’t care about their customers. Oh, you have no internet? Yeah, you have to keep paying for that, but we’ll fix it when we get around to it. Oh, your cable’s broken? Same deal.
“I’m sure she will, but it doesn’t seem a priority to her. I need the internet in my home; I use it for my job. My job at a newspaper. We’ve written quite a few articles recently about Time Warner and its low customer satisfaction rating and the alternatives people have in the area. I’ll want to talk to Maria to get to the bottom of this; I think they’ll find it very interesting over there that one of their employees was flagged for potential terrorist activities, don’t you?”
Rude McSnotterson got very quiet, and said, “I’ll have Maria call you back.”
I waited half an hour, then I called the Land of Maria and got her voicemail again. This time I was tricky. I waited on the line and got transferred to the first available agent in Marialand. I explained my situation to him; he, again, told me I had to talk to Maria. He then checked and saw Maria was “out of the office…yeah, there’s no indication when she’ll return” (MARIA IS TOTALLY CIA, RIGHT?) and he was able to input this secret code to get my wifi back online. I guess he didn’t think I was a terrorist, I don’t know. Or maybe he doesn’t love MERKA! as much as Maria does.
Then he realized that both my modem and my cable box had blown up. Yes, that’s the technical term: “blown up.” So I’d have to take them to the Time Warner store and swap them out. “So,” I said, “first this mysterious Maria puts me on a watchlist, then both my cable box and my modem choose this exact day to blow up?”
He agreed, what are the odds? Hmm.
So. Off to the cable company. In blizzard white-out conditions. (Yeah, I had to run some other errands anyway…but I was pretty pissed I had to go all the way over there on the slipperiest roads ever to swap out boxes that just 24 hours ago were working fine. Even the sassy lady I like in the office over there was all, “BOTH stopped working? Girl, who’d YOU piss off?” I wanted to tell her Homeland Security, but I wisely kept my mouth shut.)
Then I almost died getting groceries and random other things (but DUDE did I get some clearance deals at the drugstore…sorry, sorry, tangent) and got home. Reinstalled everything. Crossed my fingers.
Nope. Nothing worked. Not the cable box, not the modem.
Called the help line again. This time, I got my man Dwayne. I don’t remember if this was his name, but he was from Maine and that rhymes. Dwayne had the most prodigious cold, and kept apologizing for his coughing. I apologized for being a terrorist, but I don’t think he was amused. He was polite enough, though; I didn’t even snap at him once.
Dwayne got my cable working. There was a dicey moment where the only channels I was getting were The Weather Channel, every sports channel known to man, and all the home shopping networks. I was all, “Dwayne, THIS WILL NOT STAND” and Dwayne agreed and set things to rights. Even with a cold, Dwayne was damn good at his job.
So, cable’s up and running. However, the modem? STILL FRIED. Come to find out, I have TWO MODEMS. The other one was what one of the millions of people told me was my router, so I didn’t bring it to swap it out. It was the second router that “blew up.” I looked outside. WORSE white out. Nope.
One of the people I’d talked to in the wee hours had a tech coming to my house Friday between 11-12, so I told Dwayne, “can you make sure the tech coming Friday brings a new modem?” and Dwayne said, “oh, I hate to add bad news to your bad news, but there’s no tech scheduled for Friday.”
WHAT IS HAPPENING OVER AT TIME WARNER.
Dwayne set up a tech for me for Friday afternoon who will be bringing me a modem in the NEXT snowstorm (we’re predicted to get 36″ by the end of the day on Saturday, and we already have 24″ or so on the ground from our last storm. Yeah, Watertown is…intense. The man on the news just said an “Alberta Clipper” is headed our way. AN ALBERTA CLIPPER! Well, what do you know about that? That’s like a ship FULL of snow, right? LOOK OUT!)
In the meantime, Dwayne and I figured out that I could hook up an Ethernet cable to my modem and I could have internet again. AND I DO. Only it’s crazy-slow. But it’s only until tomorrow. I can handle that.
So. Here’s my mystery.
Why, exactly, am I a terrorist?
This mysterious Maria wrote I’d been flagged December 20. So what was I doing December 20? (I think it only matters what I was doing online, right? That’s what Maria seems to have taken objection to?)
It was a Saturday. So I was at work from 9:30am-8pm. (Yes, I have crazy weekend hours.)
I wrote two emails; one talking about a song I’d heard that I liked, one talking about a possible job for a friend to keep an eye on. (It probably bears mentioning that both of these emails were to people outside of the country. Dad’s quite sure that’s why I’m a terrorist. I have all these “Communist” friends, you see.) I wrote one Facebook message, to someone I used to work with, just checking in. I posted on Facebook about someone in my office listening to something that sounded very much like porn on his work computer (but it probably wasn’t…right? Urgh. DON’T DO THAT AT WORK.) Became Facebook friends with someone at work (but he’s like this all-American guy. He’s totally not terroristy.) Posted a bunch of things to our work Facebook account and work Twitter account, but if she’s going to call me a terrorist for reporting local news, I think probably something’s wrong here. Did one internet search – for my paper I work for, in the morning. (I have to post one post before I get in in the morning, which is why I did that.)
That was all I did ALL DAY online. Most of the day I was at work, so I wasn’t even using this account, and usually on the weekends when I get home, I’m wiped out and can barely do anything online (and hardly want to – so tired. And have been online all day, so the last thing I want to do when I get home is be MORE online.)
So, let’s guess, ladies and gentlemen. Dad thinks it’s my very shady ties to foreign countries that have made this woman flag me. Also, the blogging; he’s sure I’m on a government watch list for bloggery. (And it bears mentioning that my friend Chris tried to visit my blog on Wednesday and was told he could not, because it had “adult content.” Hee! “Doctor Who” was MUCH too adult for his computer!) What do YOU think has been my big transgression?
I suppose she could have flagged me for something I’d done BEFORE December 20, but what made December 20, a day I worked a 10.5 hour shift and came home and crashed because I had to be back at work the next morning at 9:30am, the day she decided I was Bonnie (or maybe Clyde?) And why did it take them almost three weeks to stop my subversive activities? I could have been doing ANYTHING in those three weeks. Causing a ruckus. Fomenting a revolution. Staging a sit-in.
I kind of feel like Arlo Guthrie in “Alice’s Restaurant.” I feel like maybe I’m going to be arrested for littering and this Maria person is Officer Obie.
Stay tuned, ladies and gentlemen. I plan on calling our girl Maria a few more times in the next couple of weeks, see what’s going on. Would really like a glimpse into the world of Maria and how she internetually profiles those of us who are very terrory terror suspects.
UPDATE: I HAVE SPOKEN TO MARIA!
Sadly, the answer (which I have to wonder about) is a total letdown.
Maria actually picked up her phone right away, and when I said, “Hi, Maria, it’s me! Amy! Why’m I a terrorist, yo?” she looked into it and asked me to spell my name about 47 times and finally said, “Oh, I SEE” and I said, “you DO?” and she said my account number was one away from someone else with my exact name who lives on the east coast, and THAT Amy is a TOTAL TERRORIST! (No, ok, fine, she didn’t say that, she said that person was “the real problem.”) So my account was accidentally flagged. “But I don’t know why all of your boxes blew up,” she said. “I had nothing to do with that.”
“So that was a coincidence, this all happened at the same time?” I said.
“Ha ha!” said Maria. “Yes, just a total coincidence!”
I don’t know how much of that I believe.
Also, the tech was here. I have wifi again, and my cable’s fine, but he unhooked a bunch of other things like DVD players and such and now I can’t figure out how to hook them back up and I have a call in for him to come back, but nope. No one’s coming. So that’s nice, then. Thanks, Time Warner!
I guess now the moral of this story is, don’t have the same name as anyone else, and don’t be a very terroristy terrorist, and if you have an option to choose another cable company, I’d say choose anyone but Time Warner. Unless you like torture. I mean, who am I to judge, right?
Sayonara, my little jellybeans.