It was a moonless night. We made the twists and turns up the Etlan Road. No street lights or lights from the houses set back from the road behind tree stands. We slowly made our way as landmarks appeared in the headlights, careful to avoid deer and other potential road kill. We were happy but tired as we turned off Weakley Hollow and drove up the gravel road leading to our driveway. We had been at the Little Washington Theatre and by the time we got home it was close to 11 p.m.
Once again, I was guilty of forgetting to leave the porch light on, so I kept my headlights on and used the beam to fumble for my keys and get the door open.
While I fed our two frenzied felines, Gary sat down to read his email. From the next room I heard a string of words indicating that Gary was not happy.
“It’s the damn internet. I am so fed up! All I want to do is read my e-mail!” Gary scanned the equipment to see what might be screwed up.
We’d experienced the same problem over and over again. Sketchy service and not much bandwidth had made it impossible to count on when we needed it, let alone stream anything. Exasperated, he said, “I’m gonna’ call customer service.”
I said, “Honey, just go to bed, it’s late.” He decided to call anyway.
The conversation went something like this:
“Hello, this is customer service, how may I help you?” It was the chirpy, lilting voice of a 20-something young man from somewhere on the Indian subcontinent.
Gary: “My internet isn’t working. I’ve tried everything.”
“Yes, sir, let me ask you to do a few things.” The help desk guy had him flip switches, turn boxes on and off, count the number of blinking lights and report back. No luck.
“One moment, sir, I am going to try something.”(long pause)
“Sir, your antenna does seem to be receiving my signal,” he said politely.
Deflated and fatigued, Gary said, “I think we’ll just take this up again in the morning.” He thanked the guy from Bangalore and went to bed.
It was about an hour after sunrise when I woke up and got out of bed, leaving Gary to peacefully snooze after his late-night customer-service session, I padded down the stairs to the kitchen for a first cup of coffee. It was a crisp day. I took a few sips then sat down at my desk and looked out the window. “Oh” I thought. “Oh my.” I put down my coffee and padded back up the stairs.
Gently urging him awake, and using my best imitation of the customer service rep in Bangalore, “Sir, I believe I know why your antenna is not receiving my signal!”
He sat up in bed and followed my finger as it pointed down from the bedroom window to the ground. “You see, sir?” I said.
There on the ground were the twisted, mangled remains of our satellite transmitter arm. We slipped into bathrobes and slippers and went out for closer inspection. The dish was gouged with large bear claw marks. Perhaps he thought it was a bird feeder and tried to climb it? The pole supporting the dish lay on the ground as well, Its supporting pole bent at an odd angle. The dish and the transmitter arm had been snapped apart.
“You see sir, it is not possible for the antenna to speak to the modem.”
We’d been thinking about changing our service provider, and now seemed like an ideal opportunity. The internet provider guy came out, looked at the pole; looked at the mangled transponder and looked at us. “What about attachin’ it to the house?” he suggested. There were a few things to consider. Where should it go, how high and what angle would permit the dish to pull in a good satellite signal?
Most of our roof is tin, so that wouldn’t work.. The installation guy walked us around the house, then pointed to where asphalt shingles covered a small addition. “ How ‘bout up there?”
Is it ideal? No. But our service seems to be reliable. Would we like to have underground cable? You bet. Is it going to happen? Not on my side of the mountain. We still can’t stream movies and we frequently land in Bandwidth Hell. We continue to suffer as we resign ourselves to the purgatory of slow download speed.
But for now, our new satellite dish hovers above our kitchen, mounted at the roofline, about 20 feet off the ground. And that should take care of things, I hope. If that bear, or any of his relatives, has any designs on the new dish, they’ll just have to knock on the door and ask to borrow the ladder.
Rose and her husband Gary live in Syria — the peaceful one, in Madison County — where their weekend fishing cabin is now their full-time address. When she is not writing, Rose is a “free-range” rabbi, serving a six-county area.