a newspaper man adjusts his pen

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

This town really is nowhere



By Scott Beveridge

WEBSTER, Pa. – It would seem today as if little has changed in my hometown since a photograph was snapped as a joke five decades ago of a sign here welcoming traffic to the village of Nowhere.

My neighbors in our tiny town otherwise known as Webster, Pa., will agree that most utilities and ambulance and delivery drivers still can’t find our houses even in this high-tech era when Google maps can almost locate an ant hill.

Yet, global positioning systems routinely take newcomers to the wrong addresses more a mile away as if Webster is situated on some distance island in the Pacific Ocean. It comes to those drivers' surprise when they eventually get here to find the town sits in the midst of 10 or more municipalities along the Monongahela River with a combined population of more than 40,000 people.

My problems with deliveries yesterday, last week, last month and over the years have been so small in comparison to those here who have either suffered heart attacks or other serious health concerns that required immediate medical attention.

The Internet in my house died Tuesday for 10 hours during a great recession when it has been critical to my ability to continue earning a paycheck as media employees like me rely more and more on the Web to avoid the breadline.

So I turned to a cell phone to call Comcast, my Internet provider, only to discover that I can’t get through the first prompt because the robotic voice on the other end doesn’t recognize the telephone number linked to my account. I call again only to be disconnected by "her" for a second time in this era of outsourced customer service supplied by impersonal rudeness.

Tonight, I finally got through to the company on a cell after many precious minutes count down and am greeted by an especially kind service representative. However, she is unable to handle this issue because of a number of glitches, one of which includes my account having an address that does not match the one that I furnish. No surprise there.

She then nervously tells me we cannot discuss anything else on the line because the last four digits of my social security number she needs as a gate to my account do not match the company’s records. That is really scary, given the growing threat of identity theft.

Then she instructs me to visit a Comcast center in person with photo identification to correct these problems 20 years after this company hasn’t had one single problem with accepting my money for its services. I also have to submit a DNA sample to get through the door. OK that last sentence is a joke now that an online connection has been re-established at this destination.

The next phrase is a mild exaggeration: I still have to stand on my head at the front door with one leg pointed due west to place a call on my Verizon cell phone.

1 comment:

jtogyer said...

I hear ya. My sainted mother is still using dial-up because Verizon hasn't extended high-speed Internet (either FIOS or DSL) to her 1950s subdivision in McKeesport. For corn's sake, you can walk to the Verizon central office from her house!

My house does have DSL, but it goes out every time it rains. Literally. Threats to call the PUC produce a Verizon technician, and the problem is mysteriously rectified ... until the next storm.