The Fox news guy was outside Penn Station, where thousands of people were - brace yourself - patiently waiting for electricity to return. He seemed a little annoyed that there wasnt a brawl or a riot. Im sure no one was happy to be standing there in the dead black dark, but what could you do? Stick someone up, take his credit cards and fashion them into a small portable fan? Stab someone in the foot, and hop he hops around and creates a small breeze? Set yourself on fire to take your mind off the hunger? He corralled a couple of New Yorkers off the sidewalk, wisely ignoring the three shiny-faced moth-balls behind him who were drawn to the camera light. Two women, one of a certain age, the other in her thirties. The first woman was a leathery old bird with a big smile and a shade of lipstick no ones seen since Gimbels had a close-out in the late 40s. She took it all in stride. Its an adventure, she smiled, shrugging. And then she added: And who needs it.
The younger woman was equally unconcerned: what can you do, but wait?
But arent you angry that there wasnt a Plan B for getting the electricity up sooner? the reporter prodded. Who do you blame?
They didnt really blame anyone. The reporter cut them loose. A while later I saw a reporter stop a man on a bike. He had a plastic sack with some food. He was going home; he had some friends crashing on the floor. "So you're pulling together, extending a hand to your fellow man," said the reporter, who was no doubt thinking: Pulitizer, or whatever the equivalent is for TV.
"Sure," said the guy. "I mean, someone turns on an air conditioner in Canada, it all goes down, whattaya gonna do."
The reporter cut him loose. I almost wondered if the reporters wanted this to be 9/11 lite, all the mass inconvenience with only half the panic. As far as I can tell, the big story was the outage, but the other story was "so, they dealt with it." You can't wonder if a TV producer was looking at the feeds, seeing the people just walkling along, the cars waiting thier turns, and the producer's thinking: God help me for this, but woudl someone please throw a brick? We're dyin' here.
I hope someone has a camera pointed at Manhattan, ready to capture the moment the power comes on line. I suppose itll be a block-by-block rollout, but wouldnt it be spectacular if the entire island lit up at once? Whats slightly creepy is the the thought of the offices that were cut-off in the middle of a normal day, and didnt have generators. Imagine all those screens popping on, hard drives spinning up, printers whirring to life. The modern office, full of wide-awake machines with no masters. To me theres something unnerving about the patience of machinery. When we went away for a three-day trip I didnt turn off my wifes computer; the monitor was off so I just let it go. When we came back I turned on the monitor to see Gnats Busytown game. A bear was sitting in a doctors office, staring straight ahead with a friendly smile, still waiting for a bandage after 80+ hours.
Most bears in that situation would have bled to death.
Just went to nyc.gov - the website leads with a picture of that hapless nanny Mayor. Hes about as inspirational and reassuring as a stale blintz. I watched some of the press conference. Hes warning people not to eat food from the fridge if its gone bad. Im picturing this in 1940s film noir terms - the mayor would have been some tough pol, maybe Broderick Crawford; hed grip the podium, stare at the press corps with a gaze undeterred by the detonations of the Speed Graphics, and hed say Stay home. Smoke em if you got em. Looters will be shot on sight. And dont worry - if all else fails, the sun will come up on schedule.
I liked Mayor Mike for exactly one minute, and that was when he was sworn in - if I remember correctly, they passed the baton in Times Square as the new year kicked in, just three and a half months after 9/11. New York seemed ndomitable once more. You want a piece of this? Try harder.
Spent an hour on the phone with the DSL people. Not pretty. A Qwest operative from the department of Customer Calming gave me a ring to apologize for, well, everything. I appreciated that. I gave mad props, as the kids say, to the fellow who handled my call this morning, as well as the tireless efforts of Harold, the Dispatcher; Harold and I did a conference call that lasted for-fargin-ever as we attempted to get someone in COVAD to send out a tech to meet the Qwest guy. Yes, I know, I know - I said I had a tech coming today. Well, someone at Qwest saw that call on the daily roster, and thought we cant fix the wires for someone who doesnt use us as an ISP - why, I must make a snap judgment based on nothing at all and cancel this service request. This was relayed via answering machine. Hence my pique.
As it turns out, the Qwest and COVAD people will meet together at my house tomorrow to solve the problem together. Apparently the COVAD guy can't enter a house, or he turns into a skeleton a la Pirates of the Caribbean. And the Qwest guy can't handle the outside wires. It's a Jack-Sprat-and-his-wife thing. That okay with you? Harold asked.
I dont care if you send Elvis impersonators who arrive by parachute, as long as it works, I said.
He liked that. I think it helped that I never yelled or got sulky or threatened. Like that ever works. No, just be persistent. Dont go huffy when youre put on hold for the sixth time. Eventually your patience and good humor will shame them: how can I not do right by this fine customer?
Compare that with Amazon customer service. Ive never found them difficult, just obtuse. A few weeks ago I placed a rather substantial order, cashing in my Associate Credits for some tunes & DVDs. The order always showed up at the bottom of the page, informing me when it would ship. Yesterday the order vanished. When I checked my Your Account page it wasnt there. Never existed.
I wrote Amazon about it, and they responded with a detailed message about a completely different order, ignoring the two salient points I made in the letter: the order has vanished, and did it take my gift certificate credits with it? Its like calling Dominos to ask where the pizza is, and the insist that theyve already delivered buffalo wings to your cousin.
You know what? Im done. Sorry, but I am. No moaning about what a long week its been, as though Im some Napoleonic soldier marching back from Moscow in the winter; no protestations of Great & Imminent Duties that must now rip me away from my cherished Bleat. Im just done, thats all. Time to reheat pizza and settle back for two hours of live broadcasts from inky New York.
Did I forget anything this week? Personal tales of no great import, laden with sodden nostalgia: check. Shallow takes on pop culture: check, and check. Grim axe-grinding polemic I should have paid people to wade through? Oh, indeed, check. Matchbook?
No! Until now. Check. See you Monday. (CLICK HERE FOR NEXT WEEK's BLEATS