Screenshot from HBO's magnificent "Band of Brothers."
This is late for a good reason: last night I wrote a column. Then I lost it. Damnedest thing: I was there, I saw it; I reread it and spell-checked it. You can’t spell a check a ghost! I know it was there! It was real, I tell you!

Calm down, son. Calm down.

No, I won’t! Because you think I’m crazy, don’t you? Well I tell you that once there was a 1500 word piece ready for the paper, and then - poof! It was gone! Like it never existed! You have to believe me! You have to!

<hiss of hypo; body slumps to table>

When I called the piece back up it was gone, except for the first paragraph. Yikes. Even worse, it was 11:45, and I was prepared to upload everything and enjoy a small cup of TV’s bottomless chumbucket before retiring. Not tonight! Well, if Anthony Burgess can rewrite an entire book after someone stole the MS while he was en route to the post office, I can rewrite a column now. And so I did. When I was done with it, I had to finish the other column, which needed an ending, as well as a trim of 15 lines. Done at 2:30 AM. Upload the webpage? Sure. As soon as ZZZZZZZZzzzzzz

Here’s yesterday’s small entry. Still no matchbook. I suq.

Unbelievable. You recall the problem I had getting DSL and regular phone service? How the Qwest tech came twice (one of James M. Cain’s best novels, incidentally) and couldn’t help, and how I’ve had to run Jasperwood’s entire household phone system off one jack? Well, a while ago I called a guy who’d been recommended by a Bleat reader, and he agreed to troubleshoot the wiring. It was an amusing conversation, really; he asked what my problem was, I said DSL, and he just made this throaty greatest-generation chuckle that spoke reams. He warned me that jobs like this got costy, and I said I understood - but Qwest wanted to charge eleventy hundred dollars a second to do the job, and his rates were better.

Solution en route, I thought. Alas, he never called back. Probably a busy man. But. A good friend, Mr. George, was skilled in the ways of wires. (Callback: longtime patrons of the Diner show may remember Mr. George as the Fun With Numbers fellow; he’d call with all sorts of bizarre calculations and sums.) He’d offered to help. I’d been reluctant to accept, because you can’t sue your friends, or report them to the BBB. If you hire a guy, and he does a half-assed job, you have remedies. If a friend does a three-quarter assed job, you let that other 25 percent of the ass slide, so to speak. I had no doubt that George would stay on the job until it was 110% assed, but for heaven’s sake he has a life of his own. He has a family! A wife, a child, a dog, innumerable cats! Three months from now he’s in the attic running Cat-5 wire, and I’ll have to say George! Give it up! It’s okay! I mean, it’s not like I’m paying you for this!

But then there’s the Wife Factor. We had two cordless phones with base stations in my studio, which meant the answering machine was stuck upstairs on a high shelf. This was not a long-term option, and my wife wasn’t happy with it. There were few Husband Points to be earned by calling in Mr. George now; it was only a matter of the Husband Points I was losing every day by accepting the current situation. So. Take hammer, break glass. Help us, Mr. George.

He shows up with cool tools, ready to rumble. I leave him to the job and head to the office. He calls me two hours later: all done.

So . . . you miniaturized your lanky self, slid through the crawlspaces and rewired the house? No. You draped invisible microfibre everywhere and activated a nanite network? No. He added a DSL filter to the junction box, he said, although I’m certain this involved some technical wizardry he was too modest to relate.

To sum it up -

A service call from Qwest that only makes things worse: $160

Rewiring the house using a well-recommended retired freelancer: $60 an hour

Having a friend solve the problem in under 120 minutes: priceless.

Of course, I’ll figure out some appropriate remuneration, but for the moment, let the word go forth! Hail Mr. George! Hail! Hail!

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