Monday, November 2, 2009

On Cable Companies and Centaurs at Third Base

This morning, I waited two hours for the cable guy to show up, only to be told at the end of those two hours that my appointment was actually scheduled for next week. I was not particularly surprised, despite the fact that the friendly Time-Warner Cable customer service representative I spoke to on Saturday assured me that the technician would be here "on Monday." I was not particularly surprised because I know what I am getting into whenever I contact Time-Warner Cable: I know that things will never work out as originally planned. I know that appointments will go awry, that technicians with an utter lack of technical knowledge will puzzle over the location of my cable box, that the customer-service representative I speak to when my picture fizzles out again will assure me that the problem is with my line, and the technician will assure me that the problem is with my box, and neither will be correct about anything, and both will wind up scheduling an appointment with a supervisor, who will never show up. It continually amazes me that a major utility provider--one that provides both for my livelihood (modem) and my nightly entertainment (Mad Men, football, Jeff Dunham*) can hold its customer base in such low esteem and continue to raise its rates at the same time, but this is the Faustian bargain of being addicted to television, not to mention the Faustian bargain of human existence: You will always have to wait for the cable guy, be it in literal or metaphorical fashion.

I've been dealing with Time-Warner's ineptitude for a long enough period of time that my opinion of them is intractable. They've wasted so many afternoons that my immediate reaction to anything they do is couched in an irrational hostility; the quality of the actual product doesn't even matter anymore. On occasion, I find myself screaming at old ladies on the phone. I don't like myself for this, but I don't feel particularly bad about it, either, because in some way I feel like I am raging against the absurdities of modern existence when I do this.

Anyway, I was sitting and sitting and waiting and waiting and then for some reason I started thinking about Alex Rodriguez. And I'm thinking about A-Rod because this postseason seems couched as his moment of "redemption," as the year A-Rod finally lives up to his considerable potential, as the moment A-Rod transforms from an inveterate social misfit into an American hero, by dint of victory. Last night, A-Rod provided the Yankees with their most important hit of the season, and perhaps he will perform some sort of heroic act again this evening, and perhaps this will shift our entire societal perspective of a man who has essentially made a fool of himself time and again in recent years. That's what Harvey Araton seems to be fleshing out in this New York Times piece: That somehow, A-Rod can save baseball.

But I sort of doubt it.

I think most people's opinions of A-Rod, at this point, are pretty intractable, and have little to do with the game itself, or even with the steroid issue. People don't like A-Rod because A-Rod does not come across like an actual human being. And I don't think even winning can repair that rift at this point; perhaps it will soothe a few overzealous Yankee fans for a short period, but there is absolutely no doubt that A-Rod will eventually do something so utterly alien that he will again set himself apart from the vast majority of humanity. He is too far gone to come back now; his actions have aroused an irrational passion against him. He's been too weird for too long. And if you don't believe me, ask yourself: When this whole thing about A-Rod's dalliances with mythical creatures came out, did I ever, even for a moment, think, "This might not actually be true?"

Winning cannot cure A-Rod, in the same way an extreme makeover cannot cure the cable industry. Some brands are just too far gone to ever be redeemed.

*OK, not Jeff Dunham, though after reading these reviews, I am intrigued, as I always am by potentially racist ventriloquism.

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