Saturday, June 30, 2007

Fighting a Giant

On June 27, our Internet connection ceased to function at approximately 11:45 a.m. We tried resetting our router at the Linksys website, and received a message that our settings were successful. However, when we checked the status, the “connecting” message was all we got. No complete connection occurred.

At around 12:30 p.m., after checking our computer’s connections, we called Verizon’s Tech Support. Dealing with the voice-automated menu took two attempts, as the physical disabilities both my husband and I have require us to use a speaker-phone. But finally we made contact with an agent identifying herself as Maria.

Maria first helped us check our connections a second time, and they were all in order. Next, she asked us to check our modem’s website (Westfall), which was also fine. At that point, she became aware of an outage in our area. She assured us that the problem would be resolved in three to five hours. She then reminded us of our ticket number, and told us to call back using that number if the problem wasn’t resolved.

I attempted to go online at 3:30 p.m., and again at 6:45 p.m., both times going to the Linksys website to make sure the router was reset. To my disappointment, nothing had changed. At 7:45, my husband tried connecting, but to no avail. So he attempted to place a phone call to Tech Support. After a few frustrating rounds with the voice-automated menu (during which he once again checked all connections), we got a recorded message telling us that, due to a higher-than-usual volume of calls, all agents were busy. We were advised to hang up and call back later. We assumed the outage was still in effect, and that we would certainly be able to access the Internet the next day.

At 9:30 on the following morning (June 28), my husband again tried to connect to the Internet so that he could work (he has some online businesses). Again, he was unable to connect. He called Tech Support, wove his way through the voice automated menu, and reached a recording which informed him that the problem had been resolved (which clearly was not the case) and that his ticket had been closed.

This announcement disturbed us precisely because Maria had told us to use the ticket number in the event that the problem was not corrected after the outage had ended. We still wonder why that particular ticket had been closed before we could inform Verizon that the problem indeed had not been resolved. We felt betrayed, and began to wonder if Comcast would serve us better.

About 10:00 a.m. that same morning, my husband tried to place a call to Verizon. Again, he faced the now familiar frustration with the voice-automated system, finally getting to the queue to await an agent. He asked for “other” rather than “Tech Support,” knowing that asking for Tech Support would do nothing more than lead him to the recorded message that the problem had been resolved and the ticket had been closed. At 10:15, a recording said an agent would be with him in five minutes. Shortly thereafter, he was disconnected. At this point, we began to seriously consider switching to Comcast.

Before attempting to call Verizon again, my husband once again made sure all our connections were secure and in their proper places. They were. From his wheelchair, it is quite an effort for him to make these repeated checks, but he wanted to be absolutely certain that we had not overlooked anything. He found all connections to be in order.

My husband again called Verizon Tech Support at 10:45, this time using a telephone headset to work through the voice-automated menu. Once he got an agent, who identified himself as George, he was informed once again that our ticket had been closed. He assigned us another ticket, verified our phone number, and instructed my husband to check the connections. My husband cheerfully complied. George then said that he would initiate the process of having our lines checked. He then began asking my husband to open a new window in Explorer.

At that point in the conversation, my husband realized that his telephone headset was making it difficult to hear George, so I suggested that he switch back to speaker-phone. When he did so, he was disconnected. He assured me that George had taken his phone number and would call him back to resume whatever process he had hoped to perform by asking my husband to open the second window in Explorer. After about ten minutes, however, it became evident that George would not be calling back.

So once more, my husband struggled through the voice-automated menu (this time with the speaker-phone). Due to our increasing frustration with Verizon, I cannot recall what time he placed that call; I would estimate that it was between 11:15 and 11:30 a.m. We had, by this time, been without Internet service for almost 24 hours.

After persevering through the voice-automated system, we finally reached an agent who identified herself as Girna. She explained that when our call to George had been disconnected, he promptly took the call of the next customer. We believe he was wrong in doing so, since he knew my husband was simply changing from headset to speaker-phone. We believe he should have behaved responsibly by calling us back.

Girna reiterated that our phone lines needed to be tested, and proceeded to schedule a time for Verizon technicians to come to our apartment the next day. She seemed uninterested in pursuing whatever procedure George had wanted to try when he had asked my husband to open the new window in Explorer. I am not sure why we did not press her on that point, except that she indicated that nothing further could be done until our lines were checked.

As she was preparing to terminate the conversation, we asked if we could be connected with Customer Services. Both my husband and I were extremely dissatisfied with Verizon’s poor handling of our situation, and we wanted to voice our grievances. She replied that Verizon has no Customer Service department (a statement that disturbed me), but that she could connect us to Billings. We waited for fifteen to twenty minutes for the call to be transferred before we gave up. By now, I had definitely decided that we needed to switch to Comcast, and my husband was almost ready to agree with me.

Between 12:30 and 2:00 p.m., my husband and I made two calls to Comcast, asking a variety of questions. We appreciated its touch tone menu, and the promptness of getting through to service agents. Already, the difference between them and Verizon was refreshing! We learned that Comcast’s Tech Support staff are all regional to the United States, in contrast to Verizon’s Tech Support members who are outsourced to Pakistan and Mexico. Finally, we decided to change ISPs.

At about 2:15 pm., my husband called Verizon to cancel our account, the voice-automated menu offered several options under reasons for closing the account, including “frustrations and concerns with technical support.” When my husband selected that option, he was transferred to Tech Support (which we did not want). We hung up and called yet again, saying “other” when the Cancellation menu asked for reasons for cancellation. We were on hold for almost fifteen minutes before an agent called Tim finally took our call.

Tim said that, because we had dropped our service to the lowest priced package in December of 2006, he could not waive the $78 penalty for early cancellation. Ordinarily, we would not contest such a penalty, but we strongly believe Verizon breached its agreement by mishandling our situation at every point. We asked to speak to someone who could negotiate with us on that point, to which he replied that there was nobody. (From that remark, I must infer that he has no supervisor.) He said that, since we’d only made two calls, we could not consider Verizon to be culpable. (Of course, we made many more calls than two; most did not go through due to Verizon’s voice-automated system and Maria’s premature closing of our first ticket.) Reluctantly, we agreed to his terms, stipulating that we intend to dispute the penalty fee later. We then called Comcast to switch to both their DSL and their phone service.

We do not want any further dealings with Verizon, and I am writing this narrative for the sole purpose of pointing out the many faults of its Tech Support system. I do, however, expect a written apology for the entire incident, as well as a waiver of the $78 penalty. Nothing other than these two things will satisfy me.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Bunker Hill

John and I, as of yesterday, have now visited every wheelchair accessible point on the Freedom Trail. Yesterday we went to Bunker Hill Monument, which is built on Breed's Hill in Charlestown, where the battle actually took place (Bunker Hill is about half a mile away, but the Patriots referred to both as Bunker Hill).

On June 17, 1775, the Patriots learned that the British planned to take Charlestown, Dorchester Heights and Roxbury in one campaign. Overnight (much to the amazement of the British), the Patriots built a redoubt. The British advanced, but under the famous order, "Don't shoot till you see the whites of their eyes," the Americans held their fire until the third advance. Since their artillery was limited, every shot had to count!

Technically, the British won this battle, but they suffered enough losses to convince George Washington and others in Philadelphia that the Americans really were capable of successfully fighting against Britain.

Saturday, June 16, 2007


All our robins are gone. We saw some crows yesterday, so we suspect they got our babies. Very sad.

Monday, June 11, 2007

The Babies Are Hatching!

If you look carefully, you'll see Mama Robin feeding her baby! Actually, two babies have hatched now, but our personal care attendant could only capture one on camera today. We're thrilled to have this robin family outside our window!

The Lord's timing in having this nest outside our window astounds me. My kidney stone 's analysis showed that I need a low oxalate diet, such as the one I found at If you'll look at it, you'll see that it's a difficult diet, especially in regard to getting enough fiber. Many of my favorite foods (chocolate, chili, black tea, yellow squash, green peppers) are high in oxalate, so I'm grieving a bit over not having those foods.

So I believe the Lord sent this robin family to remind me that He governs all life, and that there's always a reason to have joy. I'm taking tremendous joy in these robins, and I hope all these updates give my readers joy too!

Matt 6:25-3425 "Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? 28 So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; 29 and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 Therefore do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' 32 "For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble. NKJV

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Bird Update

John took this photo of Mama Robin a few days ago. Last night I played with some photo editing techniques, such as cropping, clarifying, and using the Sharpen Tool just on the bird to make the most of the picture. I'd created the Lattice Arch frame about a year ago, so I applied it and put Mama Robin's name over the arch.

This morning, Mama's behavior has changed. Sometimes, she'll get off her eggs, peck at them, or stand on the edge of the nest and look in. We're pretty certain this means the first egg is ready to hatch! Hopefully I can post pictures of baby birds within the next week.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Old Ironsides

In celebration of my recovery from tearing my lip on my Hoyer lift, as well as my recovery from kidney stones, John and I headed into Boston yesterday, and made our way to the Charleston Navy Yard to visit the U.S.S. Constitution. Although the top deck is wheelchair accessible, the high tide raised the ship so that the boarding ramp was too steep for my comfort. So one of the seamen, Ray, stayed on shore to tell us about the ship’s history.

President George Washington first commissioned this ship in 1794. Officially, it’s still commissioned today, largely because school children from all over the United States collected pennies during the 1930’s to preserve her. The government now recognizes her as the people’s ship (not the government’s ship), but by keeping her commissioned, the Navy can assume responsibility for preserving her.

She’s most known for her role in the War of 1812. Britain had concluded that it couldn’t win any land battles against the Americans, but it certainly felt confident in its superiority on the high seas. At this time, England still refused to accept the Untied States as an independent nation. So when British ships encountered American ships, they would take all crew members of British descent and would impress them into His Majesty’s service.

Americans were divided about going to war against Britain. Those inland felt that the country should accept the seizure of its seamen in order to preserve trade with Britain. But, understandably, those who lived on the coastal regions didn’t want their husbands, fathers and sons taken from them. Eventually, England had taken more men than America could tolerate losing, so war had to be declared.

Ray told us about the historic Battle of Guerriere off the coast of Nova Scotia. The British had been assailing the U.S.S. Constitution for a while, but their canon balls would either bounce off the hull or embed in it, causing one British sailor to cry out that it’s sides must have been made of iron! That’s where the ship earned the nickname, “Old Ironsides.”

The Americans held their fire until they got within 200 feet of the British ship, and then fired. This strategy echoed the famous Bunker Hill strategy of “don’t fire till you see the whites of their eyes.” Ah, but that story will have to wait until later this summer, when John and I visit Bunker Hill Monument.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Mexican Food...At Last!

John and I needed to run an errand in Quincy today, and we'd planned to have a steak lunch afterward to celebrate my lip feeling better. Sadly, Outback Steakhouse was closed, so we just started wheeling up Hancock Street. Finally, we saw Acapulco's Mexican Restaurant, and decided steak could wait.

Best decision we could have made! It's so far the best Mexican food I've eaten since leaving California! The staff was very accommodating, the service was breathtakingly fast, the bathroom was wheelchair accessible, and the food was very authentic. I still taste it, and I'm absolutely savoring it! What a wonderful discovery!

Saturday, June 2, 2007

New Neighbor

A robin has built her nest in the tree outside our living room window, much to our delight. She laid her eggs about a week ago, so now we're eagerly awaiting the appearance of her babies (in about two weeks. I'll post more photos soon.


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