We take telephones for granted. Most of us have lots of choices about how to communicate by voice. There are tons of cell companies and internet providers, especially in larger cities. And then there are land-line services that have pre-existed cell phones for decades and decades.
In many remote areas of the globe, land-line technology was completely surpassed by cell service. When my daughter was in the hinterlands of Cambodia, I was amazed and jealous that she had better phone service than I will ever have in Professor Valley. She could Skype, Facetime, WhatsApp, pay her bills and stream videos on a whim, right there from her remote village near the Mekong River. For security purposes, I was glad of that. But the juxtaposition of technological advancement there compared to my home seemed ironic.
Where I live, 25 miles from Moab, cell service is spotty at best. Verizon works if you’re in just the right spot, and T-Mobile and AT&T sometimes come through. I only know this because of the various people who come out to visit or repair something. We are all so reliant on being able to have instant contact with others that it’s obvious when I see someone having trouble making a connection. “What service do you have?” I often ask them. After they reply I respond, “Well, if you really need to get through, you can use my land line.” But that hasn’t been the case for weeks now. Funnily, not far from my house, you can still see a few old cedar posts sticking out of the desert sand—remnants of the telegraph days. Perhaps a telegraph is in order for me?
In recent years many people have ditched their land lines as unnecessary expenses. Even some professional businesses are foregoing the usually reliable standard phones and phonebook listings because they feel it just isn’t worth the cost. But for me, it’s a matter of safety and—usually—reliability. I like knowing that I can make an emergency call if needed, or that I don’t have to stand on my kitchen table to get good reception.
When the phones went down last month, it was irritating. I struggled to find a spot where my smart phone could make a lasting call to Frontier. I don’t much like communicating with a computer. The whole “press one if you want to pay your bill,” or “press two if you don’t speak English,” is frustrating when you just want to tell someone there’s a problem. I soon grew weary of getting passed from one Frontier representative to another.
As the outage dragged on, I continued calling Frontier. On three different occasions, I had a representative tell me, “Oh, we weren’t aware your phone wasn’t working, let’s make a new repair ticket.” On two different dates, a representative told me that a technician would be at my house between 9 and noon on a certain day, and that I needed to be home when they arrived. But no one ever showed up. I pleaded with the unwitting service reps: “Please have someone from your company call me if you think the problem is fixed.” But I never got a call back, not even on my cellular device, which thankfully works a little.
A recent email disseminated by the Castle Valley town clerk said that Frontier’s regional office is aware of continuing “interruptions in phone service.” Apparently a new radio relay that was installed Dec. 18 is malfunctioning, “causing blips in service.” (So much for improvements.) “Don’t bother reporting it to the 1-800 number,” said the clerk. “Regional Frontier knows all about it. However, if your service goes down for a longer period of time go ahead and call that in.”
So I guess that’s what I’ll do tomorrow; perhaps the fourth time will be the charm. My most recent and equally frustrating service call placed to the company on Tuesday ended with a third promise that a service technician would be at my house sometime within a four-hour period Thursday. And I’m actually feeling optimistic about it, after receiving a call Wednesday morning from the regional Frontier technician who spoke with me directly. He related the difficulties the company has had over the past few weeks, and the sheer number of complaints he has received. Given his first-person grasp of my situation, and the progress the company has made to fix the new relay, I have reason to believe that my phone furlough won’t last as long as the government shutdown.