First of all, the Tennis Channel is not available where I live. Second of all, I have an addiction to television so I go out of my way to have very little of it in my life. However, my friends and I like to watch Monday Night Football. We auditioned every sports bar we could find, including Barney’s Beanery in West Hollywood. Strangely enough, considering it’s location, it is the most conservative bar I’ve ever seen. I felt like I was at happy hour for the Young Republicans. We went to Hollywood Billiards for a few weeks but we had to wear our winter socks and even then we were cold.

There was no choice. If I wanted to watch the game, I had to get cable or satellite service and run it through my projector since I don’t own a television. Comcast would have been perfect. For $10.87 a month I could get the basic package – network television. But my area is not serviced by Comcast, it’s serviced by Adelphia. Adelphia does not have the same basic package – their cheapest offering is $28.59. Satellite costs even more so I went with Adelphia.

To avoid sitting in front of the television and turning into a statue, I downloaded all of the channels through my VCR tuner and then promptly turned off all but a few channels. I kept ESPN2 because they show a lot of tennis and this is, after all, a sports column focusing on tennis.

A few months after installation, Adelphia sent me a notice saying that they are now offering the basic service except that they are eliminating the service I had been using. If I wanted to keep ESPN2, I would have to pay over $45 a month. I’d had enough of Adelphia and I was sick of having to remember to set up the VCR every time I wanted to record a tennis match. Today, for instance, ESPN and ESPN2 are broadcasting six hours of tennis.

So, I ordered satellite television service for $31.99 with a DVR for $4.98 per month extra. However, the DVR must be plugged into a phone line and the phone line has to have caller-id. It says so on the customer agreement.

I have a funky multiplex phone system like you see at your dentist’s office. The plugs are like Ethernet plugs and each jack outputs every phone line in the house, not just one phone line, so I will have to pay $125 to have a jack put into the living room.

I first time I called SBC to have caller-id added I hung up in frustration because they wanted the three numbers after my phone number on my bill. I said I didn’t have it available and they asked for the last four digits of my social security number. I said, “You shouldn’t have it.” The operator said, “You’re right we don’t have it. But I don’t have information about you so I can’t help you unless I have those three numbers.” What is this? You ask me for my social security number even though you don’t have it and it wouldn’t have been enough anyway? That was when I hung up.

I managed to calm down and call back only to find out that caller-id costs $6.17 per month. That is more than 25% of my local phone bill! Are these people kidding? No they’re not. So satellite service really costs $31.99 +$4.98+$6.17=$43.14. And that doesn’t include $125 for a new jack.

Wait, I thought to myself, SBC has satellite service and I should get a discount because I have an SBC phone line. Nope, SBC does not service my neighborhood.

I called up Dish Network to complain and whine and see if I really, really had to get caller-id. It turns out that, no, I don’t have to. Not only that, but I don’t need a phone line for the DVR either. The next highest model needs the phone line and caller-id, not the model I’m getting.

I once spent eight months retrieving $10, 000 from a mortgage company that had incorrectly charged me for paying off my mortgage early after I sold my house. After five or six furious phone calls, reams of notes and a few phones smashed against the wall, I called up my mortgage broker who called the area representative for the mortgage company who promptly returned my money.

Yesterday there was an article in the New York Times that described various techniques people use to deal with the day-to-day frustrations in life. One man saves up all of those subscription cards that fall out of magazines and mails them back to the magazine so they will have to pay for the postage. I sense a kinship.

My life has become a smorgasbord of coping techniques and I am not coping. Before I start hoarding subscription cards and throwing fits and hanging up on operators who have no control over their company’s policies, possibly I should just make that extra phone call.

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