Christmases Past

How I imagined the backstory of the dad from “A Christmas Story”:

I’ve seen things. Lots of us have: it was a long war. Terrible things, like Anzio ’44. Wonderful things, like summer in liberated Paris. I’ve seen these, and I’ve remembered them.

I wasn’t supposed to be home very long, just a while to relax a bit and then join my buddies on our way to Asia, maybe Africa. I’ve heard Brazil is lovely. Smitty changed his mind after Kimbal got lost to a land mine, though, and anyway I’d met her by then. She’d never been outside her Midwest town along the rail line to San Francisco, but I guess after a couple of beers we both found something to like. I needed her all-Americanness. She enjoyed my stories – at least, the ones I dared tell her. I never planned to stay. No matter. The days faded into months, and her idea for me to use my G.I. Bill to get a degree in accounting was solid. The boys wouldn’t have believed it. Me, in an office! But why not. We all settle down eventually, right?

My wife will never go with me. I’ve accepted that. We have a good life, even if this town gets a little small. We won’t dance the night away in Milan but there’s a warm bed and dinner on the table every night. That counts for a lot. I just wish… they understood. That I need a little escape sometimes. That I need to be outside this town every now and then, running with the bulls or racing to victory. I can read and I can imagine and that works for me. I’ve earned that, haven’t I? I know I can’t be a bush pilot now, so don’t remind me that it’s only my silly fantasy. I know this. I need a few minutes to pretend, that’s all.

One boy takes after my wife. He’s a good kid. He’ll be a solid office man too one day. Perhaps a tradesman. Yeah, I could see that. I know he won’t leave the state – God willing, he won’t have to like I did. He’s home and that’s big enough for him. I’m not sure about the other son. I think I see a spark in him. I think he might take after me, for better or for worse. He wonders about things. He dreams. I can see it. This isn’t a great place for wonderers and dreamers, don’t I know, but maybe I can fan that spark into something wonderful. Something to get him out of here. Something to help him see things, terrible and wonderful things that he can remember. He can have his own silly fantasies, and if my Ralphie wants to be Red Ryder and have his own BB gun with a compass in the stock, then that’s what Santa is going to bring him.

Adventures in Comcast support

We live outside San Francisco, and Comcast is our cable provider. We wanted to watch college football on TV so I visited Comcast’s website to add the “Sports Entertainment Package” for $10 per month. Immediately after turning on the big game, we found that the BTN channel was in old-style “standard definition” (SD), not HD. On top of that, Comcast’s channel feed was so terrible that it was almost unwatchable: we couldn’t always see the football.

I contact Comcast’s tech support to help find the HD version of the channel. This is the transcript of that conversation:

Problem: Can’t find BTN HD
CHAT ID: 9244E213-3F78-4690-87BA-6A69C55B7A90
Comcast tech: Hello Kirk, Thank you for contacting Comcast Live Chat Support. My name is [TECH]. Please give me one moment to review your information.
Comcast tech: How’s your day going?
Me: My Issue: Can’t find BTN HD
Me: Hi [TECH]
Comcast tech: Hello Kirk.
Me: I added a sports package to my account so I could watch football on BTN.
Me: But I can only find the SD channel, not the HD version.
Comcast tech: I am glad that you have brought this concern to our attention.
Comcast tech: I am glad that you have brought this concern to our attention.
Comcast tech: Rest assured that I can definitely help you to ressolve your issue today and I’ll be more than happy to assist you.
Comcast tech: But before we start, may I ask you a few questions please?
Me: Sure!
Comcast tech: Thank you.
Comcast tech: For account verification, may I have your account number please?

Note: the web page I’d been looking at when I started the chat showed this information. Comcast’s own systems apparently don’t communicate with each other. I logged into the website in another browser tab so I could copy and paste my account number.

Me: Umm, let me look.
Comcast tech: Sure.
Me: [long number]
Comcast tech: Much appreciated, thank you so much.
Comcast tech: Kirk, may I place you on hold for 2-3 minutes while I am reviewing your account and checking the BTN HD channel for you please?
Me: Sure.
Comcast tech: Much appreciated, thank you so much.
Comcast tech: Thank you for patiently waiting.
Me: Certainly.
Comcast tech: Kirk, upon reviewing your account, I see that your current package is the Preferred Double Play and you added the Sports Entertainment Package for you to access this Big Ten Network. However, youcan’t access the BTN HD, Right?
Me: That is correct.
Comcast tech: Thank you.
Comcast tech: Would you mind my asking what channel is the BTN SD on your end please?
Me: 403

Appropriate.

Comcast tech: Thank you for that information.
Comcast tech: One moment please?
Me: Sure.
Comcast tech: Much appreciated, thank you so much.
Comcast tech: Thank you for waiting.
Comcast tech: Kirk, I am seeing here that you added the Sports Entertainment Package just today. Right?
Me: Correct.
Comcast tech: You were able to access this BTN in SD channel and not in HD. Right?
Me: Correct.
Comcast tech: Thank you.
Comcast tech: May I have the serial number of your box please? It is located at the back/bottom of the cable box with HOST S/M or MCARD SN and it starts with M1, MA, PA, PK, SA or GI.
Me: This will take a moment as I tear my living room apart.

I was being a little sarcastic. Our cable box is installed in an entertainment center and I had to disconnect several cables to get at the box. I’ve worked tech support before, though, so I understand that the tech had a procedure to follow and I went along with it.

Comcast tech: Sure.
Comcast tech: o problem.
Comcast tech: No*
Comcast tech: I’ll wait for the serial.
Me: [another long number]
Comcast tech: Thanks for the serial.
Comcast tech: Just hold on please?
Comcast tech: Thank you for waiting.
Comcast tech: Kirk, I am still on the process of troubleshooting your box.
Comcast tech: I will also send a signal directly to your box.
Me: It just rebooted (or something very much like it).
Comcast tech: The signal I sent will turn off the cable box, you may need to turn the cable box manually using remote or by pressing Power on the box.
Comcast tech: Signal fully sent to your box.
Me: It’s showing a “ONE MOMENT PLEASE” message.
Comcast tech: No worries, that is normal. We just need to allow the box now to load all its data.
Comcast tech: Kirk, are you still getting the One Moment Please message?
Me: Now it says: INTERACTIVE SERVICE – XOD, To activate service, press OK
Comcast tech: Just follow the instructions please.

I’ve been following the instructions. Don’t get snippy.

Comcast tech: Press ok.
Me: Now I’m in XFinity on demand.
Comcast tech: Okay.
Comcast tech: Hold on please?
Me: For the record, my house guests are about to revolt against me. We’ve missed two touchdowns.
Comcast tech: I certainly understand that, Kirk. I am sincerely sorry for the inconvenience.
Comcast tech: Just hold on please?
Me: Holding.
Comcast tech: Thank you.
Comcast tech: Kirk, upon double checking here, the Big Ten Network in HD channel is not available in your area.
Comcast tech: What available is the BTN SD only in your area.
Comcast tech: I am sorry for that, Kirk.
Comcast tech: I hope you understand.

What? First, that’s ridiculous. Who wants to watch football – on a premium channel, no less – when they can’t physically see the ball? Second, it would’ve been nice had the tech checked this before resetting my cable box.

Me: I do not wish to be rude to you, [TECH], because you have been very helpful.
Me: But no, I don’t understand. Is that a joke?
Me: I would pay $10 a month to watch football with horrible picture quality?
Me: That’s unacceptable.
Comcast tech: I perfectly understand you, Kirk. I understand the frustration that you have right know. However, as much I love to give you this BTN HD but Comcast doesn’t have an agreement yet for BTN HD in your location.
Comcast tech: I hope you understand.
Me: No, but whatever. My cable box is still rebooting. My guests are leaving to go to a local restaurant.
Comcast tech: I already exhausted all my resources to address your concern today. I found out that this BTN HD is not yet available in your area.
Me: You did that after rebooting my cable box, which still hasn’t started back up. I wish you had checked first.
Comcast tech: I am sorry to know that your guest went out to a local restaurant.
Me: Because you broke my TV.
Comcast tech: My sincere apologies for the inconvenience.
Me: How long is this expected to take to restart?
Comcast tech: We need to allow the box now to load all its data. This may take 45-60 minutes for the box to download all its settings. You may see an error on your On Demand, To Be Announced on your Guide and One Moment Please on your channels.
Me: AN HOUR?!? ON GAME DAY?!? ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

Our guests are not amused at this revelation.

Comcast tech: Nope. The regular channels will only take 10-15 minutes to restart.
Me: OK, I think we’re done here.
Comcast tech: Kirk, again, I do apologize for the inconvenience. I know how important for you to watch the football game.
Comcast tech: Thank you.
Comcast tech: Is there anything else that I can help you with?
Me: For the love of all that is holy, please don’t help with anything else. No.

It’s been well over an hour now and our cable box is still unusable.

Comcast, this is why people are cutting the cord. I expect to do so later this week.