Revisiting a Day from Hell in 2003

While having lunch today, my friend Allison asked me where I worked before SCI-Arc. I was reminded that my days installing high speed cable modems prepared me for the worst. A really bad day at SCI-Arc is laughable in comparison. Here is an account of one such day I resurrected from my old website. Remember, this was just one day of MANY. Much profanity follows, you have been warned. I hope that my misery entertains you!

7:42 PM 9/20/2003

Following are my accounts of this “Day from Hell.”

It started out innocently enough. We were looking at a workload of approximately 125 jobs. This would be considered an extremely heavy day but it was predictable. This had been going on for weeks now. Routing 24 trucks with a such a full workload requires foresight,calmness, and optimism. Perhaps it even requires plain luck. These are all qualities I feel I possess except of course the luck, which is out of my control. Explaining the frightening feeling of despair this day delivered requires a visit to seemingly trivial events of the past week.

It started last Saturday when one of out techs met his own “day from hell” with an impossible lawyer from La Cañada. My tech was held up for hours and ended up missing two of his appointments. Of the two customers one was saved and the other, who claims to have been missed for the third time, was not. This caused me great aggravation. I couldn’t sleep knowing I was ultimately responsible. Sure, we were slammed with jobs and were asked to do the impossible, but that didn’t matter in the “real world.” This wasn’t Charter’s fuck-up, it could never be. It was our fuck-up and I owned it. The asshole lawyer and the customer I couldn’t save exposed me. In my never-ending optimism I embraced this as a lesson learned. I would arrive to work even earlier than before. I would focus on my follow- ups. I would call more customers than before. I would delegate better than ever. Yes, that was the idea, maybe now I finally understood what being a manager was all about. Thank the heavens for my misfortune. This was the lesson I needed to learn. This was MY wake up call!

The rest of the week was tough. Tuesday we were told we had to be in one hour earlier than usual. The calendar indicated Wednesday was the early day and we were informed of the change at 2:00PM but guess what? We made it! We were in on time. This shit was really working. Thank the heavens!

Charter had no white cable for the whole week. Everybody prefers white cable. This caused issues. We dealt with them. Charter is extremely low on materials. Not enough fittings, splitters, and roca clips just to name a few. We dealt with it.

Come Thursday morning we learn that our technicians will face a price drop. This means they will work harder for less money. My heart dropped. The last time this happened I was a technician myself and I quit. I believe one should be rewarded for their hard work and remain persistent in moving forward NOT backward. I was fortunate enough to have the skills necessary to move into management. Most people don’t. The technicians keep this company alive. As a whole they are the hardest working bunch of mother fuckers I have ever known. Although I believe our owner has nothing but the best intentions and a sincere concern for them, I believe they keep getting fucked. They deserve more. Still, I reminded myself of my position as their leader, as their role model and stumbled out my support.

Friday morning I received an e-mail that made its way to all the Charter managers. It states our tech spoke badly of Charter in front of a customer and came back at 9:00PM in street clothes to drop of a digital box. Nice one…

Friday evening was the beginning of the end. One of our techs “lied” to the wrong customer in Azusa. “We’ll be there in 10 minutes.” …45 minutes later… “Were still behind sir, I don’t know when we can get there.” Somehow this customer obtained the direct phone number to our office and speaks to our dispatcher. Although we had someone standing by to come to the rescue the customer requests we re-schedule for first thing next morning. Fine. I wrote the address down and scheduled it as a “first call, must do.”

So here I was at Saturday morning. The “Azusa call”, as I had labeled it, was just one of many follow-ups I had to deal with this morning. There was the guy in Norwalk who was a “must do 10 to 12.” We couldn’t find the main line from the junction box to his apartment Friday and he was pissed. “I took the whole day off, I have a business to run, it needs to be done today!!!” Also in Norwalk there was the computer that would no longer turn on after we installed a network card. Then there was a long underground run in La Cañada scheduled for 1 o’clock that would tie up both of my lead technicians. Add 3 more “tech calls” to this and 125 chances for something to go wrong. Murphy’s law did not let us down.

At 9:20AM the Azusa guy calls our office. He is pissed. “You were supposed to be here at 8:00… no, ok, I remember you said 9:00 after all but you’re still late. Were are you guys?” Somehow (still under investigation) it takes our techs an hour to travel 2 miles. These are the same techs that dropped the ball last night. Giving them the job again was a very bad call in hindsight. Maybe I felt they would somehow vindicate themselves by completing the job after all. Then, I wouldn’t have to yell at them about it as much. Maybe I hoped the customer would express how disappointed he was and they would learn their lesson. Maybe I just wasn’t thinking at all. This turned out to be the customer nightmares are made of.

Once again this customer magically obtains MY direct cell phone # and lays in on me. This has happened before. It’s part of my job but this time it’s different. I hear the usual ‘How can I trust you after all that has happened?’, ‘They told me you would wash my clothes and take out my trash!’ and ‘How can you run a business this way?’ but there was more this time. I didn’t realize what it was till later. He couldn’t handle my cell phone breaking up so he requested I call him from a land line. He thought I was lying about the phone breaking up but I did as he requested, called back, and we spoke for another 15 minutes. He proceeds to invade me…making me feel nervous, shaky, and out of control. Still, I managed to say the right things and felt the fire was out. Save for one thing.

I called back the wrong person! There were two numbers on the piece of paper I was scribbling on. I called the customer’s business partner! Their voices sounded so similar (and we were talking about the same situation) that I didn’t suspect I had called the wrong person. Fuck! The customer still awaiting my phone call was now fuming! I call the right number as soon as possible. This guy is twice as bad as his partner. He is unreasonable beyond belief. He speaks of suing us for missing his appointments and ruining his business. He eventually does not want to talk to me and will settle for nothing less than speaking to my superior. He doesn’t like the title of my superior (Operations Manager) and insists on the top of the food chain, Chad. I make it happen and predictably enough get yelled at by Chad as well. Later, Chad calls back, calms down and assures me everything will play out just fine. In this last conversation with him I realize why this customer upset me so much. He was doing this BECAUSE HE COULD. There was no reason for him to be as upset and nasty as he was. We hadn’t fucked up that bad. He knew no one would defend the mistakes we had made. He could act as atrocious as possible without fear of opposition.

This was further reinforced when I retrieved a voice mail he left me. He said “Alright Zuma, you want to play the game, then we’ll play the game!!!—click” Our technician also called later to say that the customer would turn and say “Watch guys, this is how you play the game,” before calling me. My perpetual optimism seemed to be mocking me. The human race became evil. I felt like an idiot for letting it absorb into my every nerve. This is fucking cable t.v. folks! What the fuck is so important about watching t.v. and checking your fucking e-mail? How about finding a hobby you fuckheads? And this is what I do for a living, hook up assholes like this? Am I the biggest asshole of all? Oh wait a minute, hold on. I’m not mad at the world, television, or the Internet. Just this asshole. Never before have I truly understood the meaning of the phrase FUCKYOU! So FUCKYOU Mr. Dickhead in Azusa! Finally, my installers finish The “Azusa call”. Yet, the day is not over.

At 11:00am Larry cut the power cord to a computer instead of his cable line (they are both black and similar in diameter!). At 12:30PM my lead Fausto breaks down with a leaking radiator hose. I take him to AutoZone where they give us the wrong part. We go back to find they don’t carry the hose and settle for a universal one. Now it’s 2:30PM and the super long underground run in La Cañada is still waiting. So, I take over his tech calls and hop on the 210 West. I take a follow up from yesterday and Larry’s cut power cord call.

The follow up from yesterday is a nightmare. I get yelled at for being a day early and the 5th guy to mess up a time frame. She lets me in anyway. The whole call is her fault. Her new Dell laptop is missing the built-in ethernet driver. I skip the explanation and the hero routine and just fix it with her Dell system disks. Her computer is full of spyware and stupid little toolbars…whatever. Her AOL pops up and she screams, “I don’t want AOL I want Charter!” I explain it popped up automatically. I turn it off and proceed to show her Internet Explorer. She screams even louder,”I don’t want Internet Explorer, I want Charter! Where is the Charter service!!!” I cringe and wonder how I am ever going to explain this concept to her. She asks,”Internet Explorer is not going to charge me also are they?” I say no and she seems to drop the matter. Then she wants e-mail. I kiss 20 minutes goodbye as I call Charter to set up (exactly) what she wants. I set it up in Outlook Express and show her how to send and receive e-mail. Just when I think it’s going well she needs to confirm her “forwarding” abilities. Yes people, THESE are the fucks on AOL that send you all that shit! As usual AO-Hell manages to convert every single message into an attachment and she has a fucking heart attack. “You Charter people are making this so hard! Do you realize how many messages I forward? I can’t have this happen!” I explain to her Charter uses a standard e-mail service and is simply receiving the e-mail as AO-Hell sent it. She flips again. Without looking me in the eye she tells me to leave and to make sure no one show up tomorrow. Gladly! I proceed to the “cut cord” tech call.

…I walk in to a room with no electricity. I panic for a second. Think, think, think. I find the electrical panel. The breakers are off. I switch them on and all is good. I replace the cord, configure the pc and all is well. The house is too small for this family. The house is untidy and the floor smells like cat piss. But guess what? This is the happiest moment of my day. These people are poor and their house is shit but they are so fucking nice it kills me! My installer just left them with no electricity and they think their computer is screwed yet they are so appreciative. Call it what you want. Ignorance? Fear? No, I don’t think so. How about these people actually fucking understand what the important things in life are like compassion, humility, and gratitude. Poor people win today. My-life-sucks-beacuse-I-own-my-own-business-and-I-can’t-watch-tv people lose.

A total of three broken underground lines, another nasty voice mail, another “I’ll be there in 15 minutes incident” and a customer who was offended my installer did not speak English well later, I went home. I drank a beer. I played my bass loudly to some Duran Duran and Power Station and then I wrote this.

I must give a big thank you to all the people that helped me make it through the day including Hector, Fausto, Anderson (who fixed the Norwalk computer), Gretchel, Elaine, and of course my partner in crime Frooshie, who had a bag of Spongebob Bubble Gum, a Spike burger, and teri-fries waiting for me.


12:30 AM 9/21/2003