Thursday, January 26, 2006

Lost Connections

I will leave the commentary on last night’s episode of Lost to the professionals and fans with Tivo. But the Charlie-centric show got me thinking.

Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon:
Dominic Monaghan, plays Charlie on Lost, where he co-stars with...
Matthew Fox, Jack on Lost played Charlie on Party of Five, where he co-starred with…
Neve Campbell, who appeared in Wild Things with…
Kevin Bacon


Either Lost is getting to me, or conspiracies really do abound.

Charlie’s fictional band Drive Shaft, which he fronts with his TV Land brother Liam, has been compared to Britain’s Oasis, led by the Gallagher boys—Noel and Liam. The recently merged SBC and AT&T have set their “Look, we’re The New AT&T” commercial to the Oasis hit “All Around the World.”

Which aired last night during Lost.

The marketing gurus at The New AT&T might want to rethink this tune. I believe the Gallaghers are officially known as the rock ‘n’ rollers Most Likely to Commit Fratricide, not exactly the poster boys I’d want for my joint venture. Sure, the ad makes good use of the chorus—All around the world, you’ve gotta spread the word. Tell ‘em what you’ve heard. You’re gonna make a better day.—which appropriately signals how buoyant we all are at the prospect of The New AT&T without saying anything about how, exactly, this will make it easier to order voice mail.

I’m just wondering whether anyone bothered to read the song’s final verse (not used in the campaign).

So what you gonna do when the walls come falling down?
You never move you never make a sound.
So where you gonna swim, with the ridges that you found?
If you’re lost at sea then I hope that you’ve drowned.


MCI keeps sending me a bill for 32 cents. I keep throwing it in the trash. I severed my relationship with the company years ago, when my long distance calling plan jumped without warning from 8 cents a minute to a quarter. I still hold them in contempt. If they want their 32 cents, they can come collect it in person. Hell, it would cost me more in postage than the actual bill.

This month’s missive, however, told me I owed 98 cents. I decided to actually read the communication. It seems that MCI was still my carrier of record for local toll service, that No Man’s Land between local and long distance. I used to write for a telecommunications magazine and I still don’t quite grasp the concept. But apparently the calls that we placed from our cordless phone to our new cell phone—solely to verify that the latter was indeed working—fell into the local toll category. We were literally being charged for calling ourselves.

I wrote out a check for 98 cents. I wanted to send pennies, but the envelope told me this was strictly prohibited and aside from consistently not paying a 32-cent phone bill, I’m generally law abiding.

Then I called SBC. (Or is it The New AT&T?)

SBC is our just plain local telephone company. Would they like another 32 cents worth of our business, I asked, with just a hint of flirtation. I was fairly certain they’d say yes, but I didn’t want to come across as presumptuous.

The friendly customer service assistant graciously agreed to take on this new responsibility and even explained what a local toll phone call is—anything more than 15 miles from our house, but not out of state (I think). But I wasn’t quite off the hook. She could tell from her magic customer profile crystal ball that I wasn’t exactly a heavy user of the local toll wire. I knew what she was thinking: Not much upside for SBC here. I suddenly felt like Dorothy begging a favor from the Wizard and feared I’d be sent back to the clutches of MCI. I stammered that my family lives in Ohio, so most of my calls are long distance.

Why, SBC could handle that for me. She threw out a price—more than twice what my current provider charges. I didn’t want to offend and I certainly didn’t want to name any names—I pictured PowerNet Global suddenly swimming with the fishes—so I mumbled a “I’ll have to think about that.”

Ms. All Knowing saw that I’m an Internet user. Wouldn’t I just love a faster DSL connection? SBC could set me up. Well, we already had DSL. Through Earthlink. Using the telephone line provided by SBC. I don’t know why, but I felt like I’d just been caught stealing cable.

“Cell phones?” she inquired. Already got one. From Verizon. A pair, in fact, although I didn’t mention that. Here at least I was on solid ground. God bless those two-year service contracts.

She had run out of options and could only fall back on the value of one-stop shopping. (I vaguely see the sense in this but have always suffered from a contrarian streak.) I smelled a retreat and used this opening to confirm that we still had a deal on local toll. We did. Of course, it’s going to cost us $2 a month.


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