My wife gave me Time Warner Cable as a retirement present so I could spend my golden years watching the Boys in Blue on TV. This makes me a lucky guy because 70% of Southern California doesn't get to watch the Dodgers on TV, at least until Charter Communications fulfills its promises. But nothing about it has been easy.
Time Warner Cable tries hard to sell you a package that includes Internet service, but we already had Internet from another company. We just wanted cable TV, and mainly Channel 70, SportsNet LA.
I ordered the installation a week before opening day. The installer arrived but said he couldn't hook me up because to do it, he had to climb a pole down the block and the neighbor there told him, "If you set foot on my property, I'll call the police."
The cable guy said: "If we went to court, we'd win this one, but I don't want to deal with the police today; I just want to hook up your box." He said: "We'll come another day with a bucket truck, and we'll reach the pole without setting foot in this guy's yard."
You might think, "So that problem's not Time Warner's fault." You would be wrong.
I called the Time Warner Cable help line to find out when the bucket truck would be coming. "That's a different department," I was told. "That's construction. Wait for the construction dispatcher to call you."
I did as I was told. Nobody called me. Opening day came and went. I didn't get to see the Dodgers beat the Giants, 2-1.
A week later, I called the help line again. "Your account has been closed," I was told. Why? "Because of inactivity."
"But it's their inactivity," my wife shouted, "not yours." I had to agree.
One more call to the help line, and the bucket truck was scheduled, two weeks after opening day. When the installer showed up, I said, "Where's the bucket truck?"
"What bucket truck?" he replied. "I brought my ladder." Nobody told him about my problem neighbor with the pole.
But Installer No. 2 turned out to be a lot more resourceful than Installer No. 1. He found another neighbor with access to the pole, a happier neighbor. The cable was hooked up, and I watched my first game. The Dodgers beat the Rockies, 6-3.
But my troubles weren't over. I wanted to record the next game on my new Time Warner Cable DVR. The new box, however, wouldn't record. I called the help line again. The box must be defective; I should bring it to a Time Warner Cable office and exchange it. I did as I was told.
With the new box, I could watch a live game and record a game. Time Warner Cable promised one other feature: I could watch a game on my iPad or my laptop if I was away from home. It almost worked: My iPad and my laptop got lots of other Time Warner Cable stations, like BBC America. But not the Dodgers.
The help line people said that was because we didn't have a special Time Warner Cable modem, and a third installer came out. It didn't work. The help line said, "You have to wait 24 to 72 hours for the modem to load the programming." That seemed unlikely to me — a modem is a communications device, not an information storage device — but I did as I was told.
Seventy-two hours later, I still had no Dodgers on my iPad or my laptop. The help line sent me to a "third-level tech," which is about as high as you can go in Time Warner Cable-land. This guy said I couldn't get the Dodgers on the regular TimeWarnerCable.com website — I had to go to a different site, TWCSportsNet.com. That didn't work either. He gave up and said the modem must need calibration, and sent a fourth installer.
Installer No. 4 couldn't get the Dodgers on my iPad or my laptop either, and he turned the problem over to his supervisor. The supervisor called the next day to say he tried it at home and concluded that the only way to get the Dodgers on an iPad or a laptop was to subscribe to Time Warner Cable Internet. We did not want Time Warner Cable Internet, so my struggles were over — I thought.
The billing department told me the modem and installation were free. But when the next bill came, it said: "iPad TV free; install iPad TV free; trip charge $39.99." I called and asked for the trip charge to be canceled because isn't that what free installation means? They said yes. I said I didn't want the modem that didn't work; they said a technician would come pick up the modem the next day.
Now my struggles with Time Warner Cable really were over — I thought. But that same afternoon, I got a call from tech support: "We have solved the problem with your Time Warner Internet. Please log on now."
I said: "I don't get Time Warner Internet. I only get Time Warner Cable TV."
The tech guy said, "Oh."
The next night, I got another call. It was my friends at Time Warner Cable. They wanted to know, anonymously and voluntarily, why I canceled their service.
Anonymously and voluntarily, I explained they were wrong. Anonymously and voluntarily, I hung up. Anonymously and voluntarily, I thought, "If only."
Jon Wiener is professor emeritus of history at UC Irvine. He writes for the Nation and is working on a book about Los Angeles in the 1960s.