O, the brilliance of My Hero!

It’s December 15.  We should have already obtained and/or ordered the Christmas gifts we’d like to give, but the truth is that we haven’t.  Well, we have partially.  So, I had been doing some stuff online, and Josiah was in his room, and Scott and Andrew had gone to town to get the tree. (No, we don’t cut down evergreen trees in the city; we buy our Christmas trees.)  I was actually going up and down between dipping Christmas Cookie Balls (note for next year that it take 2.75 cups of chocolate chips, not the 2 cups stated in the recipe), following up with some folks at church, and doing various desk-work tasks.

I came back to my desk, and my computer said it was not connected to the internet and it would try again in 120 seconds.  That was odd, but whatever.  I had too much else to do to worry about it.  I went down to the kitchen and came back up a few minutes later.  It still wasn’t connected, and every time I clicked “connect,” the length of time in which said it would try again increased by 120 seconds!  Very odd.

I left again, and Josiah said something about the internet being down.  Hmmm. . . maybe it wasn’t just my computer.  I went on my merry way, but an hour later, I found Jo playing an open source version of Roller Coaster Tycoon, because, “this is what I do when the internet’s down.”  Now, Jo is the tech-y guy, so I asked him if he couldn’t re-boot something or push some button and make it work.  He said he’d already tried, and since he didn’t know Dad’s exact configuration, he’d have to wait till Dad got home.

Scott and Andrew got home an hour later, having bagged a great tree and brought it home with much fanfare.  It was tied onto the luggage rack on top of the Blue, and partway home, Andrew looked up through the sun roof to see it sliding!  So they opened the sun roof and Andrew had to hold onto it all the way home, and Scott couldn’t drive faster than 50 mph to keep it from sliding off.

We’ve had to deal with CenturyTel (our ISP) customer service before and it’s kind of tedious.  It’s also costly if they actually come to your house for a service call, so we make every effort to avoid that.  Because I didn’t know if it was a router problem, a software problem, or some other kind of problem, and because it was a Saturday and we surely didn’t want to be without internet till sometime next week (Christmas gifts were waiting to be ordered!), I asked Scott to look into it right away.  Which he did.

When you live in an old house, you learn which things tend to go wrong and what to do about them; or at least Scott does.  He quickly checked all the normal internet-ish stuff (which, to Josiah’s credit, had already been checked) and then took the phone outside.  No, not a cell phone to get a signal.  Actually, we get our best signals in the third floor, although for a long conversation downstairs, it’ll work if you stand right next to the piano. He took his desk phone outside.

Our internet and home phone are both through CenturyTel, and there’s this gray plastic box on the side of the house near the chimney.  When you open the cover, inside there are these two other gray plastic things that look somewhat like the breakers in a breaker box.  They each swing open on little hinges, and for the purposes of this post, let’s call them Thing One and Thing Two.

The deal with Century Tel is that you have to figure out whether the problem is before the gray box (Century Tel’s problem = no cost to you) or after the gray box (your problem = you pay).  The way to figure that out is that once you know you you have no phone or internet in the house, you take a phone outside and open the gray box and swing open Thing One or Thing Two.  When you do, there’s a phone jack inside each Thing that you can plug your phone into.  If you do that and get no dial tone, although you may have to wait a day or two for a service call, you are financially in luck because it’s CenturyTel’s problem.  But if you do get a dial tone, you are on your own; it’s your problem to diagnose, treat, and fund.

Scott plugged his desk phone into Thing One and got a dial tone.  Not so very good.

This meant that everything was okay getting from the pole (or wherever phone lines come from) to the gray box, but somewhere after the gray box  – and there are many feet of phone line threaded throughout our house; this could be Excedrin Headache #37 – something was wrong.  It could be some plug that had come undone.  It could be some frayed wire.  Who knows?  Maybe some critter gnawed it?  Sheesh!

I know that men aren’t too keen on their womenfolk looking over their shoulders while they try to figure something out, so I came back in the house.  I gave it a little while, and a few minutes later, I returned to the scene of the crime, just in time to hear Scott, screwdriver in hand, utter these immortal words:  “I think I’ve found the problem!”

Now I have learned a few things in 25 years of marriage, so I knew better than to say something logical like, “Oh, so what is the problem?”  No, no, no.  That would be the wrong thing to say!  The only correct comment in that situation is, “I KNEW you could do it!  I’m so proud of you!”  Which is what I said, and  then he explained the problem to me:  “The problem is with Thing One.  See how it won’t stay closed?  Look.  When I close Thing Two, it snaps in place and stays closed, but when I close Thing One, see, it just falls back open.” Hmmmm. . .

In order to test his hypothesis, I was requested to hold Thing One firmly closed while he went in the house to try to go online.  He went and came and announced success!!!

Now that we knew what was causing the problem, we needed to figure out why.  We both studied both Things carefully, trying to see what tiny discrepancy between the two could result in Thing One not closing properly, but no discernible difference could be detected.  Then, as we stood there toe-to-toe and nose-to-nose, peering intently into the almighty gray box, the king issued his decree:  “Get me the duct tape!”  Sure thing, boss!  Having felt helpless on this internet situation all afternoon, I was really glad that I could finally to do something useful.  Scott tore off a piece and pressed it carefully against Thing One, securing it tightly closed.

Scott’s whole job (the one he does for pay) involves solving problems, and problem solving is one thing at which he is very, very good.  Al Gore may have invented the internet, but My Hero fixed it!  As you can see, I am now posting to my blog, so our internet is working, thanks to Scott’s brain and that two-inch strip of gray matter.

Maybe I should add “restore and maintain phone and internet connectivity” to one of those lists about 101 things to do with duct tape.



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