The Trouble Is Somewhere Between the Pole and Babylon

Bruce Buschel
Published in
10 min readNov 18, 2014


It is Day 11 without internet service. I am doing well, thank you.

It was rough at first, an ugly detox, but I have made peace with dislocation. And depression. And a damaged rep in the freelance world and late fees from credit card companies and a failing fantasy team and insupportable marital stress and daily WiFi visits to Starbucks, hold the coffee.

My friends, veterans of Betty Ford and Hazelden, advised me to keep a diary during the withdrawal, so here are some excerpts you didn’t ask for.

Day 1

Crash. No big deal. I call Verizon. I follow instructions. I check jacks, cables, wires, filters, router, modem, computer, sanity. A fine mood is maintained because I am promised the interruption will be resolved momentarily from within Verizon.

Day 2

I make coffee and call 800-VERIZON. Another round of troubleshooting interrupted by long periods of nothingness. Every once in a while, I hear: “Please continue to hold — your call is important to us.” I have my doubts. A live voice finally says, Your router no longer speaks to your modem, so Verizon will Fed Ex a new combo modem/router to you. I go the coffee shop and buy a New York Times. It’s weird reading about all the world’s catastrophes without videos or nasty comments or Kim Kardashian’s derrière to keep me company. Wait a minute — all the news is from yesterday. D’oh!

Day 3

I make coffee and wait for the Fed Ex guy at the front door like a faithful dog. I nap like a cat. I eat like a goat. I mope like a turtle. Late in the day, a brand new black combo modem/router is hand-delivered. It takes only an hour to hook up. It takes only a few seconds to realize it makes no difference at all. I call 800-VERIZON. I am on hold for 17 minutes. It seems longer. A pre-recorded voice says that helpful hints can be found at Cruel. The bouncy theme song is starting to grow on me. My fingers tap involuntarily. Finally, a human voice says: Type in the address bar. Type admin and admin1. Do it again. Go to the Status page and hit Internet. Now go to Utilities and hit the phone icon. Do you see the icon in the corner of your computer screen? No? Do you have any other devices? No? Can you get a MacBook? No? If you get another device, we can resolve your issue.

“Wait a minute,” I say. “You want me to run out to the store and buy another computer in order to resolve my internet issue on this computer?” Yes. “No thanks.”

Day 4

I make coffee and call India. Not on purpose. I dial 800-VERIZON and speak to a woman who happens to be in India. I tell her how much I liked Slumdog Millionaire. She apologizes for everything wrong in my life and tells me she will fix all disturbances within a few minutes. She has a soothing voice. I trust her. She puts me on hold for an extended period. I find myself singing along with the bouncy theme song, a funky fusion number reminiscent of early Return to Forever, or maybe Spyro Gyra. The nice Indian lady returns to tell me that someone else will call me back with all the info I need. I thank her.

No one calls. I denounce Bollywood.

Day 5

Wake up, make coffee, sweeten it with Bailey’s Irish Cream and call the Philippines. Not on purpose. I dial 800-VERIZON, and get a fellow in the archipelago. He says we will get to the bottom of this right away. We do not. Rather, he says a technician will have to visit my house because the cause of the breakdown is certainly within my own four walls. When he says the tech will arrive within three working days, I yell something that might get my tongue ripped out in the Philippines. He asks me to hold. I sing along with my new favorite tune. Note for note. Maybe I should write some lyrics. Does despisin’ rhyme with Verizon?

The voice from the Philippines has pulled some strings and a technician will arrive at my house tomorrow between 10 and 2. I thank the tech. Profusely. I tell him I might have to leave my house at some point, and would greatly appreciate a text message when the technician is headed my way. Yes, of course, he says, if you are willing to pay for the text message. What? There will be a charge for the text message, he says. You mean I have to pay for a text message from Verizon because the Verizon internet has failed and I am waiting for the Verizon technician to arrive? Yes, sir, that’s what I mean.

Day 6 — a.

Awake, pour Kahlua into yesterday’s leftover coffee and wait for the technician. I read something called a book until 2 in the afternoon. Neither tech nor text arrives. 800-VERIZON. After my favorite tune plays for 17 minutes, and after some scat screaming on my part, a voice tells me I have to call the tech number, 866.995.5632. A woman in the Philippines has no idea what I am talking about. My records cannot be found. I hear her turning pages. She puts me on hold for 15 minutes. I stare at the blinking lights on my ineffective modem/router. I am starting to fall out of love with my favorite tune. The woman in the Philippines returns to tell me I have no internet service. “I am aware of that,” I say. She tells me a tech will arrive at my house between 3 and 5. It is already 3:30. She says the tech was held up. “At gun point?” I hear pages turning.

Day 6 — b.

The tech arrives at 4:55. He mistakes my computer for a modem. I don’t work on many Macs, he says. No kidding. After checking the system with a stethoscope, he tells me I have no internet service. No kidding. I stare at him. Icily. He sits in my ergonomically lousy chair and works on my computer. Nothing happens. Then he works on the lines outside. More of nothing happens. Then he crosses the street to the pole with the Verizon box. At 7 PM he tells me he has to leave and I will have no phone service in addition to no internet service. I ask when he will return. Tomorrow, he says. Tomorrow when? Just tomorrow. And tomorrow and tomorrow…

Day 7

Screw toothpaste. Jack Daniels, straight, no chaser. A text arrives at 10 AM. We have dispatched a technician. Those 5 words will cost me. Even if no tech shows up. Which no tech does. Around noon, I call 866.995.5632. After reciting name, rank and account number for the umpteenth time, I talk to a guy in India. He asks about the static on the phone. That’s just me, wheezing. He says the tech is somewhere outside, working on the problem, and it will be resolved before the end of the business day. May I leave my house? He tells me to stay put until I hear from the tech. I do not hear from the tech. Verizon has me under house arrest. Inmates at San Quentin have internet access, albeit supervised. I would settle for that. At 7:01 PM, I hit the Jack. From the bottle. You got a problem with that?

Day 8

I wake, swallow a yellow pill, and call Verizon. Due to heavy volume, your wait will be more than ten minutes. I swallow a second yellow pill. I hear that damn annoying tune. Fingers involuntarily form a fist. I also hear prerecorded tips about unplugging and replugging my cables. About rebooting my computer. Some 20 minutes later, I talk to a woman eking out a living in Chennai, India. She knows nothing about my status or struggles. I want to weep. After a while, she says a tech is working on the problem and I will receive a call when it is fixed. I ask for an approximate time or day or month. When it is completed, she says. I snap. “How can you sell my phone records to the NSA for a million bucks but you can’t tell me when my service will be back?” She thanks me for being patient. “I am not patient, lady. Do I sound patient? Maybe I sound like a mental patient, but I’m certainly not patient patient. It’s been over a week and I am going whacko without news, without stupid YouTube tangents, without Wikipedia, without Netflix, without my Canadian pharmacist. Do you have a Canadian pharmacist, lady?” Silence. “I could have Optimum replace Verizon in a flash, you know.” She neither knows of nor cares about Optimum. I yell dirty words. She hangs in there. I string together a filthy bracelet of expletives. She is still there. In Chennai, India. I am starting to like this dynamic. It scares me. I hang up. Go to bed.

Day 9 — a.

Fuck coffee. Rage has caffeine enough. I dial 866.995.5632 from bed and demand to speak to a supervisor. There is resistance. I beg. I get an all-American male voice. He says, The trouble is between the pole and Babylon. I say, “That is a great title for something.” He continues: The whole shelf is out. It’s a flooded station. It has been that way for over a week but will not be repaired until 24 other people complain. “What?” It takes 25 people to fix a station. “That’s another fine title,” I say. Don’t ask me why, but your neighbors have not complained in sufficient numbers yet. The flooded station is on the same street as your house. I suggest you mobilize your neighbors.

Day 9 — b.

Mobilize my neighbors. I have not heard that phrase since the Vietnam War protest days. The memory triggers a minor acid flashback. Grace Slick is licking my ear. Thank God for medical marijuana. It helps me find the golden lining inside silver sheep, or some such aphorism. Should I opt for Optimum? My Verizon has been down for so long that once it is up and running, I figure the odds are mighty sweet that I will have service for a long long time, or at least until the next superstorm or Nor’easter. A white rabbit runs across the lawn. I chase it.

Day 10

Coffee and rum cake. A whole cake. I think about shaving. I look in the mirror. I back away from the razor. I call Optimum. They have no bouncy theme song. They have Coldplay. They can have me wired up within a couple days. I am contemplating the change when I hear someone aknockin’. I ask Optimum to hold on. At my front door is a man in a shirt with the red Verizon logo. My atria fibrillates. He asks me if my internet is running. I ask him if this is a joke. He says no. I ask him why he is going door-to-door in 2014 and asking people about their internet service when he can simply look on the Verizon grid. He says he is trying to mobilize the neighbors in order to push his bosses into some positive action. My flashback has a flashback.

He asks how my rehab is going. “Ten days and counting,” I say. He shakes his head and then shakes my hand. He feels my pain. He looks right, he looks left, and says, softly, conspiratorially, “Off the record, I think Verizon wants you to quit.”

“Say what?”

“I have worked at Verizon for 15 years and there is no other explanation for what’s happening.”

“What’s happening?” I ask.

“Transfers, open tickets, outright negligence. Ugly things.”


“Follow the money.”

“What money?”

“Your money.”

“My money?”

“There’s not enough of it. The East End of Long Island is a loser. Verizon employs too many people and has too few customers and too many disasters. You can’t get FiOS, can you?”


“They want you to quit so they can dump the business.”

“Verizon wants me to quit Verizon?”

“You didn’t hear this from me.”

“I didn’t?”

“Verizon wants you to sign up with Optimum.”

“They do?”

“I have to go. Good luck.”’

“You too.”

Deep Throat walks to the end of the driveway and disappears. I don’t know if I will ever see him again. I wave a forlorn goodbye and remember that Optimum is on hold. I bow out. I will not take my marching orders from Verizon. I will insist on better service. I will write to The New York Times or the Washington Post. Oh wait. The lights of my black modem/router are frozen red. So I sit down with a yellow pad and a #2 pencil and a new fifth of Jack.

At the top of the page, I write: “The Trouble Is Somewhere Between the Pole and Babylon.”

Illustrations by Aron Vellekoop Leon

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