Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Little Girl, Big City Pt. 3

Last week I moved to Bethesda to start my new job. Read: Part 1 and Part 2. Continuation below.


It was the middle of a sultry mid-Atlantic heat wave, and the girls had no internet.

Their new apartment sported a capacious kitchen, yes. A now-functional shower head and bathroom hooks for their towels, sure. An odd collection of chairs and tables - check. But for email access, they were forced to network piracy, commandeering the signals of neighboring businesses, including the Rolls Royce dealership down the road. This also caused them to wonder exactly how many people must have died in this apartment to make its rent so low.

Finally, they faced the prospect of inviting Well-Known TV and Wireless Service into their home.

It was an especially scorching day when the cable man showed up. The kind of day when it's perfectly sunny, but you walk back inside soaking wet. Cable Guy appeared sporting a handlebar mustache, a thick mid-Atlantic accent, a spotless uniform and a smile.

"Well, you see, only one of these coaxial outlets works," he explained as he dragged the two-foot drill out of his truck. "The others are old ones that we can't wire into our system. So we'll have to re-wire the apartment along the walls."

Hannah nodded. This seemed to make sense. Getting cable installed usually involved a certain amount of tacking wires along baseboards and under carpets.

"You just go read your book, I'll take care of everything," he declared, his tool box jingling happily.

Five minutes later, there was a hole through the wall.

"Oh, that? It's no big deal. Your landlord won't mind one bit."

Hannah sighed. Well, it was only a small hole, and close to the floor - they could Spackle over it before moving out.

Hannah looked up from her book again when there was a second hole just above the first.

"We need a feedback router split," the handyman explained in such a simple tone that Hannah was afraid to admit she had no idea what that was. She was now watching anxiously.

Three more holes appeared in the wall. Maybe we could cover them up with a nice Audubon print, Hannah thought, and then she decided against it.

"That's the problem with these old apartments," the cable guy told her. "The wiring inside the walls is almost useless. So we have to create all the connections ourselves."

"I think that cable is wrapped around your ankle," Hannah pointed out.

"Oh, no it's not a cable," the technician replied. "It's just the piping on my uniform."

He walked away to demonstrate, taking down a manhole-sized portion of the wall with him.

"Well, isn't that funny," he remarked. "It looks like it was the cable after all."

"I can see into my roommate's bedroom," Hannah replied. "That's uncomfortable."

"Don't worry, I'll fix it up just fine," the handyman assured her, pulling a sledgehammer out of his bag.

"Was that there this whole time?" Hannah wondered.

Without answering, the cable guy starting swinging for the wall. The hole was now the size of a bed.

"We've got to find the structural supports," he told her. "Then I'll just use some patching materials to rebuild from the studs."

Now all four walls were shaking and flakes were falling from the ceiling.

"Pardon my intrusion," Hannah peeped, "But it seems to me like you're only making the hole bigger."

"No, this is all part of the job," the cable guy replied, now tearing into the air conditioning duct. "See, as the patching plaster shrinks, it'll tighten on your ducts, so we've got to give them a little extra breathing room."

The ceiling, no longer flurrying, had let loose a full-on blizzard. The handyman was now climbing over the hole he had made in the wall from Nessa's bedroom into the kitchen, and stood in the sink, feeding pieces of cable into the garbage disposer. There was a rumble and a crash in Hannah's room.

"Um, I think the upstairs neighbor's kid just fell through the ceiling into my room," she called.

"Do you have Sesame Street?" the plaster-dust-coated toddler asked.

"No, we're just getting the cable installed," Hannah replied.

"I WANT MOMMY," the child retorted.

The doorbell rang. Hannah rushed to answer it.

"Hello, I'm here from Well-Known TV and Wireless Service. I'm here to install your cable and internet," a cheerful service technician beamed at her.

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