Some people, like software engineers, make useful things for a living. Other people, like workers in a state unemployment office, make misery for a minimum of one full hour. I endured a phone call from one such person, a dour and condescending lady-robot sliding off the mild end of the autistic spectrum. I haven’t been spoken to like that since I was five. Perhaps she was elitist and judgmental, perhaps she had been encouraged to be suspicious, or maybe she simply hated herself for not getting fired from her horrible job. Wouldn’t it be the sweetest slice of irony to have her get the business-end of a phone call from her former employer?
Why the phone interview? The state had suddenly stopped depositing funds into my account a month earlier because they realized that I made a small error on my application. Contact me for clarification? Pshaw! Obviously I was trying to steal from them to perpetuate a lazy lifestyle. Who actually wants to work and feel fulfilled?
First the woman launched into a lengthy monologue that was so devoid of inflection, I momentarily switched off my ear-brain connection. (Mothers call this multitasking.) It was easy to do with a blaring TV too far away to kill, cats bulleting back and forth as if training for the Olympics, and power tools whizzing into a wall shared by the next-door neighbor. It’s New York living; this is expected. Next she asked me a series of questions the answers to which I didn’t know offhand, told me to fax her some paperwork, and said that the IRS may audit me. I later scrambled to confirm that last bit and found it extremely unlikely. I was doing nothing wrong. Period.
Minutes after I was released from the call, I started drafting the snarkiest email I could think of. This reminded me of a spectacular letter that comedian Eugene Mirman wrote in 2011 to Time Warner Cable, a company that lords over most of New York City. He ran a full-page ad in two local newspapers, and other outlets kept it rolling. Based on my own experience, I enthusiastically attest that Time Warner is impressively incompetent, and his sarcastic missive warms my angry heart. Of course, it’s best to hear it straight from Mr. Mirman’s lips [around 3:20]; he is a comedian after all. But here it is, in full:
Dear Time Warner Cable,
On April 23rd I moved and had an appointment with Time Warner Cable to come and install cable, Internet, and phone service, and no one showed up. When I called, I was told my appointment was entered wrong and moved to May 4th, without anyone calling me. No big deal. Why would a company check with someone to see if they are home on a Wednesday afternoon? Of course they are. Everyone is. Name one person who isn’t home on a Wednesday afternoon? You can’t. It’s impossible, because everyone is home. It would be a waste of resources to call and talk to him. Did Stalin ever call people before he arrested them and sent them to die in Siberian work camps? No! Why should Time Warner Cable have a policy that is any different from Stalin’s?
Did you know that on Yelp, Time Warner Cable has one and a half stars? That’s less stars than Jeffery Dahmer—who killed and ate people, maybe even had sex with their skulls (I don’t really know). Obviously what I’m saying is untrue, because Yelp does not review serial killers, but if they did, his babaganoush would be better than yours, if you both made babaganoush, even if his drugged and murdered people. Sorry that got weird. F**k you. I just made you read that confusing thing.
To give you an idea of how much I dislike your company, I have come up with plagues I hope God smites your board of directors with. I know He’ll only do this if you enslave the Jews, but considering you might have a monopoly in NYC, you sort of already have:
1. Awkward. Every board member’s cell phone ring loudly announces their weight, and also the day they’ll die.
2. Bathroom. The constant feeling that you have to go number two but completely forgetting how.
3. Improv. Your firstborn will want to be a short-form improviser.
4. Popcorn. Your secondborn will smell like hot buttered popcorn. It’s not that bad at first, but eventually I bet it will be maddening.
Eugene Mirman and probably every one of your customers.
P.S. On May 4th I called you and got an automated message saying my appointment was moved to May 10th but spoke to two representatives who assured me it was still on May 4th. Twenty minutes later, I got a call saying the technician called and couldn’t reach me, and my new appointment would be on May 12th. An hour later I got a call apologizing and saying my appointment was moved to May 6th. Why does your company act like a controlling, abusive husband on an episode of Law and Order?
P.P.S. On May 6th a very nice, professional man came, rang my doorbell, and installed everything. I would feel remiss to not mention that a handful of other employees were also very helpful. However, overall your company is run like an ill-managed Soviet factory. I bet if Ayn Rand was still alive, she’d write a fun-to-read but poorly argued book about how appalling and inefficient your company is. Please cut it out. Thank you.
Time Warner Cable’s response included a post on their blog, clearly appreciating Mirman’s humor and laying out several planned improvements. Nice PR move. That company is an albatross, a fixture, an institution. Call me a pessimist, but Russia is still screwed up even after “democracy” edged its way in.
Two weeks after my phone interview, my money began flowing again, but the attitude of that woman still crackled under my feet. What did I hope to achieve by writing a complaint letter to the state? Nothing from them. But for me, exercising my First Amendment right would in turn prevent me from seeking therapy. The bottom line is this: I am resourceful—a fixer, a problem solver. I alleviated my own Time Warner Cable suffering by getting satellite TV several years ago. And eventually, I will no longer need unemployment benefits. Soon, my pet, soon.