Last week a cable guy and his son came to my house to bury an internet cable. The job was supposed to get done as soon as the frost came out of the ground, but because of a messed up phone call with the cable company service rep, it did not happen until July. The following is a transcript of that telephone conversation. I think I have come close to capturing it word for word.

After a chain of six automated messages, I was connected to a person. The woman at the end of the line said, “Thank you for calling Spectrum. My name is _______. This call may be monitored for security purposes. Are you calling about a current service?”

“Yes, I am,” I said.

“I will now text you a confirmation code to confirm you have authority to change your service.”

“No,” I said. “I don’t want to change my service. I just need you to bury the line that one of your guys left lying across my lawn this winter.”

“Yes, I understand,” said the woman, “but I still need to confirm I am speaking to a person authorized to make that request.”

“Okay, let me give you my cellphone number,” I said.

“No,” said the woman. “I can only text the number we have on record.”

“But that number is a landline,” I replied.

“I can’t text a landline,” she said.

“That’s why I want to give you my cell. My wife set up the internet service ten years ago, and we didn’t have cellphones then.”

“I can only text the number we have on record.”

“I am calling from the number you have on record. How is that different from a text to a number you have on record?”

“No, that won’t work. Let’s try something else. What is your favorite movie?”

“You want to know my favorite movie from ten years ago?”

“Yes, it is the question we have on record.”

“I don’t know. Try Star Wars.”

“No, that is not your favorite movie.”

“Try The Natural.”

“No, that’s not your favorite movie either.”

“Give me a second. My wife set up the account. Let me ask her what she would have said.” I tracked down Manyu from the other side of the house and asked her what she would have listed as her favorite movie back in 2012. She named a movie I would have never guessed in a hundred tries. I got back on the phone and said, “Okay, try The King and I.

“Is that one word or two?” the woman asked.

The woman’s question momentarily silenced me, as I found myself wondering where the break would go if The King and I was only two words. “It’s four words,” I said. “The. King. And. I.”

“No that is not the movie we have on record.”

“Should I keep naming movies?” I asked.

“No, let’s try something else. What is the security code number on your account?”

“Do you mean my account number?” 

“No, your account number is not secure.  I need your security code number.”

“I don’t know what that is.” 

“It is that number that appears on the top right corner of your monthly bill.”

“Do you mean the paper copy of my bill?”

“Yes, the one you receive in the mail.”

“I throw those away without opening them. We pay online.”

“Your security code number does not appear online. It’s only on your hard copy.”

“I don’t have that.”

“Then I may not be able to help you.”

“Is there another way to confirm who I am?”

“I don’t think so.”

“So do I need to wait until next month when my new bill comes in the mail?”

“That should work. Is there anything else I can help you with?”

A month later I called the cable company and gave them my security code number. I was able to set up a date for the serviceman to come to my house. I also updated the phone number on our account. I even changed Manyu’s first name, which had been spelled M-A-N-R-U ever since we’d first signed up. The woman I talked to on this second phone call told me it was time to change out my modem, but I worry about what will go wrong if I do.

Steven Simpson