Saturday, October 23, 2010

NOT Another Use for Duct Tape

We have been having phone problems lately. Lots of problems. As a result, we've missed a lot of calls. If one of them was you, please accept our apologies. It wasn't intentional. We've contacted AT&T service a few times over the last couple months, and each time, things started working acceptably before they came.

This past Tuesday, the phones stopped working altogether. No dial tone, no Ring-y Ding-y, no Internet, no nothing. It was at that time that we realized how much we rely on the Internet for so many things. Even tonight, there are four of us in one room, each one with a computer on their lap. We are a connected family.

I got on the Internet at work and logged a trouble report on AT&T's web site. Their estimate for having it fixed was Saturday evening, five days hence. So much for speedy service.

On our way to church a couple days later, I noticed a wire lying on the road. In fact, I ran over it as I passed by. It looked the right size to be a phone line. I put two and two together. That was probably MY phone line being pounded into the pavement by all the passing cars.

Most of it disappeared a couple days later. Perhaps that coincided with the apartment complex across the street mowing their lawn. Now my line is not only down, it's probably shredded into a million pieces.

On Saturday afternoon, we were beginning to lose hope. There was no sign of any AT&T repairman. And David is supposed to start an on-line class on Monday. It was looking like he might start his class at the local McDonalds.

The guy showed up at 4:00 on Saturday afternoon. I pointed to the wire dangling from the pole. "That could very well be the problem," he stated. I agreed with him.

An hour later he came to the door. "You should be all set," he told me. I tried it out. Wow, a dial tone!

He called about a half hour later. When the phone rang, we were dismayed to hear that the old problems were still there. It worked, but we were now back to the problems of a couple weeks ago. He told us that he checked the line after getting it fixed and it still registered a problem. "I will try to be back out on Monday," he said.

I did a little checking of my own and figured out that the problem was INSIDE the house instead of OUTSIDE. That meant it was my responsibility. So I set to work attempting to isolate sections of the wiring to determine where the problem was.

I eventually found it. A splice behind a wall. There are quite a few splices in this house, but this one was different. It was wrapped with duct tape. I'm not sure what gave me the presence of mind to wrap electrical connections with duct tape, but I now know that, as the stuff ages it assumes certain electrical characteristics that can drive you and your phone company nuts.

I was just at Lowe's today, buying some supplies for our new addition. In the electrical section was a large box containing zillions of rolls of electrical tape. I remember pondering it for just a few seconds, and then concluding that I really don't use electrical tape all that much and the sixty cents would be better spent somewhere else.

I now know better.

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