Jonathan installs cable
Thursday, April 2 2020
This morning Gretchen told me that Dug Hill Road's Spectrum cable was ready to be tapped and gave me a number to call. So I talked to a nice Spectrum salesman and he sold me a plan. I didn't really care one way or the other about the television channels that would be part of it; the only number that I cared about was the download speed, which would be 200 Mb/s. By comparison, the DSL we'd been using since 2004 had started at about 160 Kb/s, quickly gone to 1 MB/s and eventually risen to 3.5 Mb/s. It had been usable (indeed, in recent years we'd been able to watch YouTube and Netflix at something approaching HD). But it had never really been broadband. These days, the television part of cable television is just another internet application, outsourced (in the case of Spectrum) through AppleTV. Once the coax cable got to a cable modem, everything it did would be going through an ethernet cable. After signing us up (for $108/month in a plan that included a telephone line and a year's worth of introductory cable channels), I asked one additional question: would Spectrum be able to use the existing conduits running from the telephone pole to get the cable into our basement? The salesman assured me that they would, and that they'd never run a cable above ground. Then it turned out that there was an installation timeslot available for later this afternoon. We'd be getting cable internet today!
I was so excited with anticipation that I got almost no actual work done. It was just easier to bounce around between web sites learning the latest on the coronavirus.
Our installer, Jonathan, arrived a little before 3:00pm in a white Spectrum van. He was, I would soon learn, a very slow and deliberate worker, and I stood there for what felt like ten minutes before he got done doing whatever he was doing in and around his van and I could address him from an appropriate social distance (given the ongoing pandemic). Jonathan was the kind of guy who didn't say much and squinted a lot as he talked, suggesting (perhaps inaccurately) that he wasn't Spectrum's brightest installer. In any case, I led him down past the greenhouse to the utility pole where our electrical and telephone conduits emerge from the ground, since I thought that would be the place where I'd be attaching our cable. As we passed the greenhouse, Jonathan happened to remember something he'd been told to ask, does anyone in my household have COVID-19? That it was such an afterthought suggested the danger of the pandemic wasn't as prominent in Jonathan's mind as I would've liked. Once we arrived at the utility pole, Jonathan didn't say much, but instead started walking northwestward to the next utility pole up Dug Hill Road, the one near the Farm Road intersection. I followed behind at a safe distance, without any idea what was going on. I realized that every time I could smell Jonathan (it wasn't a bad smell, but it was clearly him; what I was smelling was probably the detergent that had been used to launder his clothes) tiny particles were leaving him and arriving in my nostrils. So I tried to walk so that I was not directly downwind from him.
At this second pole, Jonathan finally gave me some useful (if disturbing) information. The "taps" (coax jacks) for the cable were not present on the pole I'd first shown him. Instead, they were present at this other pole, the one without our conduit pipes leading to it. But our phone conduit pipe wouldn't be of much use anyway, Jonathan said, because it was too narrow given that already contained a telephone cable. "Can you just pull that out and then use it to snake in a coax cable?" I asked, wondering why I had to be the one to come up with such ideas. "We don't touch other cables," Jonathan explained. As for the lack of taps on the pole near the greenhouse, I wondered how our downhill neighbors would ever be getting cable with that setup, since that pole is the closest one to their house. Jonathan didn't know. He also didn't know if new taps could be installed. Another thing he didn't know was whether an ærial cable could be run from the pole with taps on it to the one without. Since I knew at this point that ethernet was all this service ended up being, I was thinking perhaps a cable could be run to the greenhouse (to which I'd already run ethernet). But if Jonathan couldn't even run a cable to the pole near the greenhouse, perhaps the best thing to do would be to run a cable through the air from the pole near the Farm Road directly to the laboratory deck, where I already have things like grounding wires and a wall pass-through. I'd been trying to avoid running above-ground wires to the house, since every other cable going to or from it is buried, but I was dealing with Jonathan here, and I really wanted to get the cable working today. Perhaps some day in the future some non-Jonathan option will present itself and I'd be able to bury the cable. It goes without saying that the salesman I'd talked to earlier was completely wrong about Spectrum's buried cable policy, and Jonathan himself was perfectly happy running a cable through the air.
I retreated into the laboratory while Jonathan chatted with the driver of another Spectrum van that had appeared at the Farm Road intersection. I noticed that the two were not practicing anything I would consider social distancing. I did other things for awhile only to be snapped out of whatever I was doing by the barking of dogs. For some reason Jonathan had been down near the brownhouse and had come waddling up around the north end of the house with all his rattling equipment, and of course the dogs freaked out, thinking he was some sort of bipedal monster. Jonathan, not being too swift, did not have the reaction that would've defused the situation, which would've involved saying someing to the dogs. [REDACTED]
Eventually (and very slowly) Jonathan got his ladder off the roof of his van and climbed up the pole near the Farm Road. I felt bad for the big dumb-dumb, because at that point the wind started blowing with unusual fury. I wouldn't've wanted to be up there on that pole in wind like that. But there he was, doing his job.
Then Jonathan brought a big roll of cable into the house (by then I had Ramona and Neville barricaded in the upstairs bedroom with Gretchen) and went out onto the laboratory deck to attach it to the northwest support pillar for the solar deck, exactly as I'd suggested. He then pushed the end of a piece of cable through the PVC wall pass-through into the house, and I pulled enough of it into the laboratory to get to a place where I'd put the cable modem and what not.
Given Jonathan's unknown coronavirus status, I wasn't delighted by how long he spent dicking with that cable as I sat nearby at my Woodchuck worstation. Happily, he sounded healthy and never made any noises suggesting even a nascent cough. But, as the Governor of Georgia recently learned (and I've known for weeks) coronavirus spreads from asymptomatic carriers. Eventually Jonathan had the cable all set up and tested using a temporary WiFi router I'd set up for him. I thanked him and apologized for the vicious dogs. One thing that made me feel a little better about his possible health was that he asked for a place to wash his hands once he was finished.
I'd taken a recreational 120 mg dose of pseudoephedrine earlier today, and the stress of dealing with Jonathan left me needing a drink. So, to earn that right, I painted the most pathetic little landscape ever on a tiny one by two inch canvas.
I was pleased to be getting 60 Mb/s download in a speed test, a limit likely set by the router I was using, which did not have gigabit ethernet ports. It's amazing that, way out here in the sticks, I'm now connecting to internet so fast that conventional "fast ethernet" is now my bottleneck.
Today's mini-landscape. I've included three of the four sides of the canvas as well, which make it look a little like a triptych.
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