Sunday, August 19, 2007

So what else could go wrong?

Friday at work was a rather crazy day. It was my first day back after three off, and definitely not a fun way to end a weekend. We first had weather hit at one of our east coast hubs...I had a plane start holding before I even sat down, and they ultimately had to divert to an alternate airport. Then the captain complained I had planned the diversion recovery flight with too much fuel, so I reduced his fuel slightly. Of course, once he took off for his original destination, he ended up holding again, and almost had to divert a second time, but he finally made it in.

During that whole fiasco we had weather and storms hit our main hub in Texas, and I had two more flights on my desk end up diverting. One of them had a maintenance problem and I was worried it would be stuck when they landed at the airport they diverted to, but it turned out not to be a serious issue. Needless to say, I was pretty busy for several hours dealing with all of my flights and the weather.

Towards the end of my shift the fire alarm started sounding on our floor. Since false alarms aren't unheard of in my building, we all kept working (if we leave, the airline tends to shut down within a couple hours.) However, someone from upstairs came down to report there was indeed a fire on the floor above ours. A few people kept working a bit longer, but I decided to go ahead and leave at that point (along with many other people) and walked downstairs and outside.

I must admit our local fire department took this alarm seriously.

I called my sister and her husband, who live here also, to assure them I was okay just in case this ended up making the news. Some people on the overnight shift reported to work at our backup facility because we weren't sure when the situation would be resolved. Ultimately, about an hour later, we were cleared to go back inside, and a fire department supervisor escorted us back in.

Whatever the problem was, it had been contained on the floor above ours. Aside from an acrid odor, we couldn't tell anything had ever happened. I ended up staying two hours past the end of my shift while things sort of got back to normal. A news truck did show up right before I went back upstairs, but the incident was minor enough that as far as I can tell, it never made any of the local broadcasts.

Some people I work with said that the problem was never so serious we needed to evacuate (and in fact, some people didn't evacuate.) But I'd rather err on the side of safety, personally. At any rate, it made for a fun return to work day. I do have to all my years of working in the airline industry, this was the first time I've ever had to evacuate a building during my shift.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Of Cell Phones and Contracts

OK, I know, it's been too long. What can I say, I can be a lazy blogger at times. The unpacking at my new place continues, and I have so far kept up with my daily goal of one box per day. That being said, I still have to hook up my stereo and hang pictures, and I still have about a dozen boxes left. But it already looks better than my old place did when I left.

I just switched mobile carriers from T-Mobile to Verizon, since my contract was up. While I never had any trouble with dropped calls with them, their customer service is another story.

As some of you know, or may have guessed, while I was very happy to get the job offer with the Rather Large Airline last year, financially, it was kind of a strain, initially. For one thing, I had to pay for my own move down here (and my stuff did get here, but the movers sucked, and overcharged me above their estimate) and for another thing, I was on a reduced pay rate while in initial training for the first few months. Also, I had to pay for my own medical insurance until the company's coverage kicked in, which even for catastrophic only coverage is NOT cheap these days.

As you also might remember, my mother was moving to a retirement place last year. That ultimately didn't work out, but in the process of trying to get her moved, I was on the phone a LOT. I had signed up for a 1000 minutes a month plan with T-Mobile (no unlimited weekend or evening minutes) and I was blowing through those a lot faster than I realized. I did some conference calls with my sisters, and those are charged double minutes, etc.

I honestly didn't keep as close of track as I should have on the minutes, but I did switch to a 1500 minutes a month plan fairly soon after I got my phone. Unfortunately, I switched on the day after the billing cycle closed. Bottom line...I had run up just over 1500 minutes of calls in the first month, with over 500 minutes at the very high "exceeded plan minutes" rate. Thus, I got my first bill from T-Mobile and was shocked to see it was for over $500.

I was rather shocked to see this amount. I called them and they explained the charges. They were unwilling to help me at all on the bill. I talked to a supervisor who was equally unwilling to help. Finally, on my third try, I got a sympathetic representative, who issued a $100 credit, if I would try a higher minutes plan. I said sure, as long as I didn't have to stay on that plan, and then switched to their minimum minutes plan (300 per month, unlimited weekends but not nights) the next day, which I stayed on until my contract ended.

I didn't have the 500+ dollars to pay that first bill, but I did make a partial payment of a little over $100. This evidently wasn't good enough for them, and they disconnected my phone the morning I was supposed to make a conference call with my sisters. I was eventually able to call them using a backup telephone I use through my internet connection (Skype) but it was very embarrassing.

I called from the T-Mobile store to discuss my bill and encountered the RUDEST customer service person I have EVER dealt with in their billing department. They gave me 30 days to pay the bill, and wouldn't reconnect the service until it was fully paid off. I ended up getting the cash from another source and paying the bill off in full the following week. When they didn't have my phone turned on within an hour of me paying the bill, I called them up and was equally rude with them in asking why my service wasn't restored yet. They turned it on shortly afterwards.

The one good thing about the T-Mobile contract was that it was only for a year. I didn't want to pay an early cancellation fee (which I had done before with Sprint) so I just wrote the day my contract expired inside my battery cover with a Sharpie. Today was that day, so goodbye, T-Mobile...I can't say as I'll miss you very much. And if I ever get any questions from them as to why I'm no longer their customer, I think I may just refer them to this blog entry.

From everything I've heard, Verizon has much better customer service and a better calling network, and our corporate discount is larger with them than it was with T-Mobile. Therefore, I'll be getting about 50% more monthly minutes for the same price, and they also have a roadside assistance option that T-Mobile didn't have. I didn't need that when I first got T-Mobile since I was still without a car, but I did use it a couple times back when I was with Sprint, and it's very nice to have when you need it.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

In which the Third Time really IS the charm...

OK, I know I haven't blogged much lately. For a change, I have a good excuse! And I'm not even talking about going on vacation and then moving to a different apartment. I'm talking about my new internet service, called Uverse.

This service is offered by AT&T and combines DSL with cable TV, pay per view, a built in DVR, and even HD, all run through traditional phone lines. I don't have an HD television (yet) but all the other features made it sound rather sweet, plus it was about $30/month less than what I was paying before I moved for digital cable plus cable hi-speed internet.

(Regarding the move, more to come later, but I really like the new apartment, even though it's slightly pricier. It's in the same complex, but bigger, and has a balcony. Unpacking is proceeding slowly, but no injuries were sustained in the move other than muscle soreness and a couple of blisters.)

Anyhow, now that Uverse is installed, I can say it definitely kicks ass. However, getting it installed was another story. I suppose it was not easy in part because the buildings here are old and the previous resident likely didn't even have a computer...none of the phone lines had really been touched in a long time.

On the date of the original installation attempt, the technician showed up about 9 AM. This first technician said he'd have to run wire all over my apartment to get my bedroom TV hooked up. I declined on running cable over my doorways, since I am not really a bedroom TV addict, so I was just going to have the main TV and my computer connected. I have to leave for work at 1:30 PM, but I figured that should be plenty of time for an apartment install, right? Wrong! The technician was working at the phone box down the street when I called and said I had to leave. He called later and thanked me for putting his tools outside and said he could have finished in another 20 minutes if he'd been able to come back in.

The second technician showed up two days later, for what I hoped would be a quick visit, based on the previous installer's remarks. She was very nice and said that she COULD get the bedroom TV working, using the existing phone jack in there, without running wire all the way from the living room. She did get the living room TV and internet working briefly. However, four hours later, and after calling out a supervisor to help her, she admitted defeat. The signal strength was not consistent, and she was never able to get the bedroom TV to work at all. She thought there might be an external phone line problem. I scheduled a third technician to come out today, on my day off, to make sure they'd have time to finish.

The technician today found a faulty filter which seemed to be what was causing the issues with varying signal strength. Since the filter is only needed if you also have a land line (which I don't) he was able to fix that problem fairly quickly by removing the filter. After only an hour or so, he was all done! The previous techs had already run the cables, so he basically just had to hook up everything.

Thus, I now have a 3 megabit DSL line on my desktop computer (upgradable to 6 should I ever so desire) and a cool cable setup with DVR, PPV, and some free premium channels (upgradable to be viewable in HD format whenever I can afford to buy an HD TV.) The good thing is that if I ever do need to upgrade either my TV service or my internet service, NO technician visit is required...I can get it all done with a phone call. Also included was a free wireless router. I have the wireless part turned off right now, since I only own a desktop, but if I ever do buy a laptop and I'm so lazy I want to browse the net in my bed instead of walking into the living room...I'll be able to. Ain't technology grand?

Now, I have to continue unpacking, even though I now have the dual distraction of cable TV and high-speed internet to slow me down. I'll keep plugging along, though. The good thing about unpacking is...none of your stuff is going anywhere.