The lights go off, broadband drops out, the TV freezes … and nobody knows why (spooky music)

It might be because technicians maintain an open-door policy


Something for the Weekend, Sir? Bzzz. The number of the incoming call is "Unknown". I reject it, obviously. While I am intrigued by the idea of receiving mystery calls from The Unknown, they are disappointing to answer.

Bzzz. This guy's insistent: it's the fourth time he's tried to call in the last minute. He must really want me to install that new kitchen / swimming pool / solar panels / conservatory / sheep farm / fibre broadband / large hadron collider.

Hang on. Fibre broadband… that rings a bell.

My doorbell rings. On the doorstep is an impatient broadband engineer holding a mobile phone with "Call rejected x 4" on its screen. I love it when idioms go literal.

He has come to look at my connection because there is a fault. I don't have time for this: I have an imminent appointment for something or other coming up in my calendar. As if to prove it, I instinctively wake up my smartphone to show him, trying to act casually as I swipe away the "Reject call x 4" notification. See? I have an appointment right now.

It reads: "Broadband engineer visit."

Ah yes, it's all coming back to me. I had settled down to watch the final match of the postponed Euro 2020 football tournament on Sunday night and my cable TV service froze at the moment of kickoff. Well of course it did. I am used to this. My cable TV service delivers 900 channels of unwanted reality shite 24 hours a day in UHD without a glitch, but on the fleetingly rare occasions when I might actually want to watch something that interests me, it goes TITSUP*. It's all part of the game of life.

Sod's Law demands a prescribed process before arriving at an out-of-court settlement. First you have to restart your set-top box; when this doesn't work (it won't), you restart your router AND your set-top box; when this doesn't work (it won't), you switch off both your router and set-top box and disconnect the cables and wait for two minutes before reconnecting and restarting; and so on.

I eventually brought the TV stream back to life by switching off and disconnecting everything, turning out the lights, leaving the cold tap in the kitchen sink running, turning around three times while repeating the words "sempiternal acquiescent" aloud, stepping outside, locking my front door, unlocking my front door again, going back inside, turning around three times in the opposite direction while repeating "ornithological redamancy", stopping the running tap, turning the lights back on, and reconnecting and restarting everything.

I actually had to do this twice as first time round I accidentally got the "turning out the lights" and "leaving the cold tap running" steps in the wrong order.

Ah, home fibre broadband. The service that's open to all.

Photo of unattended roadside telecoms cabinet with its door wide open

'Fibre broadband – accessible to everyone!' Quite literally as you can see here.

Doing all of this at least salvaged enough miserable bandwidth to witness the second half of the match in SD, plus extra time and even the England team's long-term contractual obligation to lose on penalties. Luckily, my team had already beaten Germany a week earlier, so I was spared from having to watch either of the team managers indulge in Touchline Scratch-and-Sniff. That kind of thing really puts me off my beer and Doritos.

On one of the two occasions while I was momentarily standing outside my own front door that night, some passersby looked suspiciously in my direction, so I pretended to be checking my smartphone for something that would validate my reasons for loitering on a doorstep while wearing pyjamas.

Brainwave. I decided to take the opportunity to report the loss of service to my fibre broadband provider via the wonders of 4G. I accepted the automatically assigned engineer appointment three days' hence, and promptly forgot all about it somewhere between the latter part of extra time and Marcus Rashford's dazzlingly improvised Riverdance during the penalty shootout.

Before that, the last time I sat down in front of the TV just to watch a sports final was for the Six Nations rugby competition in March. A mere three seconds into that match, the TV went blank. To be fair to my broadband provider, so did the lights and all other electrical devices throughout the house, and indeed the neighbouring streets.

I ended up watching the remainder of that match on my smartphone. I know da kidz prefer to watch movies and stuff that way, but not me. You lose some of the grandeur of a major sporting occasion when part of the chilli tortilla chip you're munching falls onto the screen and obscures half the playing field.

While I was thrilling at the sight of 30 tiny men battling over the one-millimetre ball on my smartphone, Mme D phoned the electricity company to ask when the power would be restored. They thanked her for letting them know there had been a power cut.

"Glad to be of service," she said. "Contact me if you need further assistance, quoting the code YU55L355BGGR5."

The power came back the moment the referee blew the final whistle.

Right now, though, the broadband engineer has finished resetting the line at the wall and my lovely personal two-way gigabit per second is restored. As he leaves, I ask him if the problem was due to something I had done.

"No."

Did you have to replace any connectors or cabling? "No."

Was there a local dropout at the provider? "No."

So what caused it? "Dunno."

That's the problem with technicians: they try to fob you off with jargon.

I am reminded of the two occasions when I booked an appointment with my water company to fit a water meter. Both times they sent a contractor who asked me whereabouts the supply pipe entered the house. I told them I had no idea. Didn't they know? Apparently not. So on both occasions they left without doing anything.

It was only later that I wondered what would have happened if I stopped paying my water bill. They'd send someone over to my house to cut me off, I imagine. They would ask me where the supply pipe entered the house. I would tell them, truthfully, that I still have no idea. Neither would they, of course, so they'd just have to leave, their grim task unfulfilled, and leaving me with free water forever.

Another part of the game of life, I suppose.

Still, my cable TV's all sorted now. So I give you fair warning: if you hear about an earthquake, tsunami or aeroplane crash in my neck of the woods, it'll be because I'm trying to watch the Olympics. ®

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Alistair Dabbs
Alistair Dabbs is a freelance technology tart, juggling tech journalism, training and digital publishing. He is a floating sports fan who shamelessly flips his support between national teams according to convenience. This is what it is to be a Scottish Englishman living in continental Europe. More at Autosave is for Wimps and @alidabbs.

* Television In Total Suspension – Unavailable Picture

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