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12/24/98 The Parking Lot
12/10/98 Mountains
12/01/98 Garage Sale
11/12/98 The Car Salesman
10/29/98 What Is Money?
10/15/98 Sick People
10/01/98 Baseball
09/17/98 Dollars and Sense

The Conspiracy Theory

When I moved from Thousand Oaks to Agoura, it wasn't a big production. Three offramps and double the mortgage. What I could not foresee was the more profound, life-altering effect of changing phone companies. Three little offramps and I had gone from a "Verizon Area" to a "PAC Bell Area." Evidently, these companies mark their territory like dogs. Instead of urine, they use wires.

Okay, I would simply transfer my two phone lines and find out the local access number for my Internet connection. Simply. Uh-huh.

It took Pac Bell 10 days to get to my residence. It must have been a really long drive. On 6 of those 10 days I found a Pac Bell van parked outside my house to service neighboring lines. Logic told me to ask a technician to step into my home and save a trip.

"I'm sorry," said the technician. "Pac Bell keeps my brain at the central office. You'll have to give them a call."

"I would," I said, "but my phone isn't working!"

The following week, my technician appeared at the door. He entered my home in front of two clowns who bounded behind to the sound of circus music. Since my place did not have two lines, the technician had to ransack my residence for existing wire.

He dug up carpet, crawled in the attic, tracked dirt over the beige carpet and, just before deciding to take out a wall, he found the wire. The only problem was that his drill bit wasn't long enough to do the job (I'm sure he's heard that before). Since his drill bit was back at the office with his brain, we'd have to wait until tomorrow. The two clowns bounded out behind him.

Day two. I returned home and found a note on my door reading, Came by to work on your wiring. No one was here. Please call to reschedule.

Day three. National Imbecile Day. The phone companies took it off.

Day four. The original technician arrived with the correct drill bit. He installed the line and stumbled out of my life forever. Ahh. Silence. Resolve. Justice. I went to dial my Internet access number and found that my password had been cancelled!

I called Verizon, and a representative told me that there was a problem. I said that's why I called. She said that since I no longer have a Verizon phone bill, they will not be able to place my Internet charges on said phone bill.

Made sense.

And Verizon's Internet service does not bill its customers. Woe, back up. Verizon does not bill for its Internet services but only accepts credit cards? What if you don't use credit cards?

Then you will get nothing and you'll like it.

I thought long and hard about changing service providers, but my website was tied to Verizon, making it a production. I secured a credit card and made the payment.

On the bright side, I returned to the Internet peddling my cartoons. Over time, I got so caught up that I missed a Pac Bell payment. It happens. I called the company, related my situation and -- credit card in hand -- asked them to reconnect my service.

"I'm sorry, sir. We don't accept credit card payments."

"You're kidding," I said, laughing maniacally. "How do I reconnect?"

By visiting our office in Woodland Hills and paying by check. I have to drive 20 miles to show someone a check?? What if I fax a copy of the check? No-can-doodly-do. By the way, there will be a $120 deposit if you are to continue using our service. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha HA HA HA. Of COURSE I am going to use your service -- I don't have a choice!!

I told the lady that they should call themselves Pac Bill. She got upset and put me on hold. I listened to the circus music on the other end until I couldn't bear it anymore.

I have since developed a theory that the phone companies are conspiring to drive us mad. It is part of a bigger plan to confuse us into submission in the tradition of David Koresh, Jim Jones and Pokemon. Once they have broken our will, they will implement stranger, more nonsensical rules until 1 + 2 = 4. One day we'll discover that all the phone companies are in fact run by a single mad clown seeking to reak havoc on the world. He's already got me, but you may have time to save yourself. And if I disappear from the face of the earth, you'll know that it's because I wrote this column.


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