Wednesday, October 10, 2007

What We Have Here Is A Failure To Communicate

More pole fun.

I got home to discover that just as Mrs Stevie had indicated, we now had two poles outside the house: One a free-standing monument to the lodgepole pine, the other a monument to a young woman's inability to maintain control of her vehicle under the simplest of conditions.

That's right. The cracked, potential lawsuit was still much as I had left it this morning despite a visit from the Verizon Flying Repair Squad of Eventual Fence Wreckage1. To be fair, someone had reinforced the broken pole with a mighty rampart of loose top soil that towered a staggering eighteen inches (or so). No doubt this will prevent the pole from crashing into the street and killing someone until Verizon move the phone cables2 and cablevision move the cable TV, er, cable.

Neither did they attempt to guy the new pole in any way. As I predicted yesterday, the line of sight from the ground cleat to the new pole is several degrees out of line with the line of sight between the new pole and the pole across the street, to which it will be attached by a street-spanning guy wire4. Students of physics, housewives and anyone who has ever pitched a tent will be getting an uncomfortable tingling sensation in their spines about now, but I will explain for those without a doctorate in Continuum Mechanics and those who have never strung a clothes line.

Guy wires are used to support tower structures and poles. From the lowly pup tent pole to the mighty CN Tower, guying is a well-known and mature science. I would venture to suggest that once a child has put up a tent once, they would have an innate understanding of how the trick works and be able to improvise guyed structures by sight and feel. It really is that simple. For single poles such as ship masts and circus tent poles, multiple guy wires are taken from the pole's top to convenient points around it. Three wires are considered a minimum in these cases. For two-pole setups, a wire (or a tent canvas which does the same job) runs between the poles and guy wires are run from the poles to the ground, usually in a vee formation for stability.

Telephone poles are a little different in that they derive much of their support by being sunk into the ground for several feet, and they really only need to be guyed to counter the tendency for the cables they carry to pull them over. This is because copper cables are heavy. Copper is a heavy metal, and although the wires are not very thick when we're talking about phone and TV cables, the lengths between the poles become significant. The cables sag in a curved shape called a catenery, and the forces they exert become inward and downward ones that start to pull the poles over.

Enter the guy wire.

The pole obviously needs to be guyed in the opposite direction to the larger cable run, so a cleat is run to ground and a braided galvanised steel cable run from it to the pole, usually via a steel side-arm to give clearance underneath. But now we don't want to tension the guy wire because the pole will lean back towards the guy wire and stress the (soft) copper wire, causing it to fail. A second steel cable must be run to the other pole along the course of the copper cables to allow the system to be put under tension without the poles moving or the copper wire being stressed. It should go without saying that in order for the system to be in equilibrium the guy wire between the poles must be in line with the wires running from each pole to the ground cleats at either pole. Failure to ensure this will cause a force to be set up in the system tending to try and make the guy wires line up.

Which is why I can't understand why the Pole Installation Crews persist in arranging the guys so they zigzag. The new pole will begin to bend out of line as soon as they get their act together and guy it.

Never mind.

I sighed and went into the house, only to meet a sick and weary Mrs Stevie. She has contracted the same Lurgi that put me out of action for a month and is as a result somewhat subdued of late, but even so she seemed rather quiet. I scanned the room for improvised weaponry and asked her what was wrong. She had, it seems, just got off the phone with Verizon's "customer support".

Apparently, someone had called her to tell her Verizon could detect no problem with our phone as we had reported.

Mrs Stevie explained that we had not reported a problem with our phone, but we had (repeatedly) reported a problem with a cracked telephone pole which was still standing despite a visit from the Pole Police as she spoke

The Verizon rep said that no problem could be detected by their diagnostics, so the problem must lie inside the house which wasn't Verizon's problem any more.

Mrs Stevie asked for a clarification. Was he saying the problem she had reported was "inside the house"?

He said yes, that was the case

Mrs Stevie said "The cracked telephone pole is inside our house? Is that what you are telling me? That the pole that I thought stood in front of the house, and that was hit by a car on Friday and which we have been trying since then without success to get Verizon to do something about, that pole is inside my house?"

The Verizon customer support drone said he didn't know anything about a broken pole.

"Big surprise!" snarled Mrs Stevie. "Let me speak to a supervisor please."

The Verizon customer support drone denied the existence of any such beast.

"Then I'll speak to your boss, please" said Mrs Stevie.

The Verizon customer support drone claimed he didn't have a boss.

"You have no boss? Then you must be the president of Verizon! I want to report a problem in having a dangerously cracked telephone pole belonging to your company dealt with in an effective manner!"

The Verizon customer support drone denied vehemently ever claiming to be the president of Verizon, falling into Mrs Stevie's artfully laid trap.

"Then you must have a boss!" she howled. "I demand to speak to that person at once!"

The Verizon customer support drone claimed that none of his bosses up to and including the president of Verizon were "available" at that time.

Mrs Stevie opined that that was awfully convenient, and since he couldn't find a non-existent phone problem, his way clear to expediting our actual problem5 or anyone in charge of the lunatic asylum that Verizon clearly had become lately, he might as well hang up and save everyone's time and energy, which he did.

I was impressed. Normally, when people try this sort of nonsense on Mrs Stevie, they get to about the second line of dialogue only to find themselves the victim of her signature phone-phu move, an elegantly concise, lethal yet beautiful (in a twisted sort of way) flurry of destruction I simply call "From a grove of Mimosas, their leaves dappling the mown grass with serene shadows, erupts a PCP-crazed rabid junkyard dog".

She must've been feeling very under the weather.

  1. See yesterday's posts
  2. That's right, the crew put in the pole but for some reason didn't go the extra three inches and actually relocate the Verizon-owned cable the old pole is holding aloft3
  3. For the moment, anyway
  4. Eventually, Azathoth willing, so long as the Verizon Problem Resolution System doesn't intervene to stop progress again
  5. Which was and is really Verizon's problem, since if the pole falls on someone that person ain't gonna be looking to sue me

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