The cable gremlins

(A version of things I posted on Facebook earlier today about my life, with glancing allusions to various phenomena of social life. Posted here to have a more permanent and accessible record, on WordPress. There will be a little bit of linguistics.)


(#1) (Not an accurate portrayal of Xfinity/Comcast staff)

(The Cable Guy is a 1996 American black comedy film directed by Ben Stiller, starring Jim Carrey and Matthew Broderick. It was released in the United States on June 14, 1996. The film co-stars Leslie Mann, Jack Black, George Segal, Diane Baker, Eric Roberts, Owen Wilson, Janeane Garofalo, David Cross, Andy Dick, Amy Stiller, and Bob Odenkirk. (Wikipedia link))

This morning. Up at 3:30, worked at assembling materials for a couple of blog postings, took a break at 4:30. Came back at 5 to find I no longer had a net connection. The tv and phone (also in a package with the net connection) were unaffected. So I called Xfinity/Comcast, working my way through a (pretty well designed) automated query system to get a human being, who tried industriously to fix things remotely for quite a while, then scheduled me for a service guy between 7:30 and 8:30 (which was, essentially, immediately).

At 7:30 the net connection magically returned (I was out of the room at the time), then the repair guy arrived at 7:40. And did not just go away, because (he explained) if it happened once it could happen again. Quickly he found a humongous long cable that he characterized as crufty and replaced it with fresh cabling. (From Wiktionary: adj. crufty: … 3 [informal] Unrefined, dirty or worn.) Diagnosis: sporadic malfunction caused by deteriorating cable. Or, as I think of it: gremlins. Annoying event, extremely satisfying resolution.

About the repair guy. I told him I’d been working on writing things on my blog when the net connection vanished. He asked what I was writing about; somewhat hesitantly, I said “linguistics” (and left out all the rest). This is often an uncomfortable point: some people feel ashamed about their abilities in English, some ask how many languages you speak, some get all enthusiastic about Chomsky, some evince deep antipathy to pointy-headed intellectuals who think they’re better than everyone else, etc. In any case, he’d worked out that I was a professor (all those books!), and volunteered that he was working towards a BA — in psychology, on-line, in “overnight school” (on top of his full-time job for Comcast). Retired Navy MP, open and engaging, treated me like just another interesting person he’d run across in his work.

Enjoyable conversation while he manhandled cable. It probably helped that I was working on a piece about the syntax of the word fucking. He was intrigued by the idea that there was actually a system to it, and that people could study it academically. (In brief: I’ve been musing on this example sent to me by Larry Horn: Get out of my fucking car! understood as ‘Fucking get out of my car!’, with fucking serving semantically as a sentence adverbial, though its syntax is straightforwardly that of an adjective, modifying car. That is, it looks hypallagous. Page about hypallage postings on this blog here.) Note that I couldn’t help shifting into teacher mode, to explain lexicography and to praise Jesse Sheidlower’s The F Word (which I showed him). And to chat with him about the course in Informal Logic he was taking. (It’s also true that I don’t get much face-to-face interaction in my life these days, so I really like talking to people.)

Even better, he seemed not even slightly flustered — or fascinated, for that matter — at working in a great honking den of queerness (with penguins). (If you’ve been following this blog, you’ll have seen the rainbow paraphernalia, the phallic symbols, the photographs of naked, though not actually x-rated, guys and of guys kissing, the gay porn DVDs, the William Haefeli  gay-guy New Yorker cartoons, and so on. Lots of other stuff, but still, the room shrieks.)

An excellent way to start the day.

Then from the comments on FB, these three:

#1, from Daniel Everett: Sounds like a great guy. My response: Typical, in my experience, of people in the skilled trades. I’m not one of them anymore, but I find them easy to engage with. Since I am, after all, a hick kid with a thin veneer of extraordinarily high-end education on top.

#2, from Max Vasilatos: This is of course known to you, but bears another reference: “I Was A Cable Guy. I Saw The Worst Of America” (from HuffPo)


(#2) “A glimpse of the suburban grotesque, featuring Russian mobsters, Fox News rage addicts, a caged man in a sex dungeon, and Dick Cheney”

(I’m hoping my guy found me no worse than weird. But entertaining.)

#3, from Margalit Fox: Reminds me, in a wonderful way, of the opening of Howard Hawks’s [1941] Ball of Fire, one of the few Hollywood films about a dialect geographer. Well, well, worth (re)watching!


(#3) (I second the recommendation)

2 Responses to “The cable gremlins”

  1. Robert Coren Says:

    “Dialect geographer” immediately reminds me of Henry Higgins, but that might be because I’ve seen both Pygmalion and My Fair Lady in the past few weeks.

  2. arnold zwicky Says:

    My notes on FB got a startling number of Likes. Dozens and dozens, still coming in. I seem to have struck some chord.

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