Sunday, May 15, 2016

Verizon: A Pain

For months our Verizon wifi has been so slow and unreliable that I have flashbacks to our dial-up days. We party and load webpages like it's 1999. Often our Macs helpfully reroute us to a powerful nearby network that's many times faster that ours, as measured by online speed tests we did to prove our case to Verizon. But that network stopped working a few days ago so we must do the unthinkable and start calling Verizon again for help. 

We've talked to many of their people ("Have you tried rebooting your router?") and we've had repairmen outside in the alley and inside our apartment checking wiring and equipment to no avail. When all that fails again, maybe we'll start shopping for a new service, although I'll lose my email address. Maybe we'll bite the bullet and get rid of our landline, too. 

Or maybe we'll start buying newspapers, shopping from catalogues, calling friends on the phone, and looking up recipes and other info in books. Please, God, no! I am both too young and too old for this! 

Our landline is is useful for two things: talking to old people who can only hear shouting, and occasionally torturing scammers when I'm in the mood. The elderly and scammers are just about the only people who call us aside from the dentist and our colleges at fundraising time. Like everyone under 70, I hate talking on the phone. Only old people like it, and only old people, and people who know a lot of old people, have landlines. 

When it rings and the caller ID shows anything I don't recognize, 99 times out of 100, I disconnect it and try to view the interruption as a good thing since it probably got me out of my chair for the first time in hours. If it was someone we know, they usually call back right away. 

If a scammer calls multiple times a week, I might get annoyed and answer. Years ago, my standard greeting was, "Hello, this is the Taliban! Can we help you?" These days I like to say:  "Hello, this is WSRN-FM! You're on the air!" This has resulted in quick, startled hangups, as desired, but often it's just Rachel at Card Services. 

My father, who is about to turn 102, spends plenty of time talking to scammers because he is lonely.  When you are 102, almost all of your friends and most of your family are dead, unless you were prescient enough to make friends who were half your age in your 50s to 80s. And even most of them will be dead when you are 102. My dad likes to talk, so he  strings scammers along and I'm sure he is not very nice about it. When you are 102, your politeness filter can be as flimsy as cheesecloth. You often say exactly what you think, a mistake at any age. Scammers will keep talking to you anyway.

If you're 102, you get a free pass from me to talk to anyone you want except scammers. We can't convince my dad to hang up on them even though he's received threats from them. He lives alone and does as he pleases in any way he still can. But we've had to call the police because someone got fed up with his antics and told him they were sending people to his house for money. Since then, he knows better than to tell us what kind of trouble he's gotten himself into.

There are services that block robocalls, but you need FIOS or other high-end service. We can't get anything like that in our neighborhood, and neither can my dad. Scammers prey on the elderly, but how many seniors have FIOS? You also can't block phone numbers through Verizon. A relative of mine just spent three hours trying to accomplish this on behalf of an elderly relative who was getting annoying calls from people she knew. If you are desperate enough to waste hours on hold and get repeatedly transferred around, Verizon will eventually tell you the blocking procedure. But it doesn't work. All you can do is buy the person new phones that have a blocking feature built in. 

Like most people his age, my dad missed the boat and never had a computer. We couldn't get him interested even though he is an electronics expert and liked to take old computers apart to poke around and harvest their parts for his own purposes. It would be great to be able to email and text him instead of screaming myself hoarse on the phone. (He's grown so deaf recently that even his amplified phones let him down.) But I'm also relieved because I know he'd faithfully reply to all the spam he got.

Speaking of spam, Verizon has the worst spam filter ever. It's more like a spam magnet. I get up to a hundred spams a day from one source in particular. They all arrive at the same time, and in duplicate, which is how I know. They offer me everything from adult diapers to cremation services to a diet that will let me show off my body again to storm windows to Canadian drugs to a hot Russian wife. And Verizon can't block them even when I set my junk filter so high that my sister's emails don't get through. For years, I deleted all that spam from my laptop, phone, and iPad daily, which took too much time. Recently, I decided to forward my Verizon email address to my Gmail address. While it didn't eliminate the spam, Gmail's filter puts it in the junk folder and doesn't send it to other devices. I delete everything once and I'm done.

We stupidly got Verizon service for our iPhones, thinking we'd save money since we had their phone and Internet services, but it didn't. Their coverage is horrible: our phones work mostly as cameras when we are on Mount Desert Island on vacation. They worked when we had AT&T, although we complained about the reception. Now we have no reception to complain about. 

So we pretend it's 1999 up there, too, and give our families the inn's phone number in case of emergencies. The innkeepers removed the landlines from the rooms since everyone has a mobile phone now, and since most people are smart enough not to have Verizon service. 

Now, when someone cals the inn asking for us, we get a message on a piece of paper. 

I can't say I look forward to the day when we have no Verizon service because it will likely mean I have no ancient relatives to talk to anymore. But I can't wait to get a new iPhone with AT&T or any other service, and I'm finally seeing the advantages of giving up my nice Verizon email address in favor of something horrible at, since all the good ones are gone. 


  1. 102! I didn't realize. That is impressive. My father is in his 70s and considering the health issues he has gone through we are thrilled to have him.

    Have you looked into ? Not sure if it will help with his set up, but it is out there.

    I'm on verizon up here for mobile.. I'm not thrilled with it, but it is far better than the sprint coverage I had.

  2. Huh...interesting to read this. Not wanting to jinx things here, but I haven't had much of any problems with Verizon for my Internet. Have AT&T for cell, Verizon landline (business), We are having loads of problems with Verizon for Internet at our historic society. Less than .75 download speed. Basically means no Internet. We will be changing to Comcast there.


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