The Secret Life of An American Cable Guy

By Sarah Mowery cableI recently had the displeasure of moving into a new apartment. As thousands of years of history has shown, moving is the worst. There are one million things you know you have to do, but you can’t remember exactly what they are all at once because you couldn’t find a pen or paper to write down a list, probably because the pens and paper are in the box you’re sitting on in your current furniture-less existence.

So, after using crumpled up receipts and CVS discount coupons as toilet paper for just longer than is humanly acceptable, you make a haphazard mental list that consists of tasks such as “find pen and paper,” “make grocery list,” and “put toilet paper on list.”

After several weeks of living with nothing but the absolute essentials (bed, milk, bacon, Gilmore Girls on DVD, and toothbrush, in that order) due to a combination of laziness and lack of funds, I eventually mustered up the will power to call the cable company and rejoin the 21st century.

42 minutes and two rounds of the Time Warner Cable “hold music” playlist later, I was all set with an installation appointment in the convenient time frame of “sometime during the day on Tuesday.” This was pErFeCt because, as the fine folks at Time Warner know, I am fully available and at my apartment literally all the time so as to provide maximum convenience to service professionals.

Fast forward to Tuesday, during the day. My friend and I meet the perfectly nice fellow who has come to install my cable and Wi-Fi. We’ll call him Gordon.

Over the next couple of hours, Gordon set up some boxes and wires and routers, and the three of us talked. Usually the conversations I have with the strangers who come my house to do jobs are limited to where they’re from and if they have kids and subsequent awkward silence. But this time was different. This installation proved to be enlightening on all sorts of levels I never could have predicted.

It all started with a simple “So, you’re a cable guy. You must deal with some pretty crazy people.” Only now can I see what a radical understatement that was.

Apparently there is a whole world out there only seen by the cable guys and plumbers and computer fixers of America. We don’t even think about it because these people cease to exist in our minds outside the context of fixing whatever household issues we have, but truth is that the dirtiest secrets of this nation lie in the hands of the people installing its refrigerators.

Discovery #1: People are a-holes. Gordon is very careful not to accept anything more than a glass of water while on the job. But Gordon is an exception. If it’s offered, most of his colleagues won’t hesitate to drink a beer or four, smoke some weed, take a hit of meth – Yes. Meth. There are people out there offering their cable guys meth. – before getting on with the job. Now, you would think that the people sharing a cold one with the cable guy would be pretty chill, but apparently you would be wrong. More often than not, these jerks call up the cable company at the first sign of any issues with their service and rat their cable guy out.

“Um, yeaaah, my HBO won’t record.”

“Sir, have you tried pressing the “record” button on your remote?”

“I don’t know, I’m sure the guy that installed the box screwed it up, he was totally drunk.”

So the cable guy gets fired for drinking on the job. Should he have accepted the beer? Probably not. Is the person who offered the beer of their own volition and proceeded to rat out the cable guy going to hell? I’d put it at 70%.

Discovery #2: People think cable guys et al. don’t have eyes or ears or memories. The amount of illegal activity Gordon witnesses on a daily basis and is just expected to be cool about is schocking. It seems “Oh, don’t worry, it’s just the cable guy” is the universal attitude towards committing questionable to heinous deeds in the company of service providers. As in “No need to hide the body just now, friend, don’t you know cable guys can’t testify in a court of law?”

Discovery #3: Cable guy-ing is a terrifying vocation. Think about this: When you’re a cable guy, you have to go wherever the cable company sends you. So, anyone who can pick up a phone and make an appointment is on your list of potential clients. Anyone. Gordon was once sent to do a disconnect in South Dallas at the house of a guy who hadn’t been paying his bills. When Gordon climbed up to grab the dish off the roof, the guy came out with a shotgun and told him to “disconnect me and see what happens.” This man is almost certainly still enjoying his Time Warner experience.

We can all learn something from the tales of Gordon. For one, people are freakin’ nuts. And, more importantly, after this article is published, it’s only a matter of time before the NSA catches on to the intelligence-gathering potential of cable guys. Be careful out there, everyone.

Sarah Mowery is a Level 2 Student at DCH and intern blogger for the DCH website. She's also a student at SMU. You can find more of her comedy stylings HERE.