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March 15, 2009

Maki Madness, the trip to Uganda and dealing with Comcast



If you don't have anything better to do today  and have a weird sense of humor, you can register for the Maki Madness sushi-eating contest at RA Sushi. Today is the last day to enter. There is something about a sushi pigout that is so antithetical to the whole Zen experience of eating sushi that you have to love it.

I desperately want someone either to enter or go watch next Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. and then report back. My stomach isn't up to it. ...

The grand prize is free sushi for a year, but the place is probably banking on the fact that the winner won't ever want to look at sushi again, let alone eat it.

How is your day going so far? I hope better than mine. This is the day my daughter leaves for Uganda, so I'm a little grumpy. She told me that a friend of hers whose job takes her to Africa frequently has come back with parasites four different times.

When Gailor asked her whether she should be checked out by a doctor when she got back, the friend said, "Oh, don't worry. If something takes up residence in Casa Large, you'll know."

Casa Large. I like to think of my body as a temple, but not as a house for anything. Ugh.

And then I spent a lovely half an hour before breakfast having a live chat with Jesseca (with an "e") of Comcast. I know she wasn't in the U.S. from the patterns of her written English. This was after an hour yesterday before breakfast with Charisse38811.

I wonder why they picked those names? Especially the one with numbers. Very strange.

I never know what tone to take with them. I just want to get it over with quickly, but they are always so polite, even courtly, it makes me respond in kind. I used to use an American idiom or two just to see if they understood, since we were having the polite fiction they were Americans, but now that just seems mean.

I just want my DVR to work.

(Lloyd Fox/Sun photographer)

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 9:31 AM | | Comments (59)


Every time I called Comcast about my DVR not working, the conversation ended up with unplugging it for a couple of minutes then plugging it back in. (This, I guess, is the DVR version of "rebooting".)

Finally I started doing that before I called Comcast and it has worked every time. I haven't had to call them since.

Yeah, I knew enough to try that first because that's how I fix my computer at work. Believe me, TiVo is so vastly superior to the Comcast DVR I can't even tell you. EL

Now you've opened Pandora's box. I have a file on Comcast about an inch thick with service problems. I won't go into the tedious details, but I had to ask the state attorney general to get involved, and that finally got a resolution.

My favorite Comcast story was from a coworker whose husband spent an entire day at home waiting for a service call. Finally, a Comcast truck pulled up in front of the house--then took off again. When they called to ask what was up, the person on the phone said the driver reported they were not home--but he never even got out of the truck!

I still hear the hold music for Comcast in my nightmares.

EL, they would be "Americans".
Although Charisse38811 might be a Cylon.

Um, if TiVo is "vastly superior" to Comcast's DVR, why don't you use a TiVo? And "Because it is included in the price" is no excuse. Microsoft "includes" many things on my computer I wouldn't touch with a ten-foot Hungarian. You've probably spent more of your time (which IS worth something) on Comcast than it would have cost to buy a TiVo.

Please, give me some credit. Comcast told me my TiVo DVR wouldn't work with the digital cable box. TiVo confirmed it;maybe it's because it's not one of the new ones. (I've never had a cable box before until I got my new HD TV.) So I use my wonderful TiVo DVR, which is quite ancient now, on my small kitchen TV, without a cable box, but then I only get the basic cable channels. It's worth it. I have TiVo service for the lifetime of my TiVo DVR, the best investment I ever made. I don't know if a new TiVo DVR would work with the digital cable box, but I don't need another monthly charge or lifetime charge if they even sell that anymore -- at least not till my old one dies. EL

I like when servuice support people tell you that you hqave to turn off or unplug a device for several minutes, as if the electricity is stubbornly hanging around.

Concast. Talk about parasites. Cable worms.

Those names sort of make sense. When Gateway still had all their user support in one of the Dakotas (don't ask me which, they are the same to me) I dealt with them occasionally. They were manned by Americans, and yet they had the most interesting names for Dakotans like Guillermo, Pierre, or Svetlana. After a while I realized that these were all stage names, names for business that were chosen to be unique and give the sense of personal service.Hey I dealt with Chuey and not Associate #4381. Good psychology.

So Jesseca with an e is such because Jessica was probably already taken unless she is really Jessice. So no, Charisse33881 doesn't make any sense – even Charisse3 seems far fethced.

I always get "Tony" from India. Must be because I have Fios.

"I like when servuice support people tell you that you hqave to turn off or unplug a device for several minutes, as if the electricity is stubbornly hanging around."

Actually, depending on how good the power supply is the electricity can hang around for a while, due to filtering capacitors that do store electricity. Not so bad for cable boxes, but a good computer can hold enough of a charge to keep the innards from going completely dead for several minutes. Again, depending on the power supply, just turning it off may not be enough - you should actually unplug it. Just as you should when you don't want to waste electricity to keep the "instant on" working.

There are Tonys in India. When I was in Goa, the rock band where I was eating did the "here are the folks in the band" thing. I don't think I will ever forget, "And Ignatius on drums!"

Laser-Guided Laura Lee, Cylon? Frack.

With Comcast Rhapsody (the music part) via email my requests were answered by Suganya and Prathap. Judging from the times of day they responded, it had to be India.

With Comcast cable TV and internet down here, its local folks. Not sure why its different, but the digital menus and VoD are different here too, its like the stuff that was in Baltimore like 10 years ago.

At the company where I used to work in Baltimore, when the helpdesk got outsourced thru IBM, it went north to Toronto. Toronto certainly has its share of Indians, Pakistanis, and others whom IBM hired. That agreement was terminated after a year, because the end-users who called that help desk raised such a stink about how bad support was.

Sometimes a comcast service truck sits in the parking lot here for several hours in the afternoon, leaving right about 5pm.
You have to wonder what poor customer is waiting at home for this person who, may or may not show up.

Wow, RiE! That's what the DSL support guy seemed to be saying (really heavy accent) while I was giving him a hard time about that "shut it down for 5 minutes" stuff being the dumbest thing I'd ever heard.

Back when MCI was still a long distance carrier, I spent a couple weeks in and out of their Hunt Valley customer service office, doing some contract work. The service personnel seemed to answer every call giving a different name. When a "supervisor was demanded, they would also hand off to any available person saying, "Be my supervisor for line 3..." I'm sure that Comcast and Verizon would not pull this same prink........

When a "supervisor was demanded, they would also hand off to any available person saying, "Be my supervisor for line 3..."

Eve, from what I've read, this has become SOP in just about all the call centres. At all costs, they are not to hand off to someone who actually has the authority to fix things.

Managers hate to be bothered by reality.

When a "supervisor was demanded, they would also hand off to any available person saying, "Be my supervisor for line 3..."

Another illusion shattered.

Ohhh Comcast... how do I love thee? Let me count the ways... Oh. ZERO.

I always got great service when I pressed the option for "to cancel your service press 2 (or whatever)" -- then they give you great deals to try and keep your business. And you at least get someone who speaks without an accent who you can actually understand.

PCB Rob wrote: With Comcast cable TV and internet down here, its local folks.

Here too. I know--used to work with--the woman who manages their call center here. (So I guess I'm lucky. When I want to talk up the chain the chain of command, I can skip the fake supervisor charade, if they do that. I'm going to ask her about that.)

I'm just happy to see all my fellow secret sci-fi geeks revealing themselves here in the Sandbox. Guess we'll all be tuning in for the BSG finale Friday night, eh? Frackin' right.

There are a lot of us, and not so secret. :-) EL

When I bought my house 2 years ago, I asked the previous owners if they had cable and if so, did they like the service? They said they had Comcast, didn't like it, cancelled; but they continued to get the service without being billed for it.

I called Comcast when I moved in, asking for an upgrade; I was told "we don't have service in your area". So I continue to have cable without paying for it. I know that's wrong, but I figured I'd brought it to their attention, so not shutting off my service is their problem.

This doesn't have anything to do with food, but EL instigated it!

Carol in Hampden--as Bucky might say, suhweet!

Syfy! What the frack?

Any news of Gailor?

Thank you for asking. No. :-( But the good news is that I guess I would have heard if her plane crashed. She doesn't have a computer with her, though, so I won't hear from her often. EL

My old roommate in Rosedale had free Comcast for years, and he called them about a couple of times. He finally had to start paying for it when he needed a box to get their digital signal.

I can skip the fake supervisor charade, if they do that. I'm going to ask her about that.)

And, you think they would admit it??

My golf buddy works for Comcast, in sales. He's my inside track if I ever need them to do something.
I'll have to ask him about the supervisor thing next time out. If I remember.

Comcast's call center for the Baltimore area is definitely in White Marsh, unless they've changed things in the three months since I stopped working for the company. There's also a call center in PG County. They are very proud of the fact that they don't outsource calls to India like Verizon does.

Well, this wasn't a call. It was a live chat at 5 a.m., so maybe that's the difference. Or maybe I happened to get the two people whose native language isn't English who work in White Marsh. :-) EL

I once called 1-800-COMCAST and got connected to an Hispanic sounding woman in Canada. (She said she could not help me since she was in Canada, and I need to call the local White Marsh office.)

However, Comcast does outsource after hours commercial support to Manitoba. Or did. I haven't had to deal with that particular circle of hell in this job.

(To be fair the people in Manitoba were often extremely competent and helpful. They also didn't have rights to do anything. The people in Philadelphia, on the other hand, had the rights to fix things, but wouldn't.)

BTW, in the world of at least a LITTLE help for customer service calls, check out It's got a database of how to get out of the endless voice-activated loop on most customer service hotlines and talk to a real human being sooner. Although there is no guarantee whether the human will be in the U.S., India, Indonesia or Caprica.... For me, it just means I'm not QUITE as frustrated and furious by the time I talk to a person as I would be if I kept getting told by Cathy Computer to "press 1 if this is correct."

Also, get FIOS if you can. Verizon's customer service is nearly as dreadful as Comcast's, but the product is better, so you don't have to deal with them as often!

PCB Rob, your comment reminded me that there was a period (pre-Sopranos) when we just had basic cable. One day our son who was home visiting from college asked me how long we had had the premium channels. I said we didn't, but he demonstrated that we did--the technician had done something wrong in setting us up, but they didn't lose much on us because we didn't bother to check channels we didn't THINK we were getting. It didn't last long, unfortunately.

My old roommate had basic cable as well, and he tried to tell them that. You're right, there was a time when HBO and some of the other premium channels also had channels in the basic range that could be picked up for free.

We had a term for that, being caught in an endless maze of computer-generated prompts. It was "voice mail jail".

Dahlink wrote: Carol in Hampden--as Bucky might say, suhweet!

I've had several misgivings since posting my comment. What if a Comcast rep is monitoring this blog, figures out who I am, and I get billed for 8 years of service??

Fortunately, this is a pseudonym.

Fl Rob, we have something we call "Eternal Hold" that Verizon does. They seem to know when you are on your cell phone and make it really really long then, just so they can run your minutes up. I think they are hoping you'll give up and hang up.

Not Carol in Hampden - friends of mine years ago found that they had "free" pay per view and watched thousands of dollars worth of unscrambled PPV movies and events over a year or two and then got billed for everything once Comcast figured it out.

Not Carol--just be glad you don't have a less common name--like Dahlink! Isn't there a statute of limitations for cases like this (hmpstd?)

Any issues with Comcast can be solved with two e-mail addresses and phone numbers that I have gotten through DAYS of dealing with the horrible cable monopoly of Baltimore City!! Just ask me for them and you will get quick results (kind've sounds like a scam, but it's actually helpful).

Have you seen the new Comcast commercials with the monotone, zombie like folks singing (for lack of a better word)? Ugh! It drives me crazy everytime I see it, but then I can't get the stupid jingle out of my head...Oh great! The mere mention of it and it's back.

Ms Trixie, there is one version with 3 or 4 female (teen type) voices that almost sounds like chant (I'm pretty sure I heard it on WTOP, since its a radio spot and TOP is the only commercial radio station I listen to.) That one I love. I keep hoping it will make TV but has not so far (its not the female versions I've seen on TV.) But, yea, those are going to stay in your head for a very long time. (I hope Read Street Ed doesn't see this swerve on topics.)

Dahlink wrote: Not Carol--just be glad you don't have a less common name--like Dahlink! Isn't there a statute of limitations for cases like this (hmpstd?)

A woman where I work has the same name as I - we're always getting emails sent to the wrong person. Recently, she wrote "I expect you're about my age, because 'Carol' stopped being popular in the early 1960s". That was a depressing disclosure. Here I've been working out, trying to look less than my age, but my name gives my age away?!

My [OLDER] brother is an attorney; I'll ask him about the statute of limitations for Comcast transgressions and report back.

My [older] attorney brother has advised me that I can't be held accountable for free Comcast service because I never signed a contract with them. Justice rules!

Almost all "Robins" and "Barbaras" are from the late '50s early 60's too. "Heathers" were born in the 80's as were Ashley's and Ambers. Not trying to generalize, it's only been something I've noted...

There is a name tracker website out there that shows the rise and fall of name popularity. My name peaked around 1950, I think, and it's been downhill ever since. We have new little cousins named Sofia and Hannah, and those names are both in the current top ten for girls. What I love is that our Hannah had a great-grandmother named Hanna, so it has come full-circle.

Dahlink -- the general statute of limitations in Maryland is 3 years, but there could be any number of defenses to a claim by Comcast for unpaid cable service. [Note to Carol/"Carol" -- true, you may not have signed a contract with Comcast, but what did you think you were doing when you plugged one end of a coaxial cable into the Comcast wall jack and the other end into your TV? I'm not shilling for Comcast, with whom I've had a sour relationship -- I'm just making an observation.]

First names do have cycles, which are fascinatng. The book Feakonomics has a fasincating chapter on the relation of first names and socioeconomic status. Because of these correlations you can guess someone's age by their name sometimes. Met anybody under 80 named Gladys, Esther, Vera, Mildred or Verna? There is a cohort where you can't swing a dead cat without hitting some variant of Jennifer or Lisa.

ever hear the song 27 Jennifers, Owl?

Hey, Lissa, watch out for that cat!

The 70s were full of Jennifers.

I've only met one other person with my name. Unfortunately, she was quite a little sparkplug. More than once, someone walked up and slapped me because of something they'd heard I'd done. Except it wasn't me. It was the other Lissa.

My name peaked with the popularity of Ipana toothpaste.

I just figured Lissa was short for Melissa.

In what kind of environment do strangers slap people? Sounds fun.

Trixie, I'm confused.

Nope, Owlie. It is my full legal first name.

Lissa - Owl said you can't swing a dead cat without hitting some varient of Lisa or Jennifer.

Ah, got it, Trixie. Actually, my name is a variant of my mother's name, Elizabeth.

Might as well tell the story. A friend of my mother's child couldn't say, "Aunt Lizzie", so he called my mother "Aunt Lissa." Folks thought it was pretty.

My father's father died 6 days before I was born (I'm the oldest grandchild on that side). Before he went, he asked my father what he was going to name the child.

"Why, M-- A-- P--, Jr., of course!"

My father's father asked what he'd do if I turned out to be a girl. Stunned, my father sputtered out, "Lissa Anne P--, I guess."

I've been causing people to sputter ever since.

Funny the images we get in our minds. I never thought of Lissa as being short for Melissa. I always imagined you were named after some icelandic goddess. Or that you were one.

You ever wonder if that other Lissa gets slapped for things you've said?

If it had not been for the story of her brother and the peanut butter sandwich, I'd have thought that Lissa, like Athena, sprang full-grown.

Yes, Laura Lee, I always prayed the other Lissa got slapped for things I said or did.

Alas, I just wasn't up to her standards. Even in my wild and misspent youth.

My name is too pronounceable to be Icelandic.


Loved your sputter story.

hmpstd wrote: [Note to Carol/"Carol" -- true, you may not have signed a contract with Comcast, but what did you think you were doing when you plugged one end of a coaxial cable into the Comcast wall jack and the other end into your TV? I'm not shilling for Comcast, with whom I've had a sour relationship -- I'm just making an observation.]

The cable was dangling from the wall when I moved in; I thought "hey, this plug looks like it goes into that slot on my TV".

But I get your point. Now I feel guilty all over again. Thanks, hmpstd :)

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About this blog
Richard Gorelick was appointed The Baltimore Sun's restaurant critic in September 2010. Before joining the paper staff fulltime, he contributed freelance criticism and features articles about food to area and regional publications. Along the way, he dispatched for short-distance trucking companies, shilled for cultural non-profits, and assisted in cognitive neurology research – never the subject, always the control.

He takes restaurants seriously but not himself, and his favorite restaurant is the one you love, too.

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