4:47am on Tuesday morning.
That could be our rallying cry, you and me. It’s why the three or four of you come back to this blog every so often. And it’s why I work in radio about 60 hours a week and why I emcee the 4th of July celebration at Munster Centennial Park.
We love radio, and we love America.
It’s pretty tough times right now. Alexis and I watched the late news last night and halfway into the newscast she threw down a throw pillow – hence finally giving clarity to how that object got its name – and proclaimed.
Let’s see. In the wake of the Paris bombings, the whole country of Belgium is basically on house arrest. Authorities have credible information of a pending attack so everyone’s gotta stay home. There’s also warnings going out to Americans to watch anytime we go somewhere where there’s a lot of other people. Wow. That’s comforting.
And there’s the Channel 5 report that planes on the ground at Ohare are in danger of running into each other. In Chicago, a policeman is expected to be indicted this morning for shooting an unarmed black teenager. Their may be riots. The list goes on.
So amidst all of this turmoil, angst, fear and general skullduggery, my travails with Comcast don’t really seem all that important. It’s basically the ongoing story you’ve been reading about in which the local radio station tries to improve itself by moving seven blocks south into brand new studios on a college campus facility… but runs into a roadblock in trying to establish reliable internet. It’s not a story unique to WJOB, nor to businesses in general that are trying to improve what they offer to the local community.
To the three or four of you reading this, you might conclude the following – when you’re up against Comcast, and you’re just a little mom-and-pop business, you may very well be (excuse the vernacular) shit out of luck. A riff with Comcast might keep you up nights (like now) and it may potentially cost you tens of thousands of dollars of money you don’t have to give. But in the end, it’s simply an age-old story of the behemoth company not really caring all that much about the little guy and, in the end, how interesting can that be?
Here’s the answer – if any of the three or four of you really are true local radio lovers, then you may very well chime with the message that John Lennon once sent out:
I’m just sittin’ here watching the wheels go round and round
I really love to watch them roll
That’s the simple part of the message. Every so often, a listener will stop me in the cereal aisle at Jewels and want to talk about the show in the morning –
I get so upset at some of your callers. How do you just sit there? How do you have the patience to listen to them and engage them? I would hang up on them and go berserk.
There’s so much devastation and pain in the world and in the Region. How do you remain so calm on the air in the midst of it?
I usually nod and let them talk, shrug my shoulders, then as they leave I continue with the rather stressful routine of trying to pick out a healthy cereal. Alexis likes Whole Wheat Cheerios. I like Cracklin’ Oat Bran. But how about we try something new…. Never, no matter what they tell me, do I direct curious listeners to this most telling of John Lennon songs.
You see, if you’re truly local radio guy – if you’re committed to the craft so deeply that you really can AT TIMES put the interest of others before your own – then John Lennon’s words make perfect sense. You really are just sitting there watching the wheels go round and round. The only difference between you and the three other construction guys in the cereal aisle is that you got a microphone in front of you.
There’s a continuation of the John Lennon verse that rings true also, at least for me. As the three or four of you know who read this blog, I traded for 18 years in the pits of the Chicago Board of Trade. Then one day I didn’t trade. I did radio. It may or may not be true, but somehow I feel that I went from being a really greedy and insensitive man to one who listens to people and tries to do a little good in the world. It’s not that I’m inherently a good guy, or a do-gooder. I just like stories, and radio to me is the best ongoing story around. So here’s John Lennon’s whole verse.
I’m just sittin’ here watching the wheels go round and round
I really love to watch them roll
No longer riding on the merry-go-round
I just had to let it go
Since it’s only the three or four of you, I’ll come clean that other than spending time with my family, I love nothing more than to sit behind the mic along Indianapolis Boulevard to watch the wheels go round and round. And now that we’re in these swanky new studios with windows on to US41 and all the trucks, it’s not even just a figurative wheels going round and round. Every day thousands of vehicles, and hundreds of mammoth trucks, zoom by within feet of my window and I can literally watch their wheels go round and round.
Time for an aside. In the midst of dealing with yet another Comcast emergency, last night after I got home from New York Alexis and I went for some dinner at Giovanni’s Restaurant in Munster. I’ve been going there since the late Pro LaDuca ran it when I was a kid. Alexis likes the stuffed Artichokes.
So we’re sitting there and a blond woman comes up to the table.
I just want to thank you for being so patient with me as I told my story. You let me get my message out there and I can’t tell you how thankful I am for that.
I gave her the blank stare.
You don’t remember me? I’m Sandy Zacharias. I ran for Dyer town clerk. You and I talked on the air about it and….
As I racked my brain for that specific series of conversations, no doubt with a look of confusion on my face, Alexis engaged the woman in conversation about her run for public office. Sandy mentioned something to the extent that she could endure years of chemo but not attacks by certain individuals as she tried to run for office.
Aha, a clue, I thought, she has or had cancer. Still, nothing in terms of recollection. As Alexis and Sandy spoke, I sureptiously looked over Sandy’s shoulder at the TV screen above the bar. You’re not gonna believe this, but at the Maui Classic IU at one point had a ten point lead in the second half over Wake Forest… and with three seconds left the Wake Forest guard dribbled around Yogi Ferrell and banked one high off the glass to give the Blue Deacons the victory. Unbelievable. Don Fisher must be going crazy on WJOB.
You don’t talk much outside of the radio, do you?
Alexis answered for me. No, he really doesn’t. Outside of being on the radio, he’s really kind of quiet. That’s why he married me, so at least one of us could be sociable.
Eventually, Sandy went back to her table. I really do wish her the best in the fight against cancer, and I really do hope she continues to give them hell in Dyer. I just wish like holy hell I could remember interviewing her on WJOB.
Enough. Let’s watch the wheels go round and round concerning Comcast. As the three or four of you well know, I’ve been dealing with what I view as deficient service from Comcast for 18 months. We connect our new studio to our old using Comcast internet, and that’s part of the ongoing joke. It doesn’t always work. Often we go to dead air or to audio that sounds like someone’s starting a pipe-coating machine in the background. It’s been a complete struggle and threatens our ability to continue as on ongoing radio station.
So if you’re a fan of John Lennon, and in the midst of situations that could very well be frustrating you instead opt to watch the wheels go round and round, then you’ll like this.
I arrived home from a long weekend to see my daughter and sister and her family in New York around 5pm, and I immediately checked my email. Since it’s been going on for 18 months, I fully expected there to be some sort of dead air or pipe-coating machine problem… but this time I got surprised. Instead of our internet, it was our Comcast phones.
You see, if you just watch the wheels go round, then eventually they’ll turn in another direction. It’s all interesting.
Let me back up. Since we’ve been having so many problems with Comcast for so many months, our problem finally got kicked up to a regional manager. That’s a bigger wheel to watch. And I’ve been texting and emailing and talking on the phone with this bigger wheel, a Mr. Kevin Connolly out of the Comcast office in Chicago. He assures me that 1. All of the instruments they have agree that our Comcast service is in working order and 2. He’ll get to the root of the problem.
To start in that process of everything’s working fine but let’s fix it anyhows… Mr. Connolly asked me for a time when he could remotely power cycle down our Comcast routers. I told him Friday afternoon would be a good time between 2 and 4pm. I was on a flight to New York at that time, but from all indications that’s when he power cycled the router. It meant 3-5 minutes of no internet for us at both of our sites.
Ever since then, I now have learned, we’ve not only had the ongoing problem of dead air once in a while because we lose connection between the two studios… we have also lost our Comcast phone service.
You see, if you just sit back and watch the Comcast wheels go round, the story changes. There’s new twists, plotlines. Just sit back and enjoy the entertainment.
At first, on Friday and Saturday, we evidently only lost a couple of phone lines. But by yesterday morning, Debbie emailed our third-party vendor –
I don't understand what is going on. Our office line is down along with three out of four call in lines down.
This morning we have had dead air for four and five minutes at a time during the morning show. This happened probably five times.
What do we have to do to get this all fixed. We are getting calls left and right. It's embarrassing.
Thank you for our help.
Here’s Rachel’s response:
The Comcast box is stuck off line
Can you have someone go to the box with a paper clip and reset the box (on the back there is a little hole to rest)
It will take about 3 minutes to come back up after the reset
The wheels… oh the wheels.
They don’t see anything wrong on the Comcast side they even see lines ringing into the 1230 line
I am going to keep the scheduled tech they are trying to find someone to come inside they have a lot of outages all over because of the weekend storms they are still working on
But they see you up and running
They will be there ASAP so you can show them the problems
So in the end, after a marvelous bowl of pasta at Giovanni’s (and a not-so-marvelous ending to the IU game), I gathered up the old gang and we met to find a way that we could do radio this morning. Remember, I’m supposed to be off from doing the show this week. My staff tells me I’m burnt out and “just go away for a while.”
Instead, I spent a good five hours last night trying to keep us on the air. First, in anticipation of Comcast trying to tell me this morning that the phones on their end are working fine, I called in my IT guy Mark to come take a look. We tinkered around for a while and, yes, when Comcast tries to tell me this morning that the phones are working fine, I can, with a reasonable amount of confidence, tell them that they’re full of shit.
Now you see what’s happening here. We’re entering another area of embarrassment. Verlie Suggs is scheduled to do my show this morning. As a matter of fact, she’s probably doing it right now. I refuse to listen. I am embarrassed. She is probably doing as good of a show as she can under the circumstances from brand new studios where there is:
- no phones to call in and interact with her
- intermittent dead air because we lose the Comcast connection between the new studios and the tower site.
Excuse the vernacular, but it’s a cluster(y)uck. There is another option. We could broadcast from our old studios. This is a possibility, but remember that we have moved to another location. What is left behind is bare-bones broadcasting equipment. Instead of paying for six call-in lines, we only have two. There’s no audio playout computer at the old studio, so you have to play all the music, bumpers, IDs, spots even off of your Itunes. If you’re a radio guy or gal at all, you can imagine the challenges.
Challenges shmallenges. So last night I called in the audio guru, Angel Jimenez, who can fix anything. Here’s you challenge, should you choose to accept it, I told him. Let’s fix up this old studio as best we can so that Verlie can do a radio show from here with the least amount of hassle. So into the wee hours of the night, Angel and I did the best we could. I’d tell you all that we did, instead I’ll just show you the email I sent to producer Ryan and station manager Debbie.
This has not been a good evening. We'll deal with that later.
For Tuesday morning's show, you can
1. do the show from new studio without phones or
2. do the show from old studio with phones.
I prefer that you do the show from the old studio. I have been going at it with Mark Smith and Angel for a few hours and we have established a few things.
First, Mark Smith has determined that we don't have phones at 7150 because of Comcast. I don't give a shit what they say about the phones working... they're not working.
Secondly, Angel and I did a ton of things to prepare the old studio for broadcast. We
1. put in a new mic mixer
2. marked all the mikes with tape and a number
3. put in a headset
4. bought a heater (which is only to run while people are there)
5. fixed the phones. use 989-8509 since we can't get on 845-1100 to forward the phones.
6. put in a laptop to play spots from. It's the black one in studio. password - xxxxxxxx. internet is wjob with password of xxxxxxxx
7. i used google cloud to transfer all of the existing spots on to the laptop.
Old studio is ready to go. Angel is set to be there at 515 to meet Ryan and take care of any last minute problems. Turn new heater on as soon as you arrive.
The three or four of you wanted to get a peek at what it’s really like to live a life of local radio. Well there it is. You come back from visiting with your daughter and sister in New York… and you go straight to work for five hours trying to keep your station on the air and your business still running. That’s the reality of it.
But we haven’t gotten to the best part… the part that John Lennon would like the most. It’s the wheels going round and round and the irony of it all. Late at night, I decided to give Mr. Connolly (the Comcast suit) an update of what’s going on with his Comcast service when it comes to little old WJOB in Hammond, Indiana. Before I give you a few excerpts from this late-night (or was it early morning?) email to Mr. Connolly, I want to reiterate that the problems we’re having with Comcast… from the phones to the lost connection to the degraded audio that sounds like gears mashing together… could also be, to some extent or all extent, our fault and not Comcast’s. I’ve hired, to the tune of thousands of dollars, consultants and techs that say otherwise… and I’ve purchased new equipment – again, to the tune of thousands of dollars – and I’ve even rewired our buildings with new Cat-5 – again.. you get the picture. Still, after all this, I do entertain the idea that some of these 18 months of issues lie with us and not Comcast. This is for the many lawyers who may be joining the three or four of you in reading this blog.
Here’s some of the email to Mr. Kevin Connolly of Comcast.
Dear Kevin Connolly of Comcast:
Please be advised that the problems regarding service for WJOB at 7150 Indianapolis Blvd. and 6405 Olcott have not been resolved and are worsening. Without going in to the history of 18 months of deficient Comcast service, an immediate problem is still that we have drops in sending the audio signal from our new site (7150) to our tower site (6405). This has been going on for 18 months and… we lost our connection today and had dead air. This is beyond unacceptable.
But perhaps of more immediate nature... Kevin, on Friday you asked for a time to power-cycle our Comcast router... and since then we have had limited phone service… our office lines don't work at all and for today's show we had one on-air line out of six to conduct our radio show.
... now there are no phone lines available, in our office or in our studio. We are also showing a very weak connection between 7150 and 6405 Olcott. I called in on an emergency basis my IT team - at another great expense - and they assure me that your Comcast phone lines are down. The internet may be working, albeit weakly, but the phone lines coming in from Comcast are down, according to my IT team.
At this point, I must remind you that we are an AM radio station and as such are charged with relaying information to the general public during emergencies. With winter already here, it becomes all that more important to remain on the air.
I have been dealing with deficient service from Comcast for nearly 18 months. Mr. Connolly, I get the feeling that neither you nor your company have given our challenges the attention necessary to fix the problems. Your answer seems to be - we checked the lines from home office and everything is good. Then you might send a tech out and he does not have any clue what is really the problem. It is certainly embarrassing to me personally when my local radio station goes off the air almost daily... and it should be equally as embarrassing to you and your company that you are a part, or even to blame, for threatening the ability of WJOB to continue to do business and to continue to relay information of an emergency nature to the local area.
Mr. Connolly, I trust that after 18 months of this problem that you will finally give WJOB the attention necessary to fix our connectivity problems. If not, please be straightforward enough to tell me that you simply cannot provide a quality connection between two sites that are seven blocks apart. I will hence make other arrangements.
Thank you in advance for your immediate consideration,
… So I’ve been blogging in my kitchen to you for a couple hours now. It’s 7:24am. Alexis has now come down and has been listening to WJOB.
Verlie’s on the air. She keeps saying – ‘anybody out there who can get ahold of Mayor Anthony Copeland, tell him that we’re broadcasting from the old studios. I don’t want him to never come again because he went to the old studios and no one was there.’”
I know, I know… this sounds embarrassing. It sounds like we don’t know what we’re doing. We don’t even know from day-to-day where we’ll broadcast from… and of course there’s always the dead air.
But out of Alexis’s update, I take solace in two things:
- We’re on the air. That’s good.
- We’re broadcasting from the old studios, where Angel and I did a ton of late-night improvements and you never know how that’s gonna turn out.
Alexis tells me also that terrorists may have shot down another Russian aircraft… and that planes going in to Texas airports are being followed by lasers. You see, we really are in tough times. No matter who you are, these days it hurts.
So I’ll give you a little irony. You can chuckle if you want, or maybe even give a little Snidely Whiplash snicker. Do what you want with it. Me, I’m just watching the wheels. And, no matter what, I really love to watch them roll. Here’s the response from the email that I sent to Mr. Connolly.
Automatically reply from Kevin Connolly: I am currently out of the office. If you are in need of immediate assistance please contact Comcast Commercial Customer Care @ 800.391.300
2:13pm Tuesday afternoon
Concerning the continuing (18-month) struggle to get internet, phone, tv and Metro E all working at the WJOB studios in the Purdue Calumet Commercialization and Manufacturing Excellence Center... As you discussed with WJOB station manager Debbie Wargo, Comcast said yesterday that our phones were working according to central office and the problems were on our end. Comcast changed this position today, and tech Mehesan xxxxx is here now to fix the phones.
In the course of discussing our Metro E (or H over EFC) direct connection from 7150 Indianapolis Blvd. to 6405 Olcott Ave.... Mehesan noticed that although the Metro E service is installed, IT IS NOT ACTIVATED. This is odd in that the Metro E service does allow us to connect sometimes to our main studio, although as you well know we have continuing drops and degraded audio.
Mehesan says that the drops and degraded audio may be due to the fact that the Metro E service has not been activated. He did not know how we could get service, albeit poor quality of service, without the Metro E service being activated.
Once again - and this is for the benefit of Mr. Kevin Connolly, who is cc'd on my emails but does not respond - once again I, along with two members of my staff have been forced to give a good portion of our workday to trying to fix Comcast problems. Right now, we're working with Mehesan to re-insert all of our phone lines in the right hunt groups... an arduous process.
Mehesan suggests that we call the Metro E office at 800-741-4141 to activate our Metro E service. Will you do this or should I?
Thanks in advance,
Now please remember that this is just one day of dealing with Comcast. We've been doing this off and on for 18 months. Here is what comes next. In another venture into the land of ridiculous, Comcast's Metro E department, which is the area in charge of connecting our two studios, says their tech on the scene doesn't know what he's talking about... that the service is up and running. Comcast says it's our network's fault that it doesn't work. Here's another set of emails.
Just spoke with Comcast again
The Service is and has been turned up
But in the past email with Jaime I see the Comcast techs said they did not need your IT people? I am not sure how that works
This should have needed to be configured on your network. (this could be why the tech thought it was not turned up because it is possible not connected to your network)
I (will try) to find out what steps need to be taken to get this up and running on your network.
3:15pm Tuesday afternoon - Which COmcast person do you believe?
Not gonna happen. As mentioned earlier in this rather meandering, I used to be a greedy, insensitive pit trader at the Chicago Board of Trade. I'm a changed person. What I do now is watch the wheels go round and round... and even in the most ridiculous of situations, I really love to watch them roll. If you look hard enough, there is beauty and entertainment in just about everything... except maybe cancer and terrorism. Now when it comes to Comcast, you know and I know that John Lennon would likely just sit back and just watch them roll. But he might also venture into a bit of wager. Which would be this:
Do you bet that the Comcast guy on the scene - Mehasan - is right that the Metro E has not been activated? Or do you put your money on the Comcast guy back at Metro E headquarters, who says Mehasan is wrong and that it looks like Metro E has not been activated because WJOB's network is somehow corrupted? It's a tossup. To tell you the truth, I'm not even sure where I'd put John Lennon's money on this one.
This is similar to deja vu all over again. Yesterday, our phones were down and Comcast told you and us that it was our fault, our network. Clearly this turned out not to be the case.
Now today, one of Comcast's own techs tells us that the Metro E (E over HFC) service is not activated... but the Comcast Metro E people say yes it is... that the Comcast tech was mistaken. Just like yesterday, Comcast says it is our network that is the problem.
The issue here is that there is no network. We are plugged directly in to the Metro E box, as we were instructed to do... to avoid any problems with our interior network. So please inform Comcast that there is no network. Perhaps they will do what they did yesterday, which is to finally address and find the problem and not continue to blame it on us.
I am sorry to get you involved in a situation that no longer borders on but actually is ridiculous. Let me know what the next missive from Comcast is.
Thanks, Jim Dedelow