Tuesday, August 6th, 2002 | Life in Czeltistan

Today I have a special treat for you, boys and girls. It’s a little story about my crazy downstairs neighbor, Tony.

First, some background: Tony’s in his late-60s. He was born in Yugoslavia. According to him, when he was around 9, he had to flee because the army was conscripting pretty much any able-bodied male who was old enough to hold a rifle to fight in the war. He’s a little vague on what happened after that, but he eventually wound up in Italy for a few years and then came to America as a teenager. I have no idea how he’s managed to survive this long, as he seems to have no discernable trade (other than rooting through people’s garbage for things to have at his frequent front-lawn rummage sales), he smokes like a chimney (complete with lung-rattling cough), constantly has a beer in his hand, and is quite obviously insane. He frequently tells me little stories, such as how the squirrels and the robins speak to him, how my cats speak English when I’m not at home, and how he’s seen UFOs near the apartment. (During that last story, he kept pointing at streetlights up on the next block as examples and then later pointed at a passing plane.) He’s loads of fun that way.

So. My story.

About a year ago, I decided I’d get cable, since my TV reception pretty much sucks. After several visits from the cable company (why do they continually insist on sending people who don’t bring the correct equipment?), I finally got a guy who was all set to hook me up. I was psyched. It would be just in time for hockey season.

So the cable guy goes outside and does his hookup stuff, then comes back in to set me up. Hmm. Line’s not working. Guy goes back downstairs and checks it again. Works fine. In fact, it works fine all the way right up until the part where it has to take the little jog through Tony’s apartment to get to mine. Cable guy tells me something is wrong with the line somewhere between Tony’s wall and my apartment. Foolishly, we knock on the door and ask Tony if we can take a look.

Tony comes out and begins ranting about how the cable guy doesn’t know how to do his job, there’s no cable in his apartment (even though we show him the cable and where it enters his wall) and starts screaming at the guy to get out of our building. After about 15 minutes of this, the cable guy gives up and tells me that if I want cable, I’m either going to have to have the landlord force Tony to let him in on another visit or the landlord’s going to have to approve some rewiring to route the cable around Tony’s apartment. He apologizes, refunds my deposit and leaves.

For the next several weeks, every time Tony sees me, he starts up the rant about the cable guy and attempts to show me any wire he can find anywhere on the building so he can show me “where the cable actually is.” He shows me the phone lines several times, shows me part of an extension cord, etc., denies having any cables run through his apartment and then yells at me for letting the cable guy into the building in the first place. Every encounter ends with me telling him I’m not interested in talking to him and to just let it go.

Finally, after about a month, I see him sitting on his front porch. He calls me over to tell me that he knows the local TV stations are spying on him. I should watch the news — then I’ll see! They’re spying! And worst of all the offenders is (you guessed it) Time Warner Cable. And that’s why he had to cut their cable in his apartment — so they couldn’t spy on him with their cameras any more.

My head whips around. the cable? My cable? The one he claimed didn’t go anywhere near his apartment? Aaaaiigghhhhh!!!

So, I never did get around to calling the landlord to have the building rewired. Just haven’t gotten to it yet. Sure, I miss the cable, but it just doesn’t seem worth all of the hassle yet. Maybe this Fall. We’ll see.