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Cable Techs: No Longer Uneducated, Grumpy Slobs!

So reports the New York Times in a curious article today that delivers a back-handed compliment to the cable industry’s front-line installation technicians.

“Long depicted as slovenly cranks who dodged growling dogs and tracked mud on the living room carpet, cable guys (and gals) these days often have backgrounds in engineering and computer science,” the article states.

Let’s unwind this strange and inaccurate précis.

First, cable technicians have always been skilled professionals, versed in the finer points of RF, DOCSIS, signal distortion and coax. (If they weren’t, they didn’t stay employed in cable very long.) That’s not new.

What’s also weird is the story suggests that a new uniform for cable techs — “button-down dress shirts and slacks” — means they’re less sloppy and more educated. Folks, just because you have a PhD doesn’t mean you are less likely to be a disgusting slob. In general, I’m not one to call the New York Times elitist but there’s a white-collar bias evident here.

And what does having to “dodge growling dogs” have to do with anything? Is an allegedly stupider, more slovenly cable guy more likely to get attacked by your Pomeranian than a dude wearing an Oxford? The New York Times suggests that pets also have a cultural bias that inclines them to favor people wearing button-down shirts.

Heaven knows that cable installers have had their share of bad publicity. There were two separate Comcast techs who fell asleep on the job in customers’ homes back in 2006. And remember the outside sales rep for Verizon FiOS caught masturbating while watching a woman work in her garden?

But given the millions of interactions between cable/satellite/telco TV installers and consumers, these are obviously isolated incidents. I realize the NYT article is a trend story trying to show that Something New Is Happening. But that shouldn’t be at the expense of nuance and, frankly, the facts. Relying on trite stereotypes (Jim Carrey in 1996’s The Cable Guy — really?) is lazy.

Meanwhile, there’s an anecdote in the piece of the Time Warner Cable customer in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood who has “six televisions, five Xboxes, several PlayStations and multiple iPads and laptops” — in a three-story townhouse.

Holy freaking cow, there’s your story! Why in the blue blazes does a family of five need five Xboxes or six TVs? Do they even talk to each other given this absurd excess of connected devices? C’mon, NYT, dig a little deeper.


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