Ramblings from the Gryphon Rose

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Ma Bell is Spinning in Her Grave.

I’ve posted before about the circuit box in my house. Well, I’ve had fun with the phone recently, as well.
When we moved, I decided to consolidate bills a little and get both local and long-distance on the same plan. After looking around, I chose AT&T’s CallVantage setup. It’s a digital system, so it runs through a router that’s attached to the computer, and your voicemail and control panel are all online. But it offers unlimited local and long-distance calling for a very good price. Sounds good, right?
First I had fun getting it. I went through about eight different customer service reps, on at least five different occasions. First they said that I had to switch my local and long-distance over to them. Fine, but that took a while. Then they told me that I had to relocate it from the apartment to the house. Okay, except that I later found out that wasn’t actually necessary at all, because they stop your regular service so that you can set up your same number through the digital system. Then they sent the router to the apartment, and I had to track it down, then go back and get it—fortunately the neighbor had brought it in and left it on the hall radiator (that’s always a good place to leave unfamiliar packages that might contain heat-sensitive materials, after all—on an active radiator). But finally I got it all home.
Ah, and then the rest of the fun started. The instructions said to disconnect the exterior phone line at the NID box. That’s the gray plastic box (sometimes black or green) on the outside of your house. Except that NIDs are only about ten to twenty years old. My house is a lot older than that, and apparently hasn’t had the phone system upgraded. So, no NID box. I did find a small white box, whose contents look nothing like the NID described or pictured. I decided not to mess with it for now.
Then I set up the router. That part was pretty easy. But the next step is to run a phone line from the router to the nearest phone jack. You’re supposed to have disconnected your exterior line already, which means that your phone jacks comprise a closed circuit—they’re all connected but have no input. When you plug that line from the router into one of them, you provide new input from the router, and all of your jacks are now on that system. Cool, right?
Except the cable modem and computer are in my office, and so that’s where the router goes. But I don’t have a phone jack in there. We’ve only got three jacks in the house—one regular jack in the dining room (right next to the kitchen counter) and two old four-prong jacks upstairs, one in the master bedroom and one in our daughter’s room. Nada in the office.
Of course, the exterior line wasn’t disconnected yet anyway, since I couldn’t find the box, so I figured I’d skip that step for now. I plugged a two-jack adapter into the spot on the router, and attached both a regular desk phone and a cordless phone. So at least we had our phone working again.
Cut to a week ago. I decide it’s time to try again. Looking at the little box outside, I traced its cords into the laundry room and to an odd object attached to our ceiling. Initially we’d thought it was the old doorbell, but that’s up in the kitchen in a bottom cabinet (I know, I know). And there are two lines running from this thing, both looking suspiciously like phone lines. And one runs right toward where that dining room jack would be, and looks just like the wire that comes up out of the floor there. So I disconnected the wires that lead into this exposed object on the ceiling. Now our jacks are cut off from the outside world. Then I ran a long (really long) phone wire from the router into my daughter’s room, and used a four-prong adaptor I’d bought to connect it to the jack there. And then I tried the cordless phone that’s plugged into the dining room jack (I’d plugged it in back when I thought they were going to transfer our regular landline to the house and then switch it to digital, and had never unplugged it).
Hm. I took a look at the weird object again, and realized that, if the one wire is the dining room jack, and the other wire is the two upstairs jacks, they don’t connect. They were both connected to the object, but not to each other. Which means now they aren’t connected at all. Two separate lines.
And I’d disconnected my two upstairs phones from the router, since it only has a spot for one cord and that was running into the jack in the other room. And I couldn’t connect either of them to the jack in the master bedroom because it’s a four-prong and I only have the one adaptor. Which was attached to the line from the router.
So I wound up disconnecting that line from the router and just reattaching the two phones for now.
Later, when I get the chance, I’m going to disconnect both lines from the basement object and connect them to each other, which will make them one circuit. I’ll still have to run a long line from the router to the other room, but then the phone downstairs should work. And I can replace the four-prong jack in our bedroom with a regular jack and connect one phone in there as well, so at least we’ll have two phones again. At some point I’ll have to drill a small hole through the wall between my office and my daughter’s room and install a jack in my office, so that the router can just plug in there directly. But that may be a while.
In the meantime, it’s good to know that the phone wiring is just as silly as the electrical wiring. I’m afraid to even look at the plumbing—it probably runs up into the roof and then back down again.


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