I like to think I’m a reasonably smart guy. At the very least I am somewhat technically-inclined. I can build a computer from individual parts, I learn new things pretty easily, I even set up home theater with a sound level meter so that anyone who sits on the sofa will hear perfectly balanced digital surround sound.

So recently, when my Internet connection went down, I tried to diagnose the problem myself. It was pretty obvious to me that the cable modem was having problems because some of the green lights were off. I remembered that a few days ago I had unplugged the modem from the power strip to plug in my scanner. The cable modem has a battery in it, but if you leave it unplugged for a few days the battery will run out. Which means it won’t work anymore.

When I noticed the modem was unplugged from the power strip, I of course plugged it back in. But the modem still didn’t work. Hmmm, I thought. Maybe the battery went so dead that something is malfunctioning (which isn’t a very good guess, I realize).

At this point I should point out (and this is important) that the area around my computer power strip is a rat’s nest of wires and cables, which I know isn’t a good thing, but as long as everything is working I’m kind of lazy.

Anyway, when the modem wouldn’t restart itself, I called the cable company. They ran me through a series of questions, such as “Is the modem power cord connected to a power source?” (I already fixed that) and “Is the power cord also connected to the modem itself” (Duh!), and “Am I using a router?” (Yes, but who cares?)

After these questions for dummies, the rep decided to restart my modem remotely. And voila! it began working again. I thanked him and hung up and went my merry way.

Fifteen minutes later the modem stopped working again. So I called again. Same questions, same restart, and voila! It worked again.

Twenty minutes later the modem is kaput once more.

I’m pretty patient with phone reps because I used to be one. So when I called back a third time and set up a visit by the cable guy, I was really polite. The girl on the phone apologized profusely, but I told her it was no big deal.

So I waited a day for the cable guy to show up, and last night, because my cords are such a mess, I decided to clean them up a bit. You know, because I don’t want the cable guy (who I don’t know) to see how unorganized I really am.

I sit down on the floor and spend twenty minutes or so untangling the wires. This means I have to unplug things and disconnect them and all that business.

At one point I was handling the power cable for the modem. The adapter was plugged into the power strip, and the other end was–


Not connected to anything.


No way! I thought to myself. I checked this already. I KNOW this end was connected to the modem!

Dismayed, I go to plug it into the modem, but there is already a power cord connected to it.

And that’s when I realized that the power cord I THOUGHT was for the modem was actually for…

Well, I don’t know. Some long-lost piece of equipment that I must have retired years ago.

When I traced the real modem power cord to the power strip, I found it unplugged. So I plugged it back in and watched in horror as the modem came back to life.

So here I am, smart guy, electronics wizard, and I scheduled a visit from the cable guy because the POWER CORD WASN’T PLUGGED IN.

Fortunately for me my HDTV channels were having (unrelated and REAL) problems, so he didn’t make the trip for nothing.

But that doesn’t make it any less embarrassing.