Day 2 in New York City.

I spent most of the day at my friend's apartment jacked into the wi-fi signal, blogging, reading, flickring and whining loudly about Facebook. But all of these things could happen in Anytown, USA (so long as Anytown had decent Internet access. Hmm, that requirement greatly reduces the chances of "these things" happening in all but a few choice locations. Let me rephrase. All these things could happen in Anytown, <name any one of 34 countries ahead of USA in broadband deployment>).

It's when I engaged with the city that things got more interesting and noteworthy or at least blogworthy.

Act 1

I called Time Warner Cable. Hide the children. Break out your rosary. This tale gets ugly.

I had decided to change my cable installation from their digital set top box to my Tivo. Rather than have another box and another remote and another always-on electronic device sucking life out of our woefully-strained power grid, I thought I'd order Cablecards instead. I had been told by a Time Warner rep on Monday that all I needed to do was call and make the switch.

I called and got through to a rep who insisted that this change would make me ineligible for the package discount. I would have to buy everything separately and thus pay a lot more. I quoted him the price I was quoted earlier in the week. He did not care. From years of life with Microsoft Windows I've learned that when an experience is not going your way, you simply reboot. I Control-Alt-Deleted this particular customer rep. I hung up and called back.

After fighting through the automated voice recognition prompts, a human jumped on the line and told me that she could not help with billing, service or installation questions, but she was happy to answer any other questions. What else would I be calling the cable company for? Their take on the damage done by American food aid?

"If you can't help me, why did you answer the phone?" I asked her.

"I'm sorry sir, but we have a high volume of calls. Can you please call back in 15 to 20 minutes?"

"Why didn't you just leave me on hold?"

"Our systems can't keep you on hold that long."



I tried again but could not get through.

Lunch time!

On my way to lunch, I could not believe it, but I ran into a Time Warner retail customer service center. I went inside, got a ticket and was seen within three minutes. I half expected the rep to tell me to my face that I should come back in 15 to 20 minutes, but she did not. She didn't quite solve my issue either, at least not to my satisfaction.

You see, the FCC mandated that cable operators support this technology called "CableCard" which allows you to get digital channels without a set top box. Previously, if you used a Tivo and wanted premium channels, you needed your Tivo and a set top box and a crapload of cables and luck to get all this stuff working together.

The downside of CableCard is you get no on-demand or pay-per-view. For the luxury of this reduced programming choice, you also get the privilege of paying more money. This is what the rep explained to me. I could not win with Time Warner, and there are no other cable providers for my address.

Love the free market.

Act 2

After lunch, I was off to Staples to get a business card scanner. I've been holding out on this little gadget for years, but going to five conferences a year, I tend to collect massive amounts of business cards. I end up spending as much time typing the info into my computer as I spend at the conferences, and enough is enough.

Entering the Staples, I found myself ambushed by a Greeter. What is this, Wal-Mart now? How big is a Staples? How much time do Manhattanites have that they can afford to exchange niceties with a person who stands between them and their purchases? So I asked Mr. Greeter where I could find a business card scanner. He referred me to the cashier, someone I would have asked first, had their not been a Greeter in my way.

She told me to head back to the business center. In short order, I realized that she had no idea what I was asking for. She had sent me to the photocopiers. I walked around the shop and found what I was looking for. It was a display model mounted on a large piece of plastic. There were no boxes with product nearby, so I yanked the entire rig out and showed it to a cashier. "I need one of these."

"You need to tell the woman in the gray shirt over there," she directed me.

I did, and Greyshirt said she would get it for me in a moment. She got me the package and directed me back to the cashier. Once I reached the counter, the cashier left her station inexplicably. I waited. I waited more. A line queued up behind me. The cashier had disappeared. I looked to my right and found the Greeter.

"Can you sell this to me?" I asked him.

"No, I need to stay over here."

I longed to Control-Alt-Delete him. Strike two for Mr. Greeter. Here I am in the so-called commercial capital of the world where you can order a mayonnaise and broiled iguana pizza and have it delivered by a midget on a unicycle at 3am, and I am begging to be relieved of my money in exchange for a product.

I looked back to the checkout counter and could not believe what lay there. One of those big red buttons that said, "EASY."

Act 3

The rest of the day was party time.

Dinner with a wealthy banker friend who showed up in a cab but without his wallet. Good thing comedy and blogging pay well enough for me to cover him no problem.

Kyria abrahams roast benari poulten

Then a surprise birthday roast for fellow comic Benari Poulten at The Tank in Tribeca. There was a good number of NYC comics there and some Boston transplants (Benari is from Boston). Kyria Abarahams even roasted Benari. I hadn't seen her on stage in years. DJ Hazard, Pat O'Shea, Ophira Eisenberg, John O'Donnel, Charles Star and Baron Vaughn all ripped into Benari, egged on by Roastmaster Dan Newbower.

Eric Andre made my night by roasting me in the crossfire. "And I see we have Baratunde here. Alright Amistad, you're not in Africa anymore. You can change your name now." It was his biggest laugh. Thanks for the free branding bruh!