My mother-in-law is a weather junkie. She watches the weather as faithfully as some follow a favorite soap-opera. She will tell you that the frustrated dream of her youth was to become a weather girl, and I have never met anyone not in that profession who can understand the terminology, analyze the maps, and predict the forecast the way she can. My husband and I don’t even trust our weather radio anymore, because we know if a storm is brewing anywhere near our area, we are sure to receive a phone call from Mom.
When my father-in-law bought a satellite dish Mom discovered the Weather Channel. Weather all day, every day, from all over the country! Her joy was short-lived, however. Shortly after they bought their dish they realized their “local” channels were those coming from a city an hour away, in a neighboring state. This meant the “local” weather did not reflect the area in which they live. I asked my husband once why this was a problem when the Weather Channel had a section on local forecast. He explained that the Weather Channel did not go into the depth of local coverage his mother prefers, and does not break-in regular programming when there is a weather emergency. She had a point.
Hence begun my father-in-law’s epic battle against the satellite company. First, he called using his polite voice. He was transferred to every department the company had, until someone informed him he would need a new receiver, which would be mailed to him, followed shortly by a technician who would install it. The receiver came; the man did not. Back to the phone Dad went. This time he used what we call his “ma’am” voice. A young lady on the phone walked him through installing the receiver himself and promised to send someone to check his work and fix his problem. The company sent a technician who piddled with some wires and told Dad nothing could be done about his local channels. Then sent him a bill.
By this time my father-in-law’s voice was nearing the tone of that of a bear when he picked up the phone again. Again, he talked to everyone in the company, this time going as far as the CEO’s assistant. He talked to the FCC and the Office of the Secretary of the State. He was told over and over that there simply wasn’t anything that could be done about getting him local channels. Finally he gave up. He went out and bought a giant antenna that he planned to install on his roof. One morning, after Dad had left for work, my sweet mother-in-law finally had enough, for what was probably the first time in her life. She picked up the phone.
To say that Mom is a non-confrontational person does not begin to describe this reserved, rule-following, peace-making, people-pleasing lady. A true Southern Belle, she does not raise her voice, does not disagree passionately, and does not argue vehemently. It is just not her style. But she picked up the phone that morning and called the satellite company.
She told me later that she is sure the man with whom she spoke could tell how nervous she was by the trembling of her voice. She had never before fought a battle, made a phone call, or demanded anything. She got a hold of a customer service representative and sweetly explained to him that she was very concerned because her husband was planning on climbing their roof to install this monster and she was worried about him falling and getting hurt. She went on to tell the man that she feared that, were a bad storm to come, they would die in their house because there would be no warning from their local stations, and if she could only have one station she would feel much safer. The man asked her which ones she wanted. When Dad came home that evening, channel 10, a local channel, was blaring from the TV in the living room. They now had all the local channels, Mom informed him.
I don’t know if the man from the satellite was afraid of a lawsuit or if he felt sorry for a poor, defenseless grandmother, but the fact is my gentle mother-in-law was able to do what the polite voice, the “ma’am” voice, the bear voice and all the phone calls Dad made could not accomplish. Like they say in the South: she’s a true steel magnolia kind of girl.