Good news! Verizon has finally restored my mother's phone service about a month after it went out. The technician who fixed the problem was from Texas, and he was happy as a clam about the whole thing because he was due for mucho overtime and bonuses. But why Texas? Why not just send out a local guy? Answer: because so many Verizon phones have gone dead recently that their California crews can't deal with it. And why is that? According to the Texas guy, it's because Verizon is hellbent on converting their entire plant to fiber optic and has declined for some time to do any maintenance on their legacy phone lines. As a result, they've steadily deteriorated, and even a couple of weeks of rain can cause tens of thousands of homes to lose service.
Meanwhile, I am taking y'all's advice and seeing my doctor about my arm/shoulder/neck pain. (And just so you know: I haven't been ignoring this. I've actually tried lots of things over the past year, but none has had more than a modest effect.) However, here in the land of the best healthcare in the world, that means I've now got an appointment for late February.
American capitalism: it's the best in the world, as long as you don't need a phone or have a desire to see your doctor anytime in the current month. Huzzah!