OK, it's really been about eight days, but when you've missed your "Brit Night," nature programs and Antiques Roadshow, the world can be a pretty dismal place.
However, technical work on the Mount Cheaha transmission antenna is at an end, Alabama Public Television spokesman Mike McKenzie said Tuesday afternoon, and after a last-minute part arrives and is installed sometime today, the signal should be restored today or Thursday.
"They got everything up on the tower Sunday," he said. "Now they just have to make sure all the systems are running."
The reason viewers who pause on CableOne's channel 10, where APT programs normally appear, have been seeing a static image from a children's program is multi-fold.
It started several years ago with a lightning strike that impaired the capacity of the WCIQ antenna to send out a full-strength signal, McKenzie said. Money to replace the antenna only became available a couple of years ago, and the recently publicized changeover to a digital signal only added urgency to the mission.
Antennas need to be changed every 10-15 years anyway, said McKenzie, noting that the APT antenna at Cheaha sustains more lightning strikes than any other in the statewide network.
Basically, then, APT planned on having its Cheaha station out of commission, but officials could not schedule the blackout precisely because the men who work on 300-foot TV antennas are a rare breed, McKenzie said.
They travel the country doing highly skilled and rather dangerous work.
"On every job they're fighting the weather. Any potentially dangerous incident gets them down off the tower," he said.
Their timetable, therefore, is dependent on the current working conditions.
So what about the little girl? It's believed she's from a program called WordWorld, which was being broadcast mid-morning on Tuesday, Aug. 4. Neither McKenzie nor the operations engineer who identified the program knew her name.
But she's not being broadcast now. The antenna at WCIQ, from which CableOne gets its APT signal, is unplugged. Nothing is being broadcast. The image is simply what was digitally "frozen" in CableOne's circuits at the moment someone pulled the plug.
McKenzie conceded Tuesday it would have been nice to know exactly when that was about to happen so an informative placard could have been displayed instead.
A technical spokesman for CableOne said the company hasn't turned off the image because it didn't want to miss the APT feed when everything was working again at WCIQ.
McKenzie said complaints and inquiries to APT started slowly, but were numerous Monday. The hope, he said, is that today or Thursday they will disappear.
Just like the little girl with the picnic basket.