Saturday, June 07, 2008

Dear Charlie:

I've had...quite the weekend. It all started Thursday afternoon while I was at work. Unbeknownst to me, the severe winds we've been having around here lately knocked a limb off a big ol' tree in my sideyard. It's already dropped two in the last year, so I probably shouldn't be surprised. But three is the last straw.

At any rate, the limb was a good 15 or 20 feet long, so it of course fell across the lines coming into my house -- power, phone, and cable. It tugged them down, but didn't actually break them. So, when I got home and saw the damage, I ran inside to see if I still had power. I did. In fact, I still had my cable internet. No phone, but I wasn't so terribly worried about that.

Unfortunately, that meant I couldn't call the electric company to tell them about the limb. I do have a cell phone, but I don't get reception in my area. At least, not reliable reception. I've never finished a cell phone call in my house, heh.

So, Friday morning, I headed to work. On the way in, I called the phone company to tell them about the situation, and they said they'd send someone out to fix their line that morning. I didn't have time to call the electric company because I was on hold so long with the phone company, and then I was busy all morning until early afternoon.

However, as soon as I had a chance, I called home to see if my answering machine would pick up, signifying that my phone service was back on. Sure enough, it did. So, I called the power company and informed them that a limb had fallen on my line and I was pretty sure I wasn't supposed to cut that off myself, since the power was still on. She agreed with a laugh and said a serviceman had already seen the damage and put in a work order, and that it was probably already taken care of.

No worries, right?

So, I go out to eat with a friend after work and don't get home until probably 7:30 or 8:00. I go inside, power. I just kinda stood there with my head cocked to one side for a long moment. Power when I left. No power now. Huh.

Frowning, I go outside and look to see what's going on, and not only is the limb still there, but it's fallen further to the ground, jerking out the whole meter and it's pipe and everything out from the side of the house. Nice. It's worse than before, and DEFINITELY not fixed.

So, trusting to my imperfect cell signal, I call the power company and ask what gives. She says the prior order was marked completed. I laughed and told her that, if anything, the problem was worse. There's no WAY this counted as "fixed". She offered to send another service truck out, and I said sure. Not like I had any pressing place to go.

Nine o'clock comes and goes, and no service man. I can't get any signal at all by this time, so I figure I'll run to Wal-Mart for a few things, get a little air conditioning (the house was already stiflingly humid-hot by this time), and call the power company again to see what's going on.

Another lady says that both orders were marked completed. I told her the second guy hadn't even shown up yet, so how could that be? I explained the whole thing, and she comes back with, "Oh, well, because the meter's been pulled out from the wall, the service guy can't do anything. He marked it completed because the power was off so they went ahead and temporarily disconnected your service until it's fixed."

I goggle. "Are you kidding me? Because the first time they went out, I still had power, which means the meter thing was still attached to the wall. Why did that guy call it good?"

Long pause. "Well, I'm sure I don't know, ma'am. Do you want me to send a service man out now?"

"Guh. NO. The meter's still off the wall. What can he do now? What I need you to do is tell me what I need to do."

"Well, you'll have to get an electrician out to fix the meter. Then he'll call us and we'll turn on the power."

"Are you kidding me? It's 9:00 on a Friday night. Where am I supposed to get an electrician to come out before Monday?"

"Oh, there are some."

"Do you know any? Can you give me a number?"

"...No. Not offhand."

"Great. So I have to find an electrician. That's out of my pocket, right?"

"Oh, yes."

At this point, I started facepalming. Saturday electric work. Might as well quadruple the fee. I thanked the power lady and hung up, pretty much disgusted with the whole thing. And if nothing else, that frickin' tree has to go. Stupid thing.

So, I go back home, take a cold bath -- the water heater is electric -- and sweat through the night without sleeping much, and there's Dad at the door in the morning. Amazingly enough, I was already up and dressed, which shocked him because I'm usually a sleep-'til-noon-if-I-can kind of person. He asks what's going on (I'd left him a frustrated and disgusted message the night before, mostly just to vent), and I show him the mess, and we sit down with the phone book to find an electrician.

Twelve phone numbers later, and not a single one has answered. Frustrated further, Dad calls an old carpenter buddy of his to see if Bubba -- no, I'm not kidding -- knows an electrician who'll come out on a Saturday without raping us over the price. He does, we make the call, and then it's time to take care of that wretched tree.

Probably three feet in diameter, this long-timer has stood longer than I've been alive. However, it's been shedding monster branches lately, so it's gotta go. Dad goes to work, and like twenty minutes later, down goes the tree. Amazing. Then he hacks it to pieces, and I start stacking them. I'm telling you, I always work really, really hard when Dad comes up.

A brush pile and several cords of wood later, the electrician shows up, takes a look, and whistles long and low. Never a good sign. Actually, he did pretty good by us, but still. There's only so good it can be.

He replaces the meter and all the wiring inside, etc., then tells us we have to call the city inspector before the electric company will turn the power back on. Just. Great. None of the city employees work on weekends. We ended up having to call 911 to get any kind of city employee on the phone, and it still took half an hour to get one to call us back.

And then it took another hour for him to show up, though he was very nice about having to work on a day off. I gotta give him that.

He slaps on an inspection sticker, calls a supervisor at the electric company, and we're supposed to be in business. By this point, both Dad and I are starving because it's like 2:00 in the afternoon and Dad hadn't eaten since he left his house at like 6:00. And I hadn't eaten at all.

So, while we wait for the power company, we decide to go grab some lunch. Chinese buffet. Hit the spot. Dad bought, bless his heart.

When we get back, the power company guys are just finishing up, and they cheerfully tell us that the power's back on for now, but they'll have to turn it off again soon. At this point, I just want to sit down and cry. Instead, I sigh heavily and ask why.

"Well, this here line isn't supposed to touch your house before it hooks in to your meter. The way this pole is situated, we don't have a straight shot to your meter, so someone along the way added that eyelet up there to hold it away from the wood. Problem is, that's not to code anymore."


"I called my supervisor, and he said it was okay to go ahead and get your power back on for now, but they'll be calling you soon to get this up to specs. I dunno what exactly they'll do. Probably want to put in a new pole for a straight shot."

In my head, I can almost hear the old-timey cash register sound. And the flushing sound of money going down the drain.

Wincing, I ask, "But it's on for now, right? My food's not gonna spoil any worse than it already has, right?"

"Oh, no, ma'am. The power's on for now. No problem there. Just...they'll probably be in touch soon to get that fixed."

I can't tell you how much I'm looking forward to it. Joy.

Until then, I just enjoyed a lukewarm bath -- I'd sweat myself filthy between the dirt and sawdust (oh, and I mowed part of the yard, too, so there were lots of grass pieces in my hair, too) -- and am sitting on the floor where the air conditioning can actually cool me off more quickly. I'm watching a movie and have internet access.

In other words? For now, I am satisfied.

Hope everyone else's weekend is going swimmingly. Oi.


At 8:19 AM, Blogger Joely Sue Burkhart said...

We were at the lake yesterday. As we were leaving the restaurant (dinner), That Man called home to check messages and handed me the phone. I heard Dad say something about Molly, and "she's taken care of now" and then I lost the signal. I called home again and listened to the message again, but didn't get much more information. I called Dad, heart in my throat, wondering what had happened. I'm so glad he was able to head down there and help you!!!

At 9:44 AM, Blogger GutterBall said...

Well, I'm not gonna tell him that about an hour and a half after he left, the power went out again. I grumbled and groaned, then flipped the breaker to make sure it wasn't just a power surge that popped it, then dragged my cell phone out onto the porch (for some reason, I get two bars on my porch steps, but nowhere else) and called the power company.

Bless their hearts, but without so much as a grumble, they sent out one of the guys who had reattached the line -- the cute one, thankfully, though I looked less than my best and didn't even bother trying to be interested.

Turns out, the outside breaker had flipped for no good reason. I didn't even know I had an outside breaker. But the guy gladly showed me where it was when I asked and said that if it pops again, I should probably call back the electrician and ask him why. Oi.

Luckily, the power stayed constant all night long, and I actually got a good night's sleep...if a little short on the long-ness.

Funny and kinda nice sidebar, that last lady I talked to -- the one who actually gave me some information instead of just telling me it was fixed -- called back a good hour after the guy came back to make sure my power was back on. She was really nice about it and it wasn't part of her usual job.

She just said that I'd sounded so upset, but I hadn't taken my frustration out on her at all, and she wasn't used to that kind of consideration, so she wanted to make sure I'd been taken care of. Heh, I felt kinda bad because I had been a little short with her, but I guess my "little short" is waaaaaay more polite than other people's "little short".

Either way, it was really nice of her. I take back my irritation.

At 10:27 AM, Anonymous Pesh said...

It's a mixed situation with the call center girls. Most of them are ditzes at best. They're barely trained before being flung to the wolves, and even after they've been around awhile, they don't seem capable of being trained anyway.

They get short with customers and provide almost no help.

And most of the customers they get are jerks at best.

The call center is a pit of misery that I avoid completely if at all possible.


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