Lessons learned when the lights go out

The gas and electric guys who shut off our service left a note on the door and some pieces of cable and plastic in the driveway to let us know they’d been there.

I was surprised to learn yesterday that when the gas and electric company threatens to terminate your service if you don’t respond to the notice to terminate your service, they actually will terminate your service.

It was a surprising  lesson because a) I had no idea that I was behind on my gas and electric payment, seeing as how my list of “bills paid” notes the gas and electric company paid and current as of last month; and b) I hadn’t received a termination of service notice.

I’m not saying they didn’t send one. I just haven’t gotten any mail from the RG&E in May. At all.  Not even a bill for May, yet. So I had no clue we weren’t on the same page, payment-wise.

But that’s neither here nor there, because the bill wasn’t paid (oops) and they had issued their threat, which they assumed I had ignored. So the power guys came yesterday and shut off the service – while I left the house for about 20 minutes to run to the store to get cat food. When I came home, there was a notice hanging on the door and two pieces of cut cable and some plastic pieces in the driveway, letting me know they’d been there and I was now powerless (literally and figuratively).

But that’s OK. I’m a writer. So I cried for a few hours and decided to make a list of the lessons I learned from the experience:

1) I should not be in charge of paying the bills. Not that it’s better when darling husband handles the task. Historically, that has caused us both a lot of stress, so that’s why the task falls to me. But unless Bandit is going to take over, I’m stuck with the job.

2) Thanks to my deep-seated belief that America is going to suffer a) another terrorist attack; b) a nation-wide power outage; c) some other calamity that will leave us without the luxuries of modern life, coupled with the fact that we actually do lose power at least once a year due to weather, I was prepared for my RG&E punishment.

After I got the bill straightened out, I hauled out the flashlights, the emergency crank radio (with optional battery back up), the camp stove, and a nifty LED light my mother bought me that I knew would come in handy some day. Then I made myself a cup of tea. Take that, RG&E.

I was instructed that because I needed to be home when the guys came to restore the service (which I was told could happen anytime in the next 24 hours), I couldn’t leave to go to Tim Horton’s and work or get ice for the fridge. (Although they didn’t need me home to turn the service off … funny how that works, huh?) So darling husband brought home some ice from work, and then I ran to Wegmans for more, and we packed both the fridge and freezer solid.

The lamp my mom bought me at her favorite closeout store. Six AA batteries and I had hours and hours of lovely, bright light to read and work by.

3) When you can’t use the laptop or TV, you can still find something constructive to do. I crawled up into the attic and brought down a ball of yarn and a crochet hook, and started a new blanket. My fauxPod was charged and loaded with dozens of “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me” podcasts. So with the aid of that nifty LED light, I crocheted until midnight while I laughed along with the Peter Sagel and Carl Kasell.

4) Barring the fact that I couldn’t leave the house, I could have lived without power for longer than 22 hours, if I had to.  We had lots of hot water, food in the cupboards, and back up camping stuff to make the outage manageable.

I still had the phone (I guess I actually did pay that bill) so I was able to talk to one editor and do a little work, too. My cell was charged, and even if it wasn’t I have a nifty gadget that runs on the Jeep cigarette lighter and can charge the phone, laptop, etc.

So as long as Wegmans is up and running so I can get ice, and I have cash in my pocket and gas in my car (because a community-wide power outage affects ATMs, gas pumps, etc), I’m good.

5) This reinforces my believe that I should not leave the house. Bad things happen when I am not home. If I had been here when they came to shut off service, I was told, they would have not turned off service and given me a chance to clear up the (read: my) confusion.

The guys were here at about 10:45 AM to turn service on. (That’s a whole other story; one of the guys clearly had a bug up his … hard hat … despite the fact that I was chipper and contrite about the whole thing. The fact that Bandit snuck out the front door and scared the bejeezus out of him might have added to his ire…)

I had a thermometer in the fridge and freezer – the fridge door at 11 AM was 38 degrees, the freezer door 24 degrees (and everything was still frozen solid). So while not ideal temperatures, I think everything in there was saved. 

In the end, I’m feeling really, really embarrassed about the whole thing, but also a little more compassionate about other people who end up in the same situation. I sense the word “dirtbag” crosses the minds of people who turn power on and off in situations like this. But you never know what someone is going through – maybe they’re sick, out of a job, struggling in ways you can’t imagine. Or maybe they’re just disorganized, like me.


2 responses to “Lessons learned when the lights go out

  1. it happens to everyone in there life time love you

  2. i have been there done that abd its funny how the people who come to turn your power back on act like its such a bother but i bet when they come to turn it off some of them are having a blast calling you a dead beat or a loser

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