Last week, much like this week, has been a bit of a broiler in the mid-Atlantic. As a result, my local electric utility sent out a bulk email with some “helpful” tips for dealing with the heat.
Tip #1: On hot days, use your grill to cook so you’re not adding heat to your house. Yeah, that’s a pass. It’s 95 degrees outside with 80% humidity and you want me to stand over and open flame flipping chicken or burgers instead of standing in the 70 degree kitchen where I can control the temperature to within a degree or two with a flick of my thumb.
Tip #2: Do laundry and run the dishwasher at night. Fun fact, night is when I sleep. I’m not staying up until the small hours to do laundry to save a fractional percentage cost of doing it during normal hours. Doing these chores during the non-peak hours you’ve designated doesn’t actually use less electricity, it just makes using the electricity I need to complete these tasks more inconvenient.
Tip #3: Close your blinds to reduce passive solar heating. Here’s the thing… I’m awake during the day, I like being able to see outside while I’m awake. I know I’m just weird like that. These big ass windows and the view they offer are part of the reason I bought the house in the first place. Otherwise I’d just stay up all night with no view doing laundry in the small hours of the morning like you so helpfully suggested.
All I see when a utility offers “helpful” tips such as these is a company that has opted to develop a network that they’re worried might not be up to meeting peak demand. With so much of my monthly bill being service fees rather than the actual cost of the electricity itself, I have very little sympathy in their desire to offload their problems onto the consumer rather than admitting they failed to design or maintain a sufficiently robust system to meet actual requirements.
As I was sitting at my desk this morning going through the usual early Saturday routine of paying bills and administering the other minutia that goes along with running the household, the power cut out briefly. Looking out the window towards the woods, annoyed, I counted the seconds – fifteen of them before the genny cranked over and sent it’s homemade electricity surging down the wire and taking life from the 19th century to the 21st in a matter of no more than 30 seconds. From time to time I regret purchasing a big ticket item that isn’t strictly a need, but I can tell you true that I’ll always consider the cash sunk into that generator money well spent.
It’s probably a good day when the most annoying part of a power failure is having to turn the coffee maker back on and wait for the cable modem to reset. Momentary inconveniences though they are, I suspect I’ll be spending some time this weekend looking at battery backup options for some of those “key systems.” Because once you’ve eliminated the big inconveniences, the small ones somehow become even more obnoxious.
With the potential future sale of Casa de Jeff de Cordova, one of the myriad of pain in the ass things to do is transfer the light, gas, and water service back into my name. That should be easy enough to settle with a phone call to the intrepid people at Memphis, Light Gas, and Water except of course that nothing that needs doing is ever actually easy.
It seems that the bill from the last month I lived in Memphis was never actually paid and has been sitting in their delinquent account file for the last 3+ years just waiting on the moment I would call to make it right. We’ll forget for a moment that I never actually received a bill for this amount and that as far as I can tell, no effort was made to send it to my forwarding address. I’ll take the burden of responsibility for that. Fine.
Now, these many years later, here I am attempting to make good on my public debt. In speaking to the customer service agent, I’m told that the only way to pay a bill in the delinquent file is to present myself at the offices of Memphis, Light Gas, and Water to genuflect and hand unto them cash, a money order, or a cashiers check for the princely sum of $110.87. No payment by phone. No payment online. Only hand delivery at the office will do with no possibility of exception for those who may now live 850 miles away from that charmed city on the banks of Old Muddy.
I’m trying to get myself right with these guys. All I want to do is give them money. You’d think they might make it easier on a guy than forcing him into a convoluted process that involves overnighting a cashiers check to a realtor he’s never met in person and hoping that she’s able to do the leg work on his behalf. The alternative is a one day round trip flight to Memphis wherein I will spend $1000 in order to pay a $100 debt.
Even sitting here in the comfort of my own rental kitchen, I can’t manage to avoid the utter asshattery of what is clearly demonstrating itself to be one of the world’s foremost bureaucratic organizations. And God knows as a cog in Uncle’s great machine I’m in a position to recognize both asshattery and bureaucracy when I see it.
1. Being the “dumb guy” in the room. I’ve met enough brilliant minds to know mine isn’t one of them. I’ve made my peace with that. I’m satisfied with having a respectable amount of general knowledge in many areas and a deep knowledge of a few threads of the arts and humanities. It’s my niche. But every once in a while you walk into a room, spend nine hours listening attentively and walk away realizing that you don’t have a damned clue what anyone was talking about. On those days the best you can manage is to smile, try to nod at what feel like appropriate intervals, and pray that no one asks you any questions. Days like that suck.
2. Being a piñata. We all have plans – a basic script by which we’re expecting to live our lives. For most of my working life, my plan included working 40 hours a week. With the arrival of sequester and furlough I made my peace with the new plan being 32 hours a week and adjusted accordingly. Now that furlough is ending, I’ll again adjust accordingly – insecure in the knowledge that “next year is going to be worse” hanging over my head. If there’s anything I hate it’s being jerked from pillar to post repeatedly like some kind of half-assed piñata.
3. Artesian Water Company. Nothing quite like getting a email from your overseas landlord wondering why he’s getting a notice that the water company is about to discontinue service. When I called Artesian to calmly ask WTF, the customer service representative cheerfully told me that the account was two months past due. Oh really? Not according to my account of statements and bills paid. But hey, I think I may have uncovered a slight problem with their doucheconoe business process that says bills can only go to the registered property owner instead of the guy actually living in the house and paying the bill. Asshats.