Sunday, March 29, 2009

The lights aren’t on, but somebody’s home

“Don’t you think it would be fun to learn to dip our own candles?” I asked my wife Kara last week.

“Not especially,” she replied.

“What about churning our own butter?” I said.

“I don’t think we even use butter. Is Country Crock butter?” she asked. Upon opening the fridge and inspecting the container, I learned that Country Crock makes no claim at all as to what it actually is. The words “butter” and “margarine” are nowhere to be found, just “Country Fresh Taste,” which could signify that the plastic tub contains any number of country-related flavors, like ham, banjo bits or gravel.

“I just thought it might be fun to pick up some pioneer-style hobbies,” I said, “since the power company is going to shut off our electricity in two weeks anyway.”

Recently, I’d noticed an increase in the ratio of letters from the power company in the piles of mail that I’d been throwing away without opening. The vast majority of our mail doesn’t warrant reading; it’s always credit card companies trying to trick me into looking. They dress up the envelopes so that even the most wary person will be tempted to peek inside. The envelopes bear messages in bright red ink that say things like: “IMPORTANT ACCOUNT DOCUMENTS: OPEN IMMEDIATELY OR THE PUPPY GETS IT!”

Each time I open a piece of junk mail thinking I’m about to see an actual important account document, only to find a useless credit card offer inside, I hear, somewhere off in the distance, a credit card CEO yelling from the top of a skyscraper, “Made you look!”

If federal regulations would allow, I’d get a coal-fired mailbox, or perhaps an eco-friendly shredding/composting combo unit. So it was completely on a whim that I opened a letter from our power company to find a friendly reminder, which they’d cordially labeled “FINAL TERMINATION NOTICE.”

“Oh, man,” I thought. “That would be an awesome title for an action movie.”

Actually, I immediately worried about telling Kara. Very few things irritate her as much as delinquent bills, especially ones that are the responsibility of her delinquent husband. In our house, we refer to late fees as either “lazy taxes” or “stupid taxes,” depending on the reason they were incurred. In general, the world is fine with letting you be lazy or stupid, but you have to pay for the privilege, usually by the day.

I stood at the end of the driveway, holding the letter and wondering whether it was worth disturbing our domestic tranquility to inform Kara of its contents. Whenever I find myself thinking, “Life would be easier if I didn’t tell Kara about this,” that’s when I make a point to talk to her. A good marriage is based on open communication, and also on the continuing possibility that, if you just hang in there long enough, you will be rewarded by your spouse’s inability to finish her chicken sandwich. Ooh, and maybe an onion ring or two.

As it turned out, during the course of a web upgrade, the power company had deleted the entries of several autopay customers, causing us to miss our first electric bill in the eight years we’ve lived around here.

“You mean you just deleted us out of the system?” I asked the customer service representative during my call that was important to them.

“Yes, that’s right,” she said cheerily.

“On purpose?” I asked.

“I’m not sure about that part, but it definitely happened during the upgrade,” she replied.

So now that we’re back in the system, Kara and I will have to forego for now the adventure of living in a house with no electricity. But this experience has taught us many valuable lessons, not the least of which is that our power company throws around the term “upgrade” very loosely.

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  1. You could get solar panels and eliminate the electric bill altogether. You could even sell your extra electricity back to the company. That's a sweet deal.

  2. You could create a giant mouse wheel for Memphis and have her generate the electricity for your house. You could also create a device for fishing plastic bags out of trees.

  3. JP -- That would be AWESOME. Why don't you hook that up for me?

    Perlson-- You mean the flags to chaos? [Rest of Internet: Sorry, obscure movie reference. So obscure, I don't even remember what movie we're referencing. But I think it had Karvey Keitel in it.]

  4. Blue In The Face. The sequel to the movie Smoke.

  5. Boring... snooze... Zzzz....

    Nerd Alert: Obscure movie references by guys that somehow managed to knock their women up!

  6. Perlson -- That's right. And Harvey Keitel is in that one. One of the few movies where he doesn't whip out his junk, if I'm remembering correctly.

    Jered -- Sorry to bore you, man. Not everybody has the time to put together white-knuckle posts discussing bedding options and window blinds. Maybe the master can set aside a few minutes to teach me how it's done.

  7. Sheri -- Ha! Yes, it is. If by it, you mean my computer. I'm running on battery power.