Sunday, March 09, 2014

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

**If your Rerun Sense is tingling right now, that means you have been reading this column since 2009 (which also means you are probably my mom).  I didn't have time to crank out a fresh column last week, but hopefully you don't remember reading this old column, just like I don't remember writing it.**

“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. Both of our daughters got a letter last week saying they were to send their house key to the gas co. so the guy can go inside and read their meter!
    Scam alert, right? Nah. When they called, they were told it was only because of the inclement weather that the notices went out, and the meter reader will be around as usual at the end of the month to read them (the meters are outside on the lawn, as they should be!). Not to worry! Sheesh!

    1. Wow. That's the craziest request I've ever heard. Did they need to verify her address with a signed blank check, too?