Friday, February 12, 2010

My love affair with PECO

Portrait of my house during the power outage. 

Like 200,000 other unhappy souls, I lost power during the blizzard of 2010. Unlike most of you, I do not have modern conveniences such as public water or a gas generator. So when my house loses power, there is no electricity to run the well's pump. Thus, no flushing toilets. (lack of heat and hot water seems minor compared to the toilet problem)

When the kids were little and we lost power, I told them that it would be just like camping. Whenever they needed to go...they could dig a hole in the backyard. The fence gave them a modicum of privacy and protected them from the neighborhood wild animals. After such fun adventures, I'm surprised neither of them likes camping. 

Back to the present. Over the past three days, I've become quite intimate with PECO. In case you aren't familiar with PECO, it stands for: 
P hiladelphia
E rroneous
C ommunication
O peration

One of the best things about calling PECO is that you never have to speak to a live person. When you call in, a warm friendly voice (which I've nicknamed the PECO princess) informs you that PECO is working hard to actively ascertain the cause of your outage. I'm thinking--that is great news! They are working to correct my problem. After the first fifty calls, that voice doesn't seem quite as warm or friendly. In fact, I think she is mocking me. How long can it possibly take to ascertain the cause and get to the fixing part? 

The deceptive princess also apologizes for your inconvenience. Inconvenience? My house is a balmy 40 degrees. Icicles dangle from the cats' whiskers. I haven't showered in 2 days. 

If you key in your phone number, the princess will let you how many other lucky folks are also out of power. Then if you are REALLY lucky, she will tell you when your power will be restored. Unfortunately this changes by the minute. I know, because I became a bit obsessive and start calling her every five minutes. She thanks me for my patience and understanding. Now I KNOW she's mocking me. 

For security purposes, we will only reveal the first 3 digits of your house number.  This seems a bit silly. Do criminals really tap into PECO phone lines to get the scoop on who is out of power, so they can rob them?  

Based on our crews working overtime, we estimate your power will be restored on February 11th at 11:59pm. I'm simultaneously outraged and impressed. It takes them 2 days to ascertain the problem, but then they can predict the exact minute of power restoration?

We have deployed extra crews and have restored power to 195, 000 people in your area. It would impress me more if they could restore it to the rest of us. 

Over the next few days, the PECO princess gets vindictive. Not only does she change her mind about the date/time of my power restoration, she takes to calling me in the middle of the night to tease me. At 4:41 am, she says, We've restored power to many homes in your area.  I'm awake and excited. I rush home only to find that she LIED. This happens two nights in a row. You can't hang up on the princess, because she will call you back, again and again. 

Lest you think that my children unduly suffered, worry not. At the first sign of snow with potential school closings, they high-tailed it to friends' houses. Friends' houses that do not lose power in storms. Ian was where Ian always is during crises. NOT IN TOWN. 

At 2pm today, power is restored and I'm planning my revenge on the PECO princess

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