I'm a little slow today. I just switched to Sanka. So...have a heart?

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Let's Play Pioneers!

24 hours ago, I embarked on an adventure. It was a quasi-voluntary adventure... as my action (or willful inaction, based on a mistaken belief that FPL always calls you before they cut off your power) lead to me going on the adventure. I lived through a night that was kind of like being back in 1882. Kind of.

Here's the adventure: I got home last night (with bags full of vegetables from Publix to be refrigerated and frozen!) to find that my power had been cut off.


It's not that I didn't have the money to pay my electric bill; I did. It's just that as a Member of Generation-Y (maybe I'm a Millennial?) I feel that certain things should be extended to me, free of charge, just for existing - electricity, for example.

And so I hold off as long as possible to pay the non-credit-reported bills, because in my heart of hearts, I can't believe that BellSouth or Atlantic Broadband or FPL, for serious, expect me to pay for my God-given rights to Internet, Cable, or Power. And every month, I expect to get a letter in the mail saying, "Remember how you're supposed to pay bills for this? Never mind! Enjoy it, free of charge, forever!"

Also, I'm a moron. Or I'm irresponsible. Whatever.

So I had an outstanding bill for $150.00? And so I received the Notice that was all, "FINAL NOTICE BEFORE POWER IS CUT OFF," which, in the past, hasn't been - the final notice, that is. FPL always calls. Sometimes more than once. And they're like "Heyyyy! Pay your bill, 'kay? Or we gonna cut off your power, 'kay? Ohhh noooo!" (FPL sounds like Bruce on Family Guy.)

And as soon as I get that call, I mosey over to the closest computer (or my phone), log in, and pay the bill. "Oooookayyyyyy. Fiiiiine." Voila. Crisis averted. I just like to get a little extra bang for my electricity-buck, and the extra mail and phone calls make me feel like FPL cares about me and wants to reach out to me.

I also like to keep my money for as long as possible, in the case of an emergency - like if my power were to be cut off, say.


Picture it: 8:20 p.m., I unload twelve bags of refrigerated and frozen food into my place, not bothering to turn on the lights, because... I'm a bat?

Once the bags are loaded, I go to the bathroom for a whizz, and notice that the light doesn't turn on. My first thought is that somehow, I have blown out this wall again (as I did once before) and, "Oh, crap, now I'll have to hire an electrician."

It's only when I went to the kitchen and hit that light, and nothing happened that it slowly dawned on me what might have happened... a realization which grew stronger as I looked at the dark display on my stove.

"Crap! Noooooo... they always, always, ALWAYS call first..."

My place was a steamy 83 degrees (I turn up the A/C when I'm away for the day) and I had no power.

Blindly, I began shoveling groceries into the fridge and into the freezer, and then I whipped out my phone, which I was chagrined to see was running low on power, logged into my FPL account, and paid. Easy as that.

Know what I expected?

That the lights would just *POOF!* pop back on.

They didn't.

I scrolled around on my phone for a number to call. And realized that FPL's customer service line closes at 8. It was now 8:30.

Sweat began pouring down my face. Because it was hot. And because I'd been lugging groceries. And also, I sweat when I'm nervous.

I began tearing off my work clothes, and realized I needed to haul ass back to Publix for some ice for the fridge and dry ice for the freezer, to ensure that I didn't just toss $100.00 worth of groceries to their warm, withering doom, so, into cooler clothes I popped, and got my supplies.

Along the way I called FPL - I wanted them to TELL ME that they were closed. I get very indignant when I'm completely in the wrong. Somehow I got a person... I hinted around, and then asked him directly, whether he could hit the button on his computer that turned my power back on.

Apparently, that's not the way it works.

Apparently, they actually send someone to your electric meter, and throw a switch, and clip a wire, and... whatever else they do when they want to send a message, and cut off your power. And apparently, re-connecting was a bit more than a mouse-click away.

I was told that my power would be, "restored within 24 hours of payment - which was received at 8:26 p.m." I asked the guy what the chances were that my power would be back on that night - he skirted the question, until I was like, "is it like there's a slight chance? Or no chance at all?"

"More like no chance at all."


SOOOOO... I bought 20 bucks worth of ice and dry ice, and lapped up the a/c in my car, cuz I sure weren't gettin' any when I got back home...

I loaded the dry ice into the freezer...which was still frozen...thank God... and parceled the ice into bowls and Zip-loc bags for the fridge, working to open the fridge and freezer as little as possible.

I conducted this frantic parceling and finger-burning (freezing?), by the light of two measly flashlights, and a candle...which I carefully lit and set down on the counter... right next to a pile of paper. (I learned many lessons about living without power, and keeping food frozen and cold from Hurricane Wilma. Thank you, Wilma. I also learned many lessons about what happens in your fridge, when the bags of ice aren't water-tight. Thank you, Wilma.)

Once the food situation was stabilized, I worked on rounding up the rest of my flashlights, and re-batterying the dead ones. I have many flashlights.

I made myself a light (ha! get it?) romantic little dinner of a bag of lettuce parsimoniously procured from the penultimate time I allowed myself to open the refrigerator, and 1/4 of a loaf of French bread, which I washed down with Gatorade, iced down by the glass-full of ice I allowed myself from my ice purchases. I enjoyed my dinner by flashlight, as I filled my bathtub with cold water.

By the time I finished eating and filling the tub, it was almost 10:00... so... I took a cooling dip in the tub, which felt great when I got in... but water doesn't really dry off and/or cool your body when your place is running at 85% humidity, and 83 degrees... so after my little bath, I just felt... sweaty.

I spread some cushions on the floor (my floors are marble tile) and rested my belly, my legs, and my forearms on the cooling floor, to read a little Sedaris, to wile away the hour (and a half) before I could justifiably try to get to bed. I looked like a dog. Or a squashed bug. But the floor was cool, and lovely.

I have to say, the worst part of the experience is that I sleep with lots of white noise, and... there was none. So, buses and scooters woke me through the night. After drugging myself I did drift off into a warm, fitful night's rest... waking up only 20 minutes before the L.L. Bean travel alarm I managed to dig up from 1997 went off...

Before leaving for work this morning, after my cold shower, I turned down my A/C so that when the power did kick on again it could start the de-humidification process well before I got home.

I tried to turn off anything else that I could imagine would be damaged by the inevitable power surge, when electricity was restored, and left, praying for my perishables.

And tonight, I sit in my luxuriously appointed apartment, with cold air blasting from the vents...

In complete darkness, save for the glow of my computer.

I have to say, other than the lack of white noise, the paranoia about my frozen foods, and the inevitable disappointment that would unfurl whenever I'd hit a light switch, only to remember what my idiocy had lead to...

It really wasn't all that bad. At least for one tolerable night.

And that, my friends, is the story of how I, a delicate, delicate flower (I just really need a/c) made it through the night that FPL finally gave me my what-for.