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Monday, September 15, 2008

The power's off and my underpants are on the sidewalk

This morning, I awoke, showered, made coffee, and sat down at my computer to begin the day's job search, as I was laid off in May and my long-term temp assignment has ended. I took a sip of my coffee, thinking I might have to nuke it as it wasn't as hot as it should be thanks to a generous dose of half-and -half.

At which point, the power in our building promptly shut off.

I waited the obligatory 15 minutes to see if it was a fluke before dialing NSTAR's customer service hotline to report an outage. I got the most vague, voice-activated automated system I have ever had the displeasure of talking to. A slightly metallic and overly friendly droid woman's voice said "Thank you for calling NSTAR's customer service hotline. Please tell me about your call so that I can better help you." Tell her what? How much information does she need? Isn't she going to give me any options, like if it's a billing related call or if I would like to access my account online, or do I, say, need to report an outage? This is the electric company, a major utility, not paint-your-own-pottery or magazine subscription customer service.

So I did as I normally do on the voice-activated systems to bypass their pre-recorded pseudo sincerity: I said "Customer Serivice Representative."

The automated beeyotch had the audacity to say to me, "Are you sure? Our representatives might be busy," at which I felt that she was either sentient and lonely or it was yet another ploy to keep me from actually speaking to a human. So I said it again: "Customer Serivice Representative." There may have been a note of dejection in her computer-generated voice as she said "Please hold while I transfer your call."

I was on hold for about two seconds before she returned to tell me that all representatives were busy and that I was not being given the option to hold so I could just hang up. I did however have the option to type in my 9 digit phone number to have a representative call me back. I got the feeling that she was not going to tell the representatives that I had called and that she was going to save my number and prank call me in the middle of the night. So I hung up and called back.

She answered again - I swear she knew it was me - and this time I tried saying "report outage" to her vague offer of assistance. She transfered me to another automated line - this time a male - her boyfriend? - which was of absolutely no help to me at all, except to tell me in a superior voice that an outage will likely be remedied in 2 to 3 hours, and a representative can call me back if I leave my number to update me on the number of hours the outage would be fixed in. So I fumed and decided that if the power was out here, I should go do something productive, like run errands or something.

I went to Petco. I bought cat food and checked out their fish section. I went to the bank and took out some cash, in case the power was out all day and we can't cook for dinner. I came home to find the power was still out so I grumbled. I cleaned out my car. I sorted the laundry that I was planning on doing here in my building while looking for work all day. I loaded the car with laundry and drove down the street to the laundromat, where thankfully, they had power. All this time, I hadn't eaten anything except a cookie, because they were out on the counter and I didn't want to open the fridge and let the cool air out. I couldn't heat up anything anyway.

So after hauling two very full laundry baskets from my car - one trip back to the car for each - into the laundromat, and getting 5 loads started on the wash cycle, I decided to walk two doors down and get a slice of pizza to tide me over. Keep in mind this is the fifth time I have walked to or past my car since carrying in the first basket, full of whites. I grab my slice of cheese pizza and start back toward the laundromat, trip number 6 down the sidewalk, when I see a crumpled mass of flowers on the cement before me. No ... not flowers. It's flowered clothing. No, not clothing - underwear. My underwear. My only pair of flowered underwear - the bright gaudy ugly pair you only wear when you are at the bottom of the barrel before laundry day. These ones I had worn yesterday. And there they were, proclaiming their freedom on the busy sidewalk of the busiest street in town. I grabbed them and stuffed them under my arm, and slunk into the laundromat, where I contemplated throwing them away, but then I realized that the bottom-of the drawer, horrid flowered underwear where there for a reason - like the gas light in your car. They signified that you better get your ass to the laundromat or you'll be on to bathing suit bottoms before the end of the week. So I tossed them in with one of the loads I had already started.

It took two hours in the sweaty laundromat but the laundry was done, so I came home, and was blessed to find the power was back on. Almost six hours after it went out. So much for the 2 to 3 hours estimate Mr. Automated gave me. I knew he was lying and I bet his automated girlfriend put him up to it. Whatever.

At least I can reheat my coffee now.

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