Friday, September 22, 2006
I arrived home 30 minutes ago to find no electricity at my home. Mrs. and Littlest are out, pets are inside, and all I have to get into the house is the garage door opener, which is currently about as useful as a speedbump on a Republican website. Mrs. has recently changed the lock, and I have not gotten the new key. And since she was just running to the store when the power went out, she left behind her cellphone so I can't call her. (I have since found them.)
So I call your emergency line. You might wonder how I know this number, given I am standing outside my house in the rain: I know because I had to do this two weeks ago, so your emergency number is in my recent # list on my cellphone. If you think this is a good thing, that's a problem too, but we'll get back to that.
And just like last time, I get an automated voice system that directs me how to report an electrical outage. Same voice, not quite mechanical, not quite human -- though it is really trying to be, saying "OK" in the same cheery way over and over every time I hit another number for another option. I half expect cheese to come out of my cellphone.
So this pretend-real voice dropped into my phone out of some cheesy horror movie says "we have recorded your power outage report and can tell you your power will be restored at " and here there is this very slight pause as it switches to read a damn timestamp and says "9:52pm. Would you like to report another power outage?"
Now please, WHO THE HELL HAS TWO POWER OUTAGES TO REPORT?????
That's there because that's all this number knows how to do. It does not ever give the option of talking to a live person, on this or any other continent. It is a reporting system designed for your benefit, not your customers'. And of course, because I live in a city, I can't choose to hire a different electricity provider, a fact you know.
And 9:52?? Precisely? How can that be anything other than a timestamp? "Oh don't jump to conclusions," you say, except that I do jump to conclusions after experiencing the EXACT same thing a mere 12 days ago -- you do recall that I said your electrical outage reporting number was in my recent dialed numbers on the cell, yes? -- and being a scientific sort I tested the theory again with my neighbor's phone, in which case it said the problem would be solved by 9:55. 52 or 55? Which is it?
There's a place people like you go. I can tell you that you will be there in exactly four...
(P.S. Those of you hoping I would liveblog Almanac tonight ... well, you try asking the people in the bar to change the channel to PBS.)
UPDATE: 11:20pm -- electricity reappears in the shire. Littlest wakes up from a deep sleep, smiles and walks to the laptop. Order is restored, and this is all a hobbit wants. Meanwhile, the father shakes his fist to the night sky: "9:52 my eye."