may have mentioned the occasional run-in with utility companies among my other rumblings. I may have noted the slightly disconnected feeling I have with my needs and their interests. I might have alluded to acts of violence I felt would be required to get them to re-think their approach to business. All this to point out that I've developed a touch of sensitivity about utility companies in my life.
Which company? You want a name? I grew up with my Dad ranting about Cilco and GTE. Cilco begat Illinois Power begat AmerinIP. GTE begat Verizon begat Sprint on my cell phone and who knows what once I move. The names change, but the bureaucracy stays the same. I'm a highly tuned, utility loathing device, ready on a hair trigger to respond to their explosively bad customer service.
Sunday morning, at around 8 am, the phone starts ringing. Odd times like that tend to wake Sally and I up. We have a neat cordless phone that 1) plays any audio file you want as your ring tone (this is a standard home phone, not a cell phone, so the concept of "ring tones" are a bit new) and 2) will actually speak the name of the caller as displayed on the caller ID. So you don't have to answer calls at 8 am on a Sunday if it's the wrong number or non-critical or if your apartment is way too freezing to run through in your boxers to grab the phone in the other room. If the phone can't get the caller name, it will substitute a location based on the Area Code, or sometimes say "Unknown Caller." For the record, our phone plays the theme song to Sealab 2021 as its ring tone. One other caveat with the phone - it's on the same line as our business, and the business voicemail system will pick it up in 3 rings on the weekend. And once that happens, my phone gets pretty useless (because it's not one of the "business" phones. Don't ask, it sucks, we're moving).
8am, yesterday, it starts ringing, and we're barely awake, and then I hear the totally synthesized computer voice say "Illinois Power" and I am out of my bed like a confused maniac tearing away covers, tripping over cats, screaming "Don't hang up!!" because in my confused state SOME utility was calling, and THEY NEVER CALL YOU, you always have to hunt them down through their useless 800 number. In my addled mind I couldn't remember if Illinois Power was gas or electric... BECAUSE THEY BOTH PROVIDE POWER. Like I said - confused maniac.
Now we see me, stumbling, lurching, running headlong to the phone, in it's third ring, announcing for the last time "Illinois Power" and me snatching up the handset "Hello?!? HELLO?!?" No dice. The office system was already telling them "we're sorry, but we're closed, yadda yadda."
I probably swore as I brought the phone back to bed. Sally was slightly more awake and pointed out it wasn't Nicor, who is the real nemesis lately. "Oh yeah, " I realized, "but still, they NEVER call you. Something must be totally screwed up for Illinois Power to call at this hour. Man I HATE how you have to jump at their every whim." At this point Sally's poking at the phone, retrieving the list of recent caller IDs. "Hmm... The last call was from 'Illinois Call' - not Illinois Power." She looked at me with a mixture of pity and barely restrained mockery. There weren't enough pillows to bury my head under to silence the cruel laughter that soon followed.
From now on SHE can call when we don't have power or gas or phone service. I'll be busy trying to find my dignity.