Friday, December 28, 2007

My Chilly Lesson about Electicity!

You would expect that when you travel on Dec. 27, the crazy shit you’ll encounter will be at an airport. Perhaps I should have known that trouble would await me at home when my flights from Buffalo to Charlotte to Denver all arrived as close to on-time as I could hope, especially considering a storm in Denver would screw up air travel all over the country that day.

Having trudged through a snowdrift up to my tall, thin knees to get to my car and clean it off, I stopped at the grocery store on the way home. I was starving and dead tired, having arisen at 4AM EST, or 12 hours earlier, and having had only a small sandwich and a bagel all day. I was psyched to enjoy the DiGiorno pizza I had bought, and lie on the couch and watch hockey until I fell asleep.

I shovel my way into my house and quickly go room to room turning on the electric heat….yes, I know electric heat sucks, but that was the fashion in the 70’s when my townhouse was built. I also flip on the oven to preheat for the pizza. After turning on the heat, I usually here a clicking sound, then some popping as the registers heat up, and the house warms up quickly. I didn’t notice any of that. I was too in a hurry to get to the bathroom and out of my snow covered jeans and shoes to notice. But minutes later, the registers had yet to heat up. My lights came on, the tv worked, but no heat.

After a half hour, I determined I had a problem. I check the circuit breaker box, but nothing is tripped. Hmmmmm.

Meanwhile, even though the oven had not heated to full temp, I had thrown my pizza in. It should take about 25 minutes.

By now I’ve decided my heat is broken, and call an electrician. While I wait, I notice that my pizza, which now should be cooked, is only half done and the oven has still not warmed up to the prescribed 400 degrees.

When Vince the electrician arrives, I tell him the symptoms: no heat, an oven that seems to be working on half power, lights and tv’s working, and no circuits tripped. “Wow, that’s interesting” he says. “Great” I think “I got the Dr. House of electricians, excited to work on an interesting case, probably not worried about what it costs.”.

Vince goes out to the circuit breaker box, and delivers this news: “I know what’s wrong, and I can’t fix it.” He says that the current is not coming in properly from the electric company, and that I am only getting about half the power I should. I had no idea that was possible, and apparently did any of my neighbors on the same circuits who also called electricians and got the same news (I found that out later….a bit of communication would have saved us $60 apiece!). In fact, while Vince was out at my breaker box, another electrician yelled out that he’d already notified Xcel (the electric co).

I call the electric company anyway, and they say it will be fixed within 4 hours. It’s about 4pm. By 6:30 I notice no activity, and it’s getting cold. I have the oven turned on at it’s lame half power…..oh, did I mention that my pizza was just turned to worthless goo by the half strength oven?....and the door wide open. It’s my only source of heat. I’m exhausted and want to sleep, but I’m afraid I’ll either freeze to death, or the heat will come on and the open oven will start a fire (don’t ask me how…I was tired and not thinking clearly). I call again, and point out that I have electric heat, so does the neighborhood, and the temp is dropping into single digits.

About 7:30 I see flashlights around the electric box across the street. I’m saved! But by 8 they are gone, and still no heat. About 9 I decide a cup of tea would be warming, and pop one in the microwave. 10 seconds later, all the lights go out. I look outside, and I see lights at other houses. I was sure I was screwed, that I had just blown what little power I had and would freeze and starve to death in the dark.

But wait, a blinking light can be seen in the other direction. I put on 3 coats and a touque and head outside, and there are 2 big Xcel trucks replacing a piece of equipment with a crane. By 9:30, the heat is on!

Do you think I can bill Xcel for the $60 I had to pay the electrician?

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