Okay. This is a self-interested public-service announcement. I am going to complain about a personal issue here. To vent. Because I personally and that means by proxy all of you are being swindled by none other than our main source of power, the one that has brought us to our knees and threatens to do so should we fail to pay homage in the form of a grossly over-padded monthly bill. No, not our local parish or our shrink—I mean Con Ed with the emphasis on Con.
Having been semi-paralyzed by recent power outages in my hood, I decided on a gas stove—the one I was forced to buy because my neighbor’s bathtub flooded onto my kitchen and destroyed all appliances. Did I get a penny of insurance? Enough to cover my next upgraded rate hike. Whatever. I am over that. What I am not over is that after finally completing payments for my state-of-the-art range including the $300 plumbing fee to attach a hose, someone in my building smells gas (not mine) and the whole system is shut down. Not for a week or two weeks. For two months. And not the whole building—just my line, where the leak was located, below me. And the public laundry facilities which are used by the underprivileged few without a private laundry room, meaning me, and the superintendent who can afford to send out. So I spend many summer nights, with my broken foot, dragging wet laundry into other people’s basements where I get to spend late hours with the rats while feeding quarters to ravenous dryers. Not to mention that I was forced to buy an electric kettle and frying pan to cook with, because I certainly can’t afford takeout for growing teenagers.
Okay. I adjust. And the moment my gas is shut down, I record my meter reading: 741. Right. I continue to observe my meter throughout the summer, which seems somehow to be moving. When I call Con Ed to inform them of this, I am told by one helpful employee that ‘wow, that is like impossible’, and by the next that..’oh yes, the meter keeps moving like a clock—whether there’s gas or not’. Anyway, when the gas is finally restored, 2 months later, my meter has clocked an additional 13 therms. I have continued to receive estimated bills throughout the summer which I ignore…no gas, no charge, right? At least I am saving somewhere… although I’m sure the extra cookware is using more electrical juice than I can afford. I actually force Con Ed to send someone by appointment to check my meter and log this figure on the day I resume gas consumption…question this man about the miracle of the moving meter, and receive some consolation that we will be credited for all service outage.
I call on September 6, give them my new meter reading—have used 1 therm in 11 days.. pretty credible… the guy on the phone tells me I have a $14 credit. Thank you, I say. But today…I get a bill for $144.00 with various hocus pocus figures and credits which go back to January and after a high-decibel conversation with a calm Con (ed) artist, it seems in 4 months, with no gas use at all for 2 and minimal use for the last one (addicted to the electric pan, I am) I have used more fuel than in the entire year of 2006.
What about the guy who guaranteed I owed nothing? Forget him. He’s gone. Mistake.
Why does this remind me of my teenage son who when he comes home 3 hours late, screaming and accusing me of some horrific maternal crime? Not only am I being swindled, ripped off, and punished for their deficit, but I was humiliated by the phone agent who accused me of trying to wriggle out of my bill which was months outstanding. Would you pay for gas you aren’t receiving? Estimated bills for imaginary gas while you are spending time and energy and CASH finding alternate energy sources? Where is the compensation? When I had my flood the insurance company advised me to get a hotel room and bill my neighbors. Right. My life was completely zonked for 2 years and my neighbors didn’t even pay for a mop. Or apologize. The building management switched and the new people don’t know anything about it. The former company won’t return my calls. I’m no longer a client. In fact I have maybe the status of a rat which we all know outnumber the citizens of Manhattan by like 8 to 1.
So who is going to stand up to Con Ed for me? My building management which has literally never returned my calls because I am the smallest shareholder in the building and have no loud-mouthed husband in a suit with a job that has priority over building-management employee? I wear jeans, carry a musical instrument and do not have a cellphone or a housekeeper. This translates as ‘delete all messages’. My loudmouth kids? They scream at me, not for me.
I spend my Saturday trying to reason with Con Ed agents who get paid well for refusing to participate in logical or feasible conversations with anyone who has an issue with a bill. In fact, they assure me I am lucky they didn’t charge me more, that this seems in fact ‘cheap’ and they just might really charge me next month, or cut my gas off again if I think I am consuming conspicuously and might have a leak. How about my neighbor who caused the shutdown? Accountability? Forget about it. Go play your guitar.
If I could return the goddam stove I’d happily do without. I’ll use sterno until my son goes off to college. I’ll rub sticks together. I went to a consumer site online where there was a complaint from a couple with a small apartment who received an electric bill for $1,700. Not one response because everyone is busy watching the tennis. In case you are reading, couple in Nolita, I feel for you. I will dedicate a song to you tonight. Maybe if the 3 of us band together, we will have the power of a dead rat against these Con artists. Is anyone out there? Anyone willing to boycott and use candles? Anyone that realizes these people have us by the balls and threaten to cut our lifelines if we don’t overpay?
Maybe I can harness the rats to run an alternative power wheel. Hilary? Mike? Barak? Mr. Skilling? Is anyone listening?