I’ve always assumed that the major power companies that supply most of us with electricity have impressive high-tech command centers where they monitor the whole power system; where specially trained experts keep careful watch on a huge wall full of digital screens that map out the power grid and alert them when there’s a problem so they can quickly dispatch people to fix it.
I was wrong.
When our power went out yesterday around noon, I wasn’t too concerned. Our occasional power outages rarely last long. When we called and the automated response estimated our power would be back on by 4 p.m., I still wasn’t concerned because they almost always pad those estimates by an hour or two.
When 4 p.m. came and went and we still had no power, I was a little annoyed. I had read the Sunday newspaper, finished a novel and cleaned 2 bathrooms in the dark. The house was getting warmer and I was experiencing uncomfortable cable and internet withdrawal symptoms.
I called the power company again and this time spoke to a live human being. She said they were now estimating that our power would be back on by 8 p.m. I asked her what the problem was. She replied, “A primary line failed and they’re trying to find it.”
Trying to find it? Seriously? There’s no blinking red line on the screen at the command center that indicates where it is? This information did not make me happy.
Still, I was hopeful when the big truck from the power company pulled into our driveway just a short time later. I went out on the porch and inanely asked the power guy, “Are you here to turn my power back on?” He said, “We’re trying!” I thought I’d suck up by bringing out a couple of bottles of water, despite the fact that all we had were warm bottles of water since the fridge had been without power all afternoon, but before I even made it into the kitchen, the truck was driving away and we were still powerless. That’s their idea of trying?
Perhaps I judged them too quickly though, because 2 more trucks then arrived. This time I was quick with the water bottles, giving me an excuse to find out what was going on. The guy said that an underground line had failed and the only way to locate it was to physically trace through the entire grid, but he assured me that he’d restore power to our house momentarily, and he did. I thanked him and watched as the trucks proceeded up the street to restore power one house at a time.
To all those power guys who spent their entire Sunday, Father’s Day, no less, restoring power throughout our neighborhood, your efforts are greatly appreciated. To the power company, which obviously does not have the command center that I had imagined, is that really the best you can do?