Saturday, September 19, 2009

No power corrupts absolutely, Part I

This was originally written on September 20th, but since I had no power, I was only able to work on it in fits and starts. I wrote the bulk of it that weekend, and then after I finally got my power back on (spoiler alert!), I've had nothing but issues with my computer. I've been busy as heck, and haven't really felt like rehashing the Week of Hell, either, but I figured I should probably finally get this puppy up and posted. Enjoy...I guess.

Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to discuss the trials and travails of the modern woman. We will discuss in-depth how we, as a society, have come to rely on the modern conveniences that our forefathers and foremothers could only dream of having. We will dissect the affects of modern technology as we know it, i.e., running water, electricity, internet, etc., and how these technologies have shaped our world.
Specifically, we are going to discuss what happens when a modern woman is suddenly stripped of her modern technologies. Spoiler alert: it sucks.

In general, this has not been a good week. I'm sure that there are many, many people out there who have had a much tougher week than I. I do not begrudge those people who have had worse luck than I this week their entitlement to a little bitching. By all means, miserable people, bitch away. Because I'm sure going to.

So the big news this week is that I had my power cut off. The really frustrating part is that it all could have been prevented if people had just communicated with me and with each other. I thought the whole reason why we had land lines, cell phones, fax machines, instant messaging, text messaging, answering services, and e-mail was to facilitate communication between all members of the entire human race and to make our lives easier. Funnily enough, these wonderful devices fail to serve their purpose when people DON'T USE THEM.

I moved into my new apartment the end of April/beginning of May of this year. The circumstances behind my move are a bit complicated, so I'll just say that my move coincided with yet another week-long run of bad luck that is suitable for a blog post all on its own. I'll leave that story for now and point out that the landlords of my new place are the most disorganized people I think I've ever met. And that's pretty impressive, considering how incredibly disorganized I am. They also seem to be masters of the classic bait-and-switch routine: when I was deciding between my present apartment and another place, a basement suite, to move into, the only reason I decided not to take the basement suite was because the ceiling was too low, only 6'3" high. Everything else about it was perfect -- it was on the street right behind my old place (easy to move, across from my bank, close to the bus stop), had two bedrooms, was spacious, had a yard and a parking spot for me (should I ever break down and get a car), had a laundry room just upstairs, and was really quiet, despite the lady above me having a screaming baby. Seriously, the kid was screaming away and I could barely hear it. Awesome. But the low ceiling...could I live with a low ceiling? Could I stand living in this ideal little suite, with all this space and convenience when I was able to touch the ceiling with my hands flat? Looking on it now, this was a really stupid question...of course I could!! But, unfortunately, I was tricked. When I went to look at my present apartment, the manager introduced me to half a dozen people who lived in the building and they were extremely nice, very polite and excited to have a new person in the neighbourhood. I have not seen any of these people in or around the building since. Where the hell did they go? Did they move out the same weekend I moved in? Are they all vampires and can't go out during the day? I suspect they were plants, hired to convince me what a great building this was and how I'd be a freaking idiot to not move in that very second.

Then I checked out the apartment and they had just laid down new carpet and painted the walls. Very nice. I went out onto the deck and, despite the road being right there, it was fairly quiet. Plus, it was $100 less than the basement suite. SOLD! After I moved in, I realized that the "quiet" street I thought I was facing was actually the main thoroughfare through the neighbourhood. Trucks gearing down, buses gearing up, ambulances, fire trucks, street sweepers, you name it, they come down that street. Plus, I had completely forgotten that there was a bar just a block up from the building, so every Friday and Saturday night, I have drunken assholes wandering past my building at 3am, stumbling home and singing "It's Raining Men" at the top of their lungs. What is it about alcohol that makes every single person who imbibes it think that they're the next American Idol? Or that anyone else actually wants to hear them? So, yet again, I'm thinking that this as another bait-and-switch; the managers must have cordoned off the street for the twenty minutes I was wandering through the building and inspecting the apartment in order to convince me that it was a nice, quiet area.

Oh, and another boon to basement suite? Everything was included, with the exception of internet, cable and phone. I thought this was a moot point at the time, because I was under the impression that this was the case with my apartment. This week, I discovered, to my chagrin, that I was mistaken in that impression. Fuck.

I went to work on Thursday like usual (sorry folks, no amusing bus stories this week -- the transit system seems to be the only one in the city this week that hasn't decided to screw me over), did my job like usual, and then went to a friend's for some good ol' Dungeons and Dragons. A group of us have just started getting together to play, so this was the first time we were actually able to do a mission...well, part of one, anyway. My character kicks ass, by the way. She's a Rogue half-elf that I've named Darma Shadowrunner, and she's awesome. Unfortunately, I can only seem to roll threes, so she's been pretty much sucking at everything except picking locks. I shall redeem her one day, mark my words...where the hell was I? Oh yeah, getting screwed over...

So, after the game, I get home at around 10:30pm and I'm tired and cranky and just want to check up on teh internetz before going to bed. I greet my mewing cats and flick the light switch. Nothing. Dammit, the lightbulb must've burned out. Okay, flick on the bathroom light. Still nothing. The hell? I close the front door and realize that it's awfully dark and quiet in here... My cats are meowing for dinner and wrapping around my legs, so I'm stumbling around in the dark trying to get to the window to open the curtains and let the light of the streetlamp in so I can see somewhat. I do pretty good, I only step on them twice before I reach the window. I open the curtains and behold! Murky light. Whoopedy doo. I manage to locate my wind-up flashlight and some matches and starting lighting candles like a mofo. After I've gotten the place lit up like a Hollywood bathroom (seriously, have you ever noticed how Hollywood movies have five hundred candles lit around every bathroom set? I guess it's supposed to add atmosphere and be romantic, but all I can think of is how annoying it's going to be to blow them all out when you're done. Plus, the smoke from blowing out all those candles will no doubt set off the smoke detector. Very romantic.), I sit back to evaluate my situation. Okay, the power can't be out all over the building, because the lights were on in the lobby and I saw lights on in a number of the apartments as I came in. So maybe it's just my floor. I head over to my neighbour across the hall and knock on her door. As soon as she opens the door, I see lights blazing and hear the TV going. Okay, strike that idea. I tell her what's going on and she says she's had power all day, so I thank her and decide to try someone on the same side of the hall as me. I knock on a couple of doors, but nobody answers. I suddenly see a guy exit one of the apartments two doors down from me and I run over to him, thoroughly making him nervous.

"Do you have power?" I ask him breathlessly. His expression implies that he would totally Mace me right now if he had any handy, but he tells me he does. "Oh," I respond, "I don't. I'm just trying to find out if anyone else has their power out, too." "You should call BC Hydro," he mutters over his shoulder as he scurries down the hallway and darts into the elevator.

Right. BC Hydro. Good idea. Only it's not. See, to compound my infernal luck, my phone had been dying all day, but I hadn't charged it so that it would run out completely. I try to do that every fourth or fifth charge so that my phone gets a completely full charge in order to not screw around with the battery any more than necessary. As a result, my phone was at about 2% battery power. Enough for maybe ten minutes of calls. Freaking awesome.

Okay, we can do this... Head back to the apartment, grab my wind-up flashlight and the phone book, and we're going to have a chat with BC Hydro. An aside: I hate phone trees. You know what I'm talking about. Those stupid "for such-and-such an option, press 1" pre-recorded message dealies that you have to contend with every single time you call any kind of business. I hate them with a burning passion that I usually reserve for fanboys and Kim Basinger. They're annoying and time-consuming and I honestly don't see how they actually help you to reach who you need to speak to. I specifically call the BC Hydro Power Outage hotline, and am asked if I want English or French, which is a fair enough question. But then it asks me if I'm a residential or business customer. What the hell's the difference?! If your power is out, does it matter if it's in a residence or a business?? Both situations are pretty serious! Yes, your business is affected when you don't have power, and it's probably not good for your computers, but most homes have computers, as well! Not to mention the fridge, freezer, stove and/or microwave, and hot water pump that most homes have -- they're pretty important in their own rights. So who cares if it's a business or a residence? Are the hookups for either one really all that different? Do electricians have to go to a separate Residence Electrician school than the Business Electricians? Sorry, I'm ranting, but it's stupid and it pisses me off. Plus, having to sit through that phone tree and push another button and wait to be connected to the next phone tree is wasting valuable battery time! Let's get a move on!

A young man finally answers the phone, identifies himself as David and asks if he can do anything. I take a deep breath... "I'm really sorry but my phone is about to die so I have to talk fast my power is out and I seem to be the only one in the building with no power is there any chance you can check and see if there are any isolated power outages in my area?" Phew. There's a pause for a second on the other end, and I start to feel sweat beading on my forehead...oh please oh please oh please do NOT make me repeat that, my battery is about to DIE! Then I hear David's voice and my heart starts back up again: "I'm sorry, ma'am, but if your unit is the only one in the building without power, it's an issue for the building manager. If there were a power outage in your area, it would affect the whole building, not just one unit." I sigh. "Oh okay thank you very much I'll see if I can track them down goodbye."

I hang up and ponder the situation. I have only two phone numbers for the building managers, and the problem here is that they pulled another bait-and-switch on me. See, two months after I moved in and was assured that the couple who'd shown me the apartment were the building owner's daughter and son-in-law, and therefore had a vested interest in keeping the building up to par, they passed the job onto another couple who lives in the building. Fine and dandy, except that I don't know their fucking phone number. Dammit! Just one thing, one little thing, can I not have one little thing go right tonight?? What the hell did I ever do you, Cosmos, seriously?!?! Screw it, I'm calling the original odd-job couple!

I called the cell number I had for them and got her answering machine, so here we go again, deep breath... "Hi this is Kelly V in apartment 404 my power is out and I'm the only one in the building with no power BC Hydro says they can't help me and my cell phone's battery is about to die so I have to make this quick could you please call me back at xxx-xxxx it's an emergency thank you goodbye!"


Penny rubs herself up against my leg and mews, bumping her head against the flashlight in my hand, begging for a pet. I reach down and rub behind her ears and fervently wish for a drink. Maybe a brown cow...Kahlua and milk...mmm, nommy... Oh crap, my milk! My fridge!! My freezer!! AAAAAHHHHH!!!!!

In Part II of this sad tale, we'll delve into the machinations of stealing hydro, the benefits of having friends with homes with working power, and why I will never own metal blinds for as long as I have my cats...

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