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Utilities, apparently, are bored with their lot in life. Turns out sitting around and being utilitarian just isn’t what it used to be, and they’re out looking for ways to spice things up. Maybe even wreak a little havoc.

1) A little over a week ago, a massive branch of an old oak came down in my girlfriend’s front yard in the middle of the night, tearing down the power lines, starting a fire in the yard, and generally leaving a path of destruction. Everyone and everything is ok, but there were a couple near misses with really, really bad consequences (fire, electrocution, etc…).

2) A couple days after that, I stopped by my previous house to check on things in the garage which I had rented for an extra month, and met the new renters only to find that they were moving out after only two days in the house. They had smelled a little bit of gas in the laundry room on moving in, and when PG&E came out to check it, their meters showed a dangerously high level of gas in the house, and an explosive concentration under the house. After coming out three times to fix the leak, the renters still smelled gas, and elected to get out while the gettin’ was good, or at least possible. I wonder how long I had been sitting on that gas leak?

3) Yesterday, my microwave began to sputter like an old outboard on a boat that’s out of gas, and the lights seemed dim. I put a tester on my outlet, and it showed 107V. Not enough. Turns out it was a neighborhood-wide problem, and, according to the PG&E man (who showed up in less than 30 minutes from the time I called!), it required replacement of a $100,000 “part” at the substation. (Hope I don’t see the charge for that on my bill)

Unfortunately (and fortunately – see number 4), while investigating the problem, the PG&E guy found a broken bracket connecting one of the main lines into my house, promptly disconnected the main, and told me I had to have an electrician fix the bracket. If something had caused the line to wiggle a little, it would have contacted another live surface, likely inducing a fire-causing explosion. The electrician is coming out next Monday or Tuesday, and until then one random half of my house is without power. Some outlets work, others don’t. I’m now running things like my refrigerator and toaster on a long, winding extension cord from another portion of the house.

4) Today, after coming home from work and getting some dinner ingredients into a pan and ready to cook, I turned on the gas stove and nothing happened. And the gas heater wouldn’t come on. And the hot water heater was silent. I called PG&E, and after the lady on the other end remarked “I see we were just out there last night for a low voltage problem…”, to which I responded “I didn’t touch anything, I swear!” she then proceeded to explain that it wasn’t clear exactly what had happened, but it was likely that my gas had been shut off by accident, and a repairman was on his way. It turned out that sometime between this morning and this evening the earthquake safety valve had been tripped, shutting down my gas line. I guess it’s good that the “earthquake” didn’t come a day earlier, bringing my electrical wires in contact with a new and exciting lively surface and, well, wreaking havoc.

2 comments to Utilitarianism

  • rekonstruct

    That’s awesome. Very utilitarian indeed.

  • yikes, that’s a whole lot of disaster rolled up into one nice week-long chalupa.

    perhaps next week we will read of you living by a lake in a plain non-powered non-heated cottage. with a chair. and 28.5 cents a day.

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