When Utilities Go Bad

I got home yesterday after a long day of substitute school teaching (middle school French, that’s all you need to know), turned on the faucet at the kitchen sink and…


Panicked, I tried the hall bathroom. Nothing there either.

A broken line?  There were no puddles in the yard.

Forgot to pay the water bill?  No, I’ve never been late with a payment. Besides, there would’ve been a warning if I had forgotten.

A widespread outage?  I started across the yard to check with neighbors when I noticed the grass around the water meter had been disturbed.  Someone had accessed the meter.

Back inside to call the Water Department.  Long story short, they sent someone out within 90 minutes.  The water was off, all right.  A new meter had been installed and the water was never turned back on.  The technician chuckled when he told me this, “That’s the second one today.”

This reminded me of the local telephone company. Since I returned to this area thirty years ago, I’ve had two phone installations, and they messed it up both times.

The first time the line was installed backwards, so I could receive but not make calls.  Initally they told me the problem was my phone.  A test on a neighbor’s line disproved that notion, so grudgingly they reinstalled the line.

About five years later I moved into my present house and had another installation.  In those days before the Do Not Call List, I ordered an unlisted number.  A couple of days later, I decided to call my new number to see if the installation was completed.  I got a strange answering-machine message.  Something had gone wrong again.

This time, the phone company quickly admitted the mistake.  The young lady had read the wrong column on her computer screen and had recited the amount I owed rather than the last four digits of my new number.

Okay, that was an understandable mistake.  Now could I please have the correct number?

“I’m sorry, we can’t give it to you.”

Can’t give me my own phone number?  Why not?

“Because it’s unlisted.”

My memory has since blocked the unpleasantness of dealing with that Catch-22, but eventually I did prove to their satisfaction that I was the rightful owner of that number.  And I hope I never have to change phone numbers ever again.

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