Snowshoeing along the power line right-of-way through our woods, I notice a couple of overladen hemlocks tilting toward the wires. With all the wet heavy snow that fell in the recent storm, trees have been snapping and toppling everywhere, at all hours. I hear it happening in the middle of the night when usually the only sounds are the hoot of an owl or the howl of a big coyote.
So when I return to the house I call the power company and get their automated “Report an Electrical Emergency” department. Mine is not an emergency—not yet anyway—so I at once feel guilty. But I stay on the line. A recorded voice, freshly unsealed from its digital crypt, starts talking. It sounds like it’s coming out of one of those “spirit trumpets” old-time mediums used.
“If your lights are completely out, press 1. If your lights are flickering, press 2. If your lights are brighter than usual, press 3. If your lights are dimmer than usual, press 4. If none of these conditions apply, press 5.”
Our lights are still on, and conditions 2, 3, and 4 sound like a haunted house, which is not our problem, so I press 5—and the line goes dead.
I redial the Electrical Emergency number and get the voice back. By this time I have forgotten the choices offered by the voice, so I listen to them again and again press 5. Same thing happens: the line goes dead. Again I redial and again get the voice. This time I don’t bother listening to it. Instead I press 6, just to see what happens. I’m feeling lucky, in a Google kind of way.
I get another voice. This one is vexed. It might be a live person, or not. Hard to tell. “How did you get this number?” it growls. I’m no longer feeling lucky.
I hang up and go to the power company’s web page, where there are no voices, and make my report.