Cynthia: Well, this certainly wasn’t a typical afternoon.
Edd: That’s for sure. We’ve just finished lunch and the power goes off. We’re thinking, “Well, they’ve been digging up the street for over a week and the water was off for awhile a few days ago. Probably something to do with that.”
C: But just to be sure you check the lights in the common area outside our door and, uh-oh, they’re still on.
E: So somehow we’re the problem. You look out the front window and see guys at the power box for the building so I hustle downstairs to see what’s going on. They tell me our power is being shut off for nonpayment. I start to argue that’s impossible because our bill is electronically deducted from from our checking account. But what’s the point? These dudes are just doing their job.
C: Of course you can’t check our account online because–u-h-h-h–the Internet requires electricity.
E: Only one thing to do–I’m off to the bank with the last paper bill you find from like five years ago. It’s been quite some time since we’ve had to deal with bureaucracy and based on past experience I’m bracing myself for a nightmare. I’ve got every document I can think of with me but it’s never enough. They always want one more thing and I’m not feeling overly optimistic about my half-decade old bill. Yet I’m determined to get the damn power back on today.
When I explained the situation to my friend at the bank she told me that the power company had changed their system some months back and customers needed to redo their paperwork for automatic deduction. I said I knew nothing about this and didn’t understand how a company could change policy and not notify customers.
She replied they had sent out information via email. Then looking at my bill she said, “But you didn’t get it because your landlord’s name is on this, not yours. And apparently he didn’t tell you.”
C: Ah, we’d totally forgotten that. Utility bills here are registered to the owner of the residence and since we rent—–.
E: Exactly. Being perfectly honest, I don’t pay attention to our bank statement. In this case shame on me, I guess, but there are only a few line items each month–health insurance, Internet, utilities. The first two are exactly the same and the utilities vary only slightly so I periodically check the balance and that’s about it.
C: So what did you do?
E: My friend said I couldn’t redo my paperwork until the bill was paid so I had no further business there. I went to the ATM, got extra money since I had no idea how much we owed, and took a taxi to the electric company office. Would you be surprised that inside it was a mob scene?
C: It’s usually a mob scene at every “official” place of business–banks, government offices, and apparently, utility companies.
E: I was told I had to pay before 4 o’clock to get the power back on today. It was 3:15 PM. Thank goodness for my superpower.
C: Superpower? I don’t remember seeing you in the recent Avengers movie.
E: Yep. Since I’m over 65 I went straight to the priority line for the handicapped, pregnant ladies, and—I hate to say it—old people. It was like 10 times shorter than the other one, so for a change I rejoiced about my advancing years. I got to the window in plenty of time. The ancient bill actually worked. I paid the balance and shocked you by walking in the door with a smile on my face two hours after I left.
C: Even better, the power was back on by 5 o’clock. You really are a superhero! I guess you just weren’t available when the movie was cast.
E: Aw, shucks—-. Here’s the amazing part. Things like this don’t happen here. Or at least they didn’t used to. The power goes out at 2. I zip over to the bank, visit the power company and pay, return by 4 and the lights are back on at 5. Have we gotten better at this expat life or has the system improved that much?
C: Probably some of both. Now, if you could use those superpowers to make it easier climbing the four flights of stairs to our apartment, that would be huge.