At approximately 1:15 today, our power suddenly stopped.
I had been doing chores and stood in the sunlit bedroom momentarily confused, glancing at the clocks, realizing that the radio had fallen silent and the glowing numbers on our alarm clocks had vanished. My first thought was, “Did I pay the bill?”, followed by, “Yes, I did!” I grabbed my cell phone and called Verizon Wireless connect, asking for a KC MO listing for Kansas City Power & Light.
“Certainly,” said the crisp voice. I ignored the computer prompt to “text one to also have driving directions sent to your V-Z Navigator”, and waited for the friendly neighborhood Computer Driven Voice Menu of our local power company.
Instead, I heard a chirpy recorded voice say, “Welcome to the Kansas City Power & Light District! Our normal business hours are…” I disconnected the call and redialed 1411. I explained to the woman what I wanted — and, curiously, I got the same person who had just misdirected my call. “It’s the only Kansas City Power & Light listed,” she insisted. I held back a sharp retort and said, “Try KCP&L.” She asked, “What’s that?” I’m guessing she wasn’t in a nearby location. “Just please try it,” I begged, and she did.
Moments later I had recorded my problem and the KCP&L computer automatically terminated the call. I felt uneasy. What if it wasn’t a power outage? What if….Oh, golly do I need to go downstairs and check the breaker? I decided to call back and just hold until an operator came online. The computer went through its routine three times before surrendering and connecting me with a human being.
“Do you have a power outage in your neighborhood,” she asked. I fell into a momentary time warp. It seemed to me that I should be asking her this question. “I don’t know; do I?” She hesitated a moment and said — I swear on my mother’s grave — “We only know that when people call into the office and tell us.” People? This caused my confusion to deepen.
“What do you mean, ‘people’?”
“Well, you know,” she explained. “Like you. When people like you call into the office and tell us that they don’t have power, then we know there’s an outage.”
Are you serious right now? Nobody’s watching the grid?
After ten minutes or so of discussing the process, the prospects for restored power, and the numbers scrolling by on her screen, the lady suddenly cried out with glee: “Oh, they just declared it an outage!” A moment passed. “189 people are without power!” I could tell she felt vindicated. At last, confirmation of what I feared and of her assessment of the system: Enough people called them to allow for the declaration of a power outage. I’m guessing all 189 people called at once.
“What’s your name, ma’am?” I asked the question as kindly as i could.
“Hilda,” she told me.
“Well, Hilda, I really hope you have a nice afternoon,” I said. Just before I disconnected the call, I heard HIlda say, “I hope you have a nice afternoon too, Miss Corley.”
To be completely honest with you, I found myself laughing. And sure enough, even though the lights didn’t come back on until almost 4:30, I actually did enjoy my day.