Buggering Up Arnold

“Thank you for calling the Power Company. Your custom is extremely important to us. Please listen carefully to the following menu……”

We’ve all had it happen to us. A sudden emergency; we reach for the phone, only to by stymied by an automated message that presents us with a menu we can’t remember full of suggestions that are of no use in solving our immediate predicament.

Last night, at exactly 9.09 pm, we were plunged into Stygian darkness when some plonker at the power company decided it would be fun to throw a switch and cut power to ‘Section 31’.

‘Section 31’ is a small group of residential properties on the outskirts of town, that just happens to include ‘chez Adams’.

The weather was balmy; the night was warm. There was no reason on the goddamn planet for a power outage, yet ‘Section 31’ was suddenly denuded of light, cast into the blackness, an outcast from the world of fluorescent joy and gay, twinkling, effulgence enjoyed by everyone else in this mid-Illinois conurbation, other than the unfortunate residents of ‘Section 31’.

You see, it’s not the first time. This was the third occasion in four days that power has suddenly died, only to be reinstated within a few minutes, or even a couple of seconds. Their excuse is always the same: transformer failure.

It’s what their automated voice tells you:

“Our engineers are aware of a problem in Section 31 due to a transformer failure, and are working to rectify the fault. Power restoration is expected within five minutes.”

Only, we ‘Section 31’ residents all know its not a transformer failure. Transformers don’t fail for a few seconds then repair themselves. Oh, no! We residents of ‘Section 31’ know we are the fall guys.

When the heavy industry to the east of town needs more power, and the densely populated areas to the south and north turn up their air conditioning, it places an enormous strain on a power grid dating from the era of Thomas Jefferson. Something has to give, and what gives is ‘Section 31’.

In the main power control room the cry goes out: “Overload!”

In a flash, the supervisor assesses the situation, sees the problem and barks the order, “Shut down Section 31.”

The switch is thrown and ‘chez Adams’, together with a couple of dozen other properties, finds itself transformed in a millisecond from a cosy, humming, domicile to a dead, dark, silent tomb.

Of course, the power company would argue – if the power company deigned to argue at all, which it doesn’t – that it’s most important to keep the industry and heavily populated business areas supplied, rather than a few old codgers watching television or playing video games on their computers.

I disagree. What’s more, I’d tell them so if I could only speak to something that actually drew breath. First of all, I pay the same rate for power as anyone else in this god-awful town, so I’m entitled to equal priority. Second, my computer is just as likely to corrupt its files during a power outage as those of the Archer Daniel Midland Corporation or the Tate & Lyle Sugar Refinery.

And third, it plays havoc with Arnold.

But can I get through to a human being at the power company? No, of course I can’t ……

What? Who’s Arnold?

Ah, well, during the summer Arnold lives and works in the backyard. He needs a constant supply of electricity in order to do his job. When the power goes out, Arnold downs tools and won’t do a tap till I go out and boot him into action once more.

Only, during a central Illinois summer, no-one ventures out into their yard after dark. A night out in the Amazon jungle is more appealing than even a minute or two outside in a central Illinois backyard mid-summer.

Consequently, if Arnold stops work after dark due to a power outage, it’s next morning before anyone risks booting him into action again.

Still, as I was saying, if I could only manage to contact someone down the power company other than that darned machine, I’d tell ’em…….

What? What does Arnold do?

Why, Arnold’s a Mosquito Magnet. You see, that’s the reason most central Illinois residents won’t step outside their yard door after dark: mosquitoes. We’ve got mosquitoes bigger than bald eagles flying around out there, and Arnold does a great job of vacuuming them up. Well, that is, so long as the power keeps flowing. As soon as it cuts out, so does Arnold. It means a trip down the yard to boot him up again once the power’s back on, and there ain’t no-one’ll do that after dark.

Still, eventually, I’ll succeed in getting through to one of them bigwigs in person down the power company, and when I do he’ll get a right piece of my mind. We folks in ‘Section 31’ have as much right to power as anyone else in this town and…….

What? Why’s a Mosquito Magnet called Arnold?

Geez! Are you dumb! Because it’s an Exterminator. Right? You know – Arnold, the Exterminator……?

And that’s what I’ll do to that bigwig down the power company, one of these days……if I can ever get past that bloody automated machine……

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6 Replies to “Buggering Up Arnold”

  1. LOL!! We get those outages too, here in Okie-land. They tend to come in daylight hours for us though – stopping, among other things, the garage door mechanism, just as a person needs to get in/out.

    I don’t remember anything similar ever happening in the UK – other than during the strikes, back in the 70s, when we all equipped ourselves with camping lamps, candles and primus stoves.

    It’s really surprising that the USA isn’t a lot better equipped and organised electrically……or is it?

  2. Why don’t you net the grid with Awni and have him catch the bugs in the big automated machine? That would be good for a bit of sparkle down at headquarters!

  3. Off the grid with you. RJA, is what I would suggest or is anyone down there doing it yet?

    Your story reminds me of when we would spend our summers on an island off the south coast of Ireland and the mile long cable between two rocky points bringing the electricty to the island would be snapped by a tall masted yacht. Which would beg the question why wasn’t the channel marked with a height limit for watercraft?
    “no one had gotten around to that yet.”
    Often we were on primus for days. Everybody on the island rolled with it except us snarky demanding summer visitors.


  4. WWW – living in central Illinois is similar to being on an island – surrounded, from horizon to horizon, by a sea of impenetrable bloody corn.

    And, no, to date nobody’s doing it. The cost of doing so is kept prohibitively high by collusion of the energy corporates.

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