Some Dis-enchanted Evening

It wasn’t exactly a romantic dinner, though Friday evening’s meal has become something of a specialty. After all, we hardly see each other all week. She works long hours, we’re up at five each weekday morning, and there’s scarcely time in the evenings to rush down a freezer meal, watch half an hour of television, before she’s off to shower and do all those things a woman needs to do before bed by nine and grabbing eight hours or so if we’re lucky.

Friday evening is for relaxation, a bottle of Riesling, and what my old mother called a ‘proper meal, cooked from scratch with good ingredients, not one of those iced up plastic trays of chemicals, with processed meat left over from the war.’

My mother thought everything ‘processed’ originated as army rations during ‘the war’.

The meal was prepared, the wine chilled; a favorite TV show recorded and ready to go. We sit down, toast the coming weekend, begin to enjoy the first tentative forkfuls of a delicious chicken dish. The show is fun. We’ve waited all week to watch it. Life, after five long, punishing days, is finally good.

Without warning, a fork of chicken halfway to my lips, the TV blacks out, we’re plunged into Stygian blackness. AmerenIP, our one and only Illinois power supplier has yet again pulled the plug. Responding to our frantic cellphone call, the long familiar computer voice informs us she’s aware of an outage in our area. It’s effecting 608 households. The engineers hope to restore our light and sanity within one and a half hours.

Sure enough, in one hour and twenty-five minutes the lights burst back to life, the smoke detector emits a single tweet of alarm as 120 volts suddenly surge up its jacksy, and the Tivo video recorder begins an interminably long reboot to the accompaniment of a screen proclaiming, “Just a few more minutes” and a silly cartoon character with an aerial stuck out its head that makes you want to hurl bricks at the screen.

And none of this would matter if it all hadn’t happened before, with monotonous regularity. It was barely two weeks since the last power outage left us devoid of entertainment for a whole evening. All that varies is the length of time before they switch things on again.

I lived in numerous different parts of Britain for fifty-three years. In all that time, I could count the number of power outages on the fingers of one hand. Then, it was due to an unusually severe storm, or flooding, or even on one occasion a local IRA sympathizer attempting to blow up a substation.

In Illinois, the power goes out on balmy evenings, on lovely sunny autumn days without a wisp of wind or a single spot of rain. You just blink once and – poof! – it’s gone. AND THERE’S BUGGER ALL YOU CAN DO ABOUT IT!

That’s the most frustrating part. There’s no-one to rail at. Human beings don’t exist at AmerenIP. It’s impossible to get past the computerized woman. And when the lights finally come back on, the same bloody digitized female has the nerve to ring you up and tell you the power’s back.


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2 Replies to “Some Dis-enchanted Evening”

  1. I sympathise, RJ. We are afflicted in the same way from time to time. As advanced as the USA is supposed to be, when it comes to electricity and water supplies they are decades behind the UK, especially in rural or semi-rural areas…..can’t speak for urban/metro places.

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