Time out

The wind blew two big limbs off a pine tree, and complicated somewhat our household, return to standard time. One of the limbs came down across our road, and I fired up the chain saw and exercised it purposefully. The other had slashed off some 50 feet in the breeze and had fetched up smack on the power line. Our clocks had all stopped at 11:18 p.m., daylight saving time, when this contract occurred, and from what we gathered later it blew every fuse in town. We realized during the night that we were without power, and at the crucial hour of 2 a.m., when we were supposed to lose back an hour, we had no reason to set any clocks and no knowledge of the proper time. (Old Timer, our family heirloom tall clock, had been stopped before bedtime, you see, because that kind of clock must never be set backward. Start it again, is the way).

Well, there we were. My wife fixed me a cold doughnut and a glass of milk for breakfast, and our battery radio told us at that the sound of the tone it would be exactly 8 o'clock. She then telephoned the power company to say we were cut off. The man was, she said, very polite, thanked her for calling, an said power would be restored soon. I piled wood in the fireplace, filled the woodbox, and went outdoors to find, as aforesaid, that two limbs had blown off the pine. After clearing away the first I had no plans to touch the second -- the one in the high tension.

I am the unquestioned best customer of our Central Maine Power Company. When we built our little tidewater home, leaving the big farmhouse in retirement, we consulted the experts of this company and became the proud owners of an "all-electric home." These experts took the drawings of the house and set down exactly what we had to do to have a home that would be economically supplied, and they told us exactly what our costs would be, per annum. It wasn't any estimate, nor was it a figure based on rates. You simply couldn't beat it, so we put in the required Styrofoam, the right fiberglass insulation, the correct heating units, and we spent much more than an ordinary amount of money to have the house fully wired in the best manner. We did everything we were supposed to do. The power company, of course, then withdrew all experts and disappeared into a kind of corporate limbo where we haven't, really, found them again. They never livep up to their agreement, and have avoided reminding themselves of it. People -- yes, the people we meet and talk to are pleasant and sympathetic, but the corporation remains unconcerned and indifferent. If it thinks it hasn't cheated us, it's only because it has another word for us.

Meantime, don't misunderstand. We like the all-electric. I have my home, my garage, and my workshop (with office corner) in a convenience that is well worth some of the rip-off. I have no furnace to feed and clean, and no woodpile duties except for the purely cosmetic fireplace. I have something like 35 motors in all, giving me my household appliances and my woodworking tools. Besides the heating units and the electric range, I have other jiggers and doodads from the television down to a soldering iron.Two freezers, two refrigerators, radios, record player. I enumerate only to explain why I said, "He well should be," when my wife said the man was polite. Then I went to find the pine limbs down and the power line fouled.

After I cleared the debris from the roadway, I went into the house and said, "What's the number of the power company? They might like to know I've found their trouble."

"You can't call them," she said, one of those female roundabouts that means something else. "You have to call the operator and ask for "Enterprise 7009."

"Why is that?"

"It's in the directory -- I guess they're ashamed to use the right name."

The man was polite to me, too. He said he would give my limb his immediate attention. It was 10 a.m., Eastern standard time.

We made lunch on the fireplace, got Old Timer striking right, and heard Buffalo beat New England on the battery set. The first day of standard time is the longest day of the year, and we made supply be kerosene lamp on the fireplace. I called Enterprise 7009 from time to time, and was assured, "We're doing the best we can." And after supper, well after dark, the repair crew arrived, looked at the limb, and one of the men called to the other, "I finally found it!"

Ten minutes later we had juice and I set all the clocks back one hour.

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