Turning on the Electric

August 6, 2011

Life is messy. Life is complicated. Life is unpredictable. Life never fits squarely within preordained parameters. More and more these days it seems like “the rules” that govern our lives are written by people who have forgotten about these things. Especially since 9/ll and the resulting added security features seemingly built into every step we take, we run into roadblocks whenever we can’t simply check “yes”.  Like when the answer lies somewhere between “yes” and “no”. In addition it seems lately that the only people who are considered innocent until proven guilty are criminals. We live in a world of proving who we are, where we live, and that we’re not insolvent. You can’t use your own driver’s license to prove your identity when you renew your driver’s license (but you can use an out-of-state license??). You’re asked to pay the copay for your doctor’s visit after providing insurance cards, picture ID, and a credit card in case you don’t pay your bill, before you even know what’s wrong with you. And, I’ve just learned that you can’t get electric if you don’t have a credit history.

Getting the electric service transferred into Lauren’s name is the latest hurdle we’ve encountered. The bill has to be in her name in order to apply for the various types of assistance she will need to sustain her living arrangement. Eight and a half hours on hold over three days and conversations with more than seven people later.........wait, I don’t want to give the ending away.

It seems that because Lauren has no credit history – let’s see, severely disabled, total care, mmmmm – go figure - she would have to leave a security deposit of $683.00. That would be pretty much her entire income for one month. And, she would need to go to one of three specific JCP&L offices, all at least an hour away, and provide a picture ID plus another form of ID. I explained the situation to the phone representative. I explained that Lauren does not drive and thus does not have a picture ID. (I was told to take her to a Notary Public and have an affidavit made up to proved her identity. I asked how the Notary would know her any better than JCP&L would, and got no answer) I explained the hardship of a young woman in a wheelchair, with low-income, having to travel to their office to complete their requirement. My husband called and explained the situation to yet another person. They didn’t care. That was the rule. No exception. Now what?

I called the NJ Board of Public Utilities where I spoke with Miss Hirschberg. I explained the situation to Miss Hirschberg. I explained the significance of Lauren getting her own home to Miss Hirschberg. Miss Hirschberg said, “Stop. You’re going to make me cry.” With grim determination in her voice, she said, “We handle complaints with utility companies by email, but I’m calling JCP&L right now. You’ll receive a call back from them by the end of the day. Here’s my number in case you don’t.”

Less than an hour later I received a call from Kerri at JCP&L who said, “The situation has been explained to me. I live in a mobile home park, too. The owner’s daughter is handicapped. Of course, you’re not taking your daughter to a JCP&L office - absolutely not!  And, we’re waving the security deposit. I’m putting a note in Lauren’s file. The only restriction is that should the bill ever fall behind, she’ll be asked for a security deposit. Call again to have the electric transferred and tell them to look for the note in the file.”  She then proceeded to ask for contacts and information she could pass on to the park owner who was trying to figure out services for his own daughter.  She wanted to know how Lauren was able to put together her housing arrangement.  In the end, I think I was less helpful to her than she was to me.

So, two hours on hold later (you leave your number and they call you back) I was finally able to get the account into Lauren’s name.  Then they transferred me to someone who was supposed to give me a confirmation number, didn’t, but did try and sell me Direct TV service.

Can any of us get through our lives and meet our responsibilities, if rules aren’t occasionally bent, if exceptions aren’t sometimes required, if common sense isn’t allowed free rein? How ridiculous is it to have wasted so much time, have had to speak to so many people, have had to involve an advocate, just to get Lauren electrical service? Shouldn’t the first person I spoke to at JCP&L have identified an unusual situation, referred me to someone who could make an exception if warranted, have employed some measure of concern or compassion? How sad that they felt no need to do any of that. 


  1. The bill has to be in her name in order to apply for the various types of assistance she will need to sustain her living arrangement. Severna Park Electricians

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