My house lost power at 8 p.m. Wednesday. This is not unusual in my home, since I’m a Pepco customer and thus subject to extended power outages at least twice a year.
We even have a drill down now. We empty out the fridge and drag everything to the in-laws’ house, then we sit there and call back home every few hours to see if the answering machine will pick up. This time, it took well over 72 hours to get the power back, with the answering machine finally picking up at 3 a.m. Saturday.
I’m one of the lucky few folks in my neighborhood with family close by, so there’s usually a place to go in the event of a power outage in my neighborhood. One family I know had to drive all the way to Ocean City to find a place to stay. Others in the neighborhood stayed and huddled underneath mountains of blankets, staring out at the window and praying that a Pepco truck would go rolling by. While out during the day, I saw any number of Pepco trucks hanging out in neighborhoods that already had power restored. What were they doing, admiring their handiwork?
Our neighborhood was given three different deadlines by Pepco for getting the power back up. The first time we called, we were told the power would be back by 11 p.m. Friday. The second time we called, we were told the power would be back at 4 p.m. Saturday. Both deadlines passed without power restoration, and the annoying thing in hindsight is that Pepco’s estimate gave us very false hope.
Pepco feels like one of those airlines in the 1990s that left you stranded on the tarmac without ever telling you precisely why you were sitting there. Many airlines fixed their approach for the sake of transparency, and it says a lot about Pepco that they can’t even reach the unbelievably low standards of the air travel industry.
I’m well aware that I’m a spoiled American, and that going without power for a few days is not exactly the worst thing ever in a troubled world. But the thing that’s annoying about Pepco is that they seem far worse at emergency response than the two power companies on either side of them (Dominion and BGE). Those companies got power restored in relatively short order. Pepco, by contrast, took ages, and reports in the Washington Post over the weekend made it clear that they were outperformed.
And I can’t hire those companies, because they have what amounts to a monopoly over the power lines in my area, and my only way to avoid them is to become rich and build a wind farm on my freakin’ roof.
And it’s not as if Pepco’s incompetence is new. People have complained about the company forever, and yet not only has nothing been done, but the response time seemingly has gotten worse. I’m so used to it that I barely bat an eyelash anymore. It’s part of life here. If you want to avoid Pepco, you pretty much have no option but to move, which is insane.
The Post reports that Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley is already calling for reliability standards for Pepco, but politicians have been on the company for years about this to no effect. We don’t need Pepco to improve. We need options. We need an actual fair market for power. We need to not need a company that is awful at what they do, but are continually allowed to be the only ones doing it.
Did I mention that, as of right now, there are STILL homes without power in the county? Because there are. I don’t want Pepco addressing this problem. I want to buy power from companies that actually work.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, there’s an ice storm coming tomorrow, so I best pack all my frozen waffles.