marahmarie: my initials (MM) (Default)

I gotta love the fine folks at Progress Energy.

They may do stupid things, like letting a live wire lay on my front lawn for over an hour before sending one guy out by himself to fix it and "forgetting" to trim trees that pose an imminent danger to my family, but they sure can read blog posts and the comments very carefully and not only understand what I'm threatening to do, but respond very quickly to the threat.

The next morning there were three guys in my yard on a cherry picker with looks on their faces like they had just seen the Devil. Before I even had my first cup of coffee my neighbor was furiously pounding on my door:

"You gotta talk to them! Hurry up!"

"What's wrong? They knock another power line down?"

"No! They're about to leave! They didn't do the tree!"

"What? For Christ's sake. What did they do?"

"Nothing. One f#*@ing branch. HURRY UP!"

Sighing, I went out the door and crossed the wet grass barefoot in my nightgown. Once again they were getting ready to leave.

"Wait!" I shouted as the driver started slamming the door behind him. He turned around and looked at me, seeming to mentally debate whether to talk to me or not. I stared at him - like a cat with rabies.

He climbed out of the truck. "What?"

"Come here," I instructed. He followed me.

"See this tree?" I asked, pointing upward. "See those limbs against my house? I want them down."

"Can't do that."

"Why not?"

"Not in the contract. Only thing in the contract is if the limb puts pressure on the line, we take it down."

Pointing to a dead limb laying on the power line, I said, "So you're going to leave that one up? It's putting pressure on the power line."

"Wait...what?" he said, feigning confusion and walking under the limb, inspecting it from every angle like he'd never seen it before.

Pointing to my house I said, "And you guys left that limb up? The storm comes and what do you think's going to happen? It's going to come crashing through my roof, that power line's going to come crashing into my living room, and I'm going to sue everyone's asses off."

"I'll be back in a minute."

He went back to the truck. I followed but stayed about ten feet behind just to make sure he didn't leave. After a few minutes I got tired of waiting and went back inside to call PE.

Another guy, a much younger, cuter one, came up behind me. "Look", he said. Expecting nothing good, I turned around and looked at him.

"I'll hook you up, OK? A lot of this is not in the contract, but some of it is, but it's hard for us to get to with the cherry picker. So we're not supposed to do it. But we'll get it taken care of."

"Thank you so much," I said. We talked for a few minutes while the guys brought the cherry picker around the front of the house, and I got someone to move the car so they could slide the cherry picker in where it needed to go.

Ten minutes later the nearest branch on that tree was at least 10 feet away from my house and at least 5 feet away from that power line, and this time they managed to trim without knocking the line down.

Tropical Storm Fay crashed into my yard with 15mph winds and 30mph gusts fifteen minutes later. That's how damn lucky I am. Glad, too, that Progress Energy seems to read my blog.

marahmarie: my initials (MM) (Default)

Unfortunately, I didn't catch the guy's name. He was working alone, and wrote down everything we told him on a clipboard. He was an older guy with salt-and-pepper hair, and he was extremely displeased to be standing in my yard under my neighbor's lopsided, aged Southern Live Oak which is tangled up in the power lines by my house.

He questioned us on what the tree-trimming crew did the last time they were here and expressed shock and surprise that they left our yard without trimming anything. He explained that because me and my neighbor's houses are so close together, the tree-trimmers will have to back their truck in sideways over her grass and use the cherry-picker to trim the tree. I don't care how they do it, nor if they need helicopter and parachutes to reach it properly, as long as they do it. He put in a work-order for "early next week".

I called PE soon after he left to get his name from the computer records he uploaded but the girl I spoke to swore up and down there was no record of his name. The work order is in; that much is not in dispute since her records reflected it. But his name? Who knows? For what it's worth, [ profile] skellorg, I did not resort to lying to him, but I think I should have. Maybe I could've gotten the tree-trimming crew here faster if I did. That reminds me of this...

Has anyone reading ever seen a Live Oak tree? They're scary. They have root balls up to 20 feet wide that protrude from the ground like twisted, gnarly, over-sized fingers and trunks so huge you can't wrap your arms around them (but maybe you and three of your friends linking your hands together could). They're like regular oaks on steroids, with tiny green leaves that are so innocuous compared to the monsters they spring from.

These Live Kings of the South grow in rich soil fortified with lots of clay, right? Wrong: they grow in almost 100% pure sand. That's all we've got in Florida to anchor the fauna to: tons and tons of sand. The sand gets wet and shifty from the storms and guess where these trees wind up? That's right: everywhere. In the roads, in the houses, in the office buildings and the shopping malls, in people's cars and trucks.

If the next door neighbor's landlord had an ounce of conscience he would have that tree taken down (not just trimmed, but removed altogether) but he doesn't. I've argued with him for four years about almost everything, including that, but everything comes down to money with him. If her home gets smashed by that tree one day, he'll just collect the insurance money and put another home there. He doesn't care.

marahmarie: my initials (MM) (Default)

So I'm on schedule to get my house blown apart by a hurricane [downgraded since posting] tropical storm or it's equally dangerous outgrowth, a tornado, in the next few days. There's already a huge, weakened branch in my yard dangling from the next door neighboor's oak tree. The branch is laying in my power lines which are only 12 feet from my house and five feet from my roof. The branch easily weighs a few hundred pounds and is hanging much lower than usual from the amount of rainfall today. By "lower than usual" I mean it's covering the top of my back porch so you can't see the sky above it anymore. That porch is how I get in and out of my house.

Neighbor's tree in our yard, with branches in power lines. Shot from my porch.

So I called Progress Energy, formerly known as Florida Power, this morning, since it is their responsibility to take down branches that cause downed power lines, outages, electrocutions, fires, etc. In fact, a tree-trimming crew from Progress Energy was in my yard a month ago, at my request, looking at this very tree, which I had been begging them to trim all week as they trimmed the branches back on trees belonging to other houses in my neighborhood. On their last day of work they finally came and "looked at it" this tree for me. "Looking at it" consisted of standing in my yard for 15 seconds, pointing to the branch I had asked them take down the day before, talking amongst themselves for a moment, then jumping in their truck and leaving so fast I didn't have time to run out the door to speak to them.

I can imagine how the Progress Energy's tree trimmer's conversation went that day:

["Tom"] So, bud, you wanna take that branch down? Lady's been asking all week...

["Jerry"] Nope. You wanna?

["Tom"] Nope. Hey, I got an idea. It's 3 o' clock...let's go have a beer.

["Jerry"] 'K, man. We're outta here.

This is how my call with Progress Energy went today (how I wish I'd recorded this one):

[two minutes on hold, male voice answers, sounds Indian, dot not feather] Hello, thank you for calling Progress Energy. How may I assist you today? Are you trying to find out how fast your power will be restored?

[me] I didn't lose my power. I have a downed branch laying in my power line.

[dot not feather] Oh, well in that case let me connect you to the people you actually need.

[me, trying not to crush my cordless in frustration] OK, thanks.

[....a few minutes later....]

[woman's voice on the line about my age] How may I assist you, please?

[me] I have a downed branch laying in my power line.

[her] Address, please?

[gave the street address]

Name on account, please?

[gave name on account]

[her] OK, how may I assist you today?

[me] Like I said, I have a downed branch in my power line. I need someone to come and trim it.

[her] OK, I'll put a note in to have someone look at that for there anything else I may assist you with today?

Boy, she made that sound easy, I thought. I was too stunned to say anything. Finally I found my voice, or my brain - whichever one was missing, and said, "Um, how long before someone comes to look at it?"

[her] That could take up to three weeks, ma'am.

[me] Three WHAT? What do you mean THREE WEEKS? I can't wait that long! We're getting a storm today or tomorrow and you people KNOW that! What the hell am I supposed to do if this branch breaks my power line?

[her] Ma'am, there's nothing I can do...

[me] Oh, wait a second, there IS something you can do! You can send someone out here to take this branch down! And you can do it TODAY!

[her] Ma'am, I can't do that...

[me] WHAT DO YOU MEAN you can't do that? I don't believe this shit! I have a branch laying in my power line! I have a storm coming! What do you expect me to do if that branch comes down and destroys that line?

[her] Ma'am, of course if the branch snaps the power line we will come and fix it for you immediately!

[me] Wait! You'll fix it AFTER it breaks? Isn't that like putting a red light up AFTER a traffic accident? On top of that your linemen had the chance to trim this goddamned branch a month ago. They were standing in my yard looking at it and they got in their truck and LEFT. What the hell do you call that? I call it not giving a damn if that branch snaps my power line! Now you're telling me I have to wait three weeks and I've got a storm coming today or tomorrow that will surely snap that branch before then?"

[her] Ma'am, I did not say that. I said you may wait UP to three weeks to have someone look at it. I am adding a note to your records right now indicating that you want someone to look at it. There are many other customers calling up to report the same thing. Our workers have quite a schedule. They will get to your house as soon as they can.

[me] And "as soon as they can" could be three weeks from now, is that correct?

[her] That is correct, ma'am. Is there anything else I can do for you today?

Stunned silence from me. "Are you still there, ma'am?" she asked. "Hello?"

[me] Yeah, I'm here.

[her] As I said, I am adding a note to your records right now to have someone come out and look at it. Will that be all?

[me] Yeah.

Thank you for calling Progress Energy. Have a good day!

For the last five hours I've been listening to the branch scrape against my roof as the winds pick up. Now and then I step out on my now-partially-hidden back porch, under the branch, and look up, wondering how long we can tempt fate. I've been through three hurricanes in this house: Charlie, Francis, and Jeanne; thanks to those storms that branch has been hanging too low since 2004. The lines are so close to my house that if that branch snaps the broken power lines will likely electrocute someone. I guess electrocution is one way to go. Progress Energy doesn't care that our lives might be at stake, though; they'll get around to "looking at it" whenever they feel like it - unless the branch snaps my power lines, in which case they'll get around to it a bit sooner. Does that make sense to you? No? Me, neither.