Reviews

Pepco fails to fix store's electrical panel after 6 months

Updated 5/27/2008: It has now been a month since I wrote this post, and Pepco still HAS NOT fixed the electrical panel. This makes it 7 months, which is simply unacceptable. I am going to write to Chris Van Hollen, our Congressman, to see if he’d like to get involved in the matter.

Updated 6/09/2008: We received a reply from Congressman Van Hollen on 5/28/2008, just a day after I wrote to him via email, assuring us that he would look into the matter, and putting us in touch with one of his staffers, Miti Figueredo. Today, on 6/09/2008, Pepco showed up with a team of about seven people and got the electricity working again in a matter of hours. I know this wouldn’t have happened without Congressman Van Hollen’s intervention. Congressman, we are deeply grateful and thank you from the bottom of our hearts!

Piano Place, the store where Ligia has her studio, experienced a power outage on November 2, 2007 (over 6 months ago). It was caused by a badly wired electrical panel outside the store, which caught on fire. Pepco, the local (and only) electrical company, has failed to fix that panel ever since, in spite of having the luxury of over 6 months to do it.

When the panel caught fire, the fire department and the police evacuated all of the stores for a day out of bureaucratic zeal, even though the fire didn’t spread inside the building. Then the store was without power for a few days until a generator was installed outside and connected to the electrical panels.

That same generator has sat outside the building since it was installed in November of last year (for over 6 months), waiting for Pepco to get off their lazy bums and fix the electrical panel. You’d think a job like this is of epic proportions, and that’s why it’s taking so long, but as you’ll be able to see from the photos, it’s something that could be done in a day or less with the proper crew.

The smoke on the wall mark the extent of the fire caused by the faulty panels. The wires that carry electricity inside the buildings weren’t damaged, because the generator is connected to them, and the store is able to feed off the generator to get part of its power. Pepco would simply need to fix the panels themselves, but they have offered up excuse after excuse during each of these six months. Appeals to their executives have not helped. The Washington Post has refused to get involved by publishing news of this complete failure in customer service.

Meanwhile, the store is paying $15,000 each month to rent the generator (with fuel charges extra), and still is not up to full power. It has had no air conditioning (only lights) all winter. That means they’ve had to do with space heaters here and there, and Ligia has frozen on many an occasion inside the studio because of Pepco’s utter laziness and unresponsiveness.

Now that summer is approaching and temperatures are climbing into the 80s, the store gets stiflingly hot (understandably so) on those days, because it has no air conditioning. Who’s to blame? Pepco, that’s who!

As if all this is not enough, the store has had the generator stolen once (the entire thing!), and on a separate occasion, it has even had the fuel siphoned off from the generator.

I have to wonder when Pepco will get their act together and fix the damned electrical panel. What will it take to get them to move on this?!

I see this as the strongest possible argument for competition in the marketplace. Pepco has a monopoly on the local power market. There is no other electrical company here, so Pepco can do whatever it pleases and get away with it. There is no one to hold them responsible. The lazy hacks can get away with treating customers like this for months and months, and no one from the local governments seems to care.

I find this outrageous, and I’m fed up with it. So the next time I hear one of Pepco’s hypocritical ads that say “We’re connected to you by more than power lines”, I’ll have to ask what they’re connected with: laziness, lies, inefficiency, procrastination, lack of customer service, monopoly, irresponsibility?

And when I see one of their trucks, I’ll know what sort of people drive them: the sort that would have people freeze in the middle of winter and bake in the summer heat rather than do their jobs.

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Thoughts

Migratory state of being

Every single day, I go around with a little pain in my heart. It’s the sort of pain that only certain people can understand. These people are called immigrants.

Sometime this month, a familiar date will pass, and I’ll know that I’ve been in the States for 17 years. I’ve been a naturalized citizen for a number of those years. Born and raised in Romania, I came here when I was almost 15. I’ve lived the better part of my life in this country, and yet I still do not feel entirely at home. The States feels familiar, but not familial; it feels like I belong, but I don’t entirely fit in; it feels like home, but I don’t feel at home.

I envy Americans born here, I really do. In some ways, they’re better off than me. They feel something, every day, which I cannot feel; they may not realize it, and they may not even appreciate it, but they feel at home. It’s a priceless sort of feeling, and you don’t understand its true value unless you’re away from home.

It’s a painful way to live. I look around me, at those fortunate enough to have been born here, and they haven’t got my problem. They are at home no matter what part of this great big country they happen to live in — especially those that have been born, raised, and now work in the same cities or regions. They benefit from familiarity with customs, habits, lifestyles, places, people, language, traditions — all those things that make home feel like home. If they’ve moved to another part of the country, no matter how different they think it is, it’s still the USA, and it’s still the same country. Some things still apply, and the overall feeling of home is there.

Although I live in the DC area now, and have done so for the last 4 years, I spent most of my years here in the States in Florida. Still, it doesn’t feel like home. Sure, I know the streets and the neighborhoods. I know the cities and the beaches. When I walk or drive down a certain street, memories from my life there evoke certain emotions that make it familiar. The best word to describe that kind of a feeling is comfortable. When I step into my parents’ home down there, I get the closest feeling of home I can get here in the States. It’s relaxing and peaceful, that’s true. But it’s still not home. And I think my parents understand what I mean, since all three of us came to the States as a family back in 1991.

It would be logical to assume that Romania would feel more like home, since it’s where I was born and raised. You’d only be partly correct. Yes, when I go back there, I feel more at home than here. The strings of my heart vibrate at the same frequency as my birthplace. When I’m there, the air is sweeter, the food tastes better, interactions with people are more meaningful, every sensation is accentuated by the vibrancy of my home land. Sleep is more restful, and life takes on a new, familial rhythm. I feel a peace that I cannot feel here. Yet I do not feel at peace.

There’s the awful rub. In the words of Charles Laughton from the movie “It Started With Eve” (1941), “I’ve been tampered with!” I’ve spent so much time in the States that I’ve grown accustomed to the way of living over here. Not the comfort and abundance of products, though that’s part of it, but the way of life, of doing business, of approaching situations. I no longer fit in, in Romania, and I still do not completely fit in over here, after 17 whole years.

I can function just about anywhere, but am at home nowhere. I’ve got a mongrel heart, a split state of being, and it’s a sad, painful way to go through life, at least for me. A piece of me exists in each country, and I’m forever torn between the two.

It must be even worse for Ligia. She’s only been here for 4 years. She spent her entire life in the same region of the country, in a very close-knit family, among friends and relatives, and the only reason she left all of that was to be with me. It’s probably safe to describe the way she feels every day as home sick. At least she’s lived enough in one country to know which one feels more like home. Although the more time she spends here, the more she’ll bond with this country, till she’ll be just like me, a mongrel spirit.

I think of the pilgrims that came to the new continent from Europe, hundreds of years ago. I wonder how they must have felt, knowing that the likelihood of ever going back to their home lands was next to nothing, and having to face the rough conditions that awaited them in untamed territories. Perhaps the tough lives they led, and the blood, sweat and tears they put into eking out an existence bonded them more to their new homes. Or maybe they sat down on quiet evenings and silently bore pangs of sorrow over the distance that separated them from their birthplaces and ancestral homes.

Then I envy their children, who didn’t (and don’t) have to worry about any of those things. And I yearn for the normalcy and peace which I don’t think I’ll ever reach.

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