The power had gone out. I could tell this because my TV had suddenly gone quiet. It was 4am on a Saturday morning, and for some unknown reason I was wide awake and watching an old episode of Dynasty. The removal of Alexis Carrington from my view was probably for the better, all things considered, but the overwhelming lack of electricity was worrying. To be brought back to reality in such a way is a sudden jolt.
I phoned the helpline of EDF, the sparky supplier. The computer-delivered voice sang: “We are aware of a fault affecting your villages. The fault was reported at 4.10am. We have engineers working on this and hope to have the majority of houses back by 6am.”
Oh well, back to sleep, I guess. When I finally arose, it was clear there was still no power. I duly phoned EDF again, only to be told the problem had arisen some five minutes earlier and would be fixed within an hour or so. Intrigued, I monitored things as the morning unfolded. Every hour I would call. Every hour I was told the fault had occurred within the last 15 minutes or so, and would be fixed within the hour. At lunchtime I gave up and visited friends for the afternoon. The power was finally reconnected at 9pm.
A week later, and I’m back watching Dynasty at 4am on a Bank Holiday Monday morning. It must have been down to some kind of karmic resonance created by “Mrs Fontaine Khaled”, as Joan Collins was known in an earlier and even trashier role, but the power went down again.
Over the course of the morning, I was subjected to the same “it died a few minutes ago, we’re working very hard, it will be back in an hour” automated sing-song voice. Again, the power came back at 9pm in the evening.
Now I understand and appreciate that these things happen, especially when (if the village rumours are to be believed) some enterprising chaps were pulling down the overhead power cables for their copper scrap value. Word on the village high street is that Mr Plod caught some of them first time around, and a few more on the second. However, we shall have to wait and see.
Despite understanding why it happened, I can’t deny that I’m annoyed at being without power for some 17 hours on two occasions. But I’m absolutely spitting at EDF for putting in place a fault-reporting system that blatantly lies to you. At midday, being told that the fault happened at 11.40am when you yourself reported it at 4am is nothing short of an outrage.
I have been trying to work out why this has happened. Did a group of managers responsible for this system sit down in a conference room and decide that what the customer really needed was some inane reassurance that this is “just a little problem, we’re working on it really hard and it will be back in time for you to boil the kettle for tea”?
And did they decide that customers are incapable of handling the truth? “Yes, it died at 4am. Bummer. Fred and his crew are en route, but Stan has a hangover, so we can’t start work till early afternoon. If it’s something a bit nasty, it might take the rest of the day, luv.” So let’s have a bland “oooh it just happened, gosh, we’re working on it, don’t worry, all will be fine in a few mins” platitude that might satisfy the ignorant, but actually means the rest of us can’t make any sort of meaningful plans for the rest of the day.
The cynic in me suggests that some sort of compensation comes into play after a certain number of dead hours, so they swear blind that it only happened a few minutes ago in order to wriggle out of their responsibilities.