It’s All About Power

Dear Tradewinds –

Like many of us, when we leave the island for an extended period of time, we visit the offices of the phone and power companies to make advance payments for our anticipated absence.

But what if unforeseen circumstances delay our return to the island? That’s simple, you might say, just phone and make additional payments by credit card.

True in the case of the phone company, they are listed in the phone book, which I keep a separate copy of in Maine, and many time have made such payments to prevent service being cut off.

However, the first time I had to call the power company and make an additional payment became impossible and resulted in the proverbial worst-case scenario.

Unlike the phone company, there is no listing of the power company in the regular St. John section of the phone book, possibly a goof in the compilation of the directory one would think. I dialed 1-340-555-1212 but was informed that there is no directory assistance for the U.S. Virgin Islands.

After paying the phone bill by phone I asked the lady if the had the power company’s number – “Oh, yes,” she said. “It is 774-3552.” But calling this number and following recorded routing instructions to customer service left me waiting for a short time and then being automatically switched back to the entry message again. There, attempts to pay this way at different times of the day resulted in the same response.

Well, maybe I was worrying unduly and the power company would be more tolerant of late payments than I was prepared to expend.

Arriving back home, after starting out at 5 a.m. in Maine, the house was in darkness — no power. Not the end of the world since there was the friendly Westin — albeit expensive. A subsequent call to 774-3552 that evening and punching the power outage button was answered by a live human being who gave me the option of someone restoring power immediately for $100 or the first thing tomorrow morning for $50. It could wait until tomorrow.

At the power company’s St. John office first think the next day, it was good to talk to the courteous young lady I had dealt with many times before and to explain what had happened. It seems the 774-3552 number is for St. Thomas. Unlike the phone company, St. John has a separate number.

“But,” I said, “the power company is not listed in the phone book.”

“Well,” she said, “it is listed in the government section.”

“Oh, is it a government-owned service?”

“No,” she said, “but it is listed as such.”

 “However,” she hastened to add, “the number listed is wrong, it is for ‘Serendip,’ and the correct number is 776-6446 or 774-1424 for emergencies.”

So, humbly I paid $50 for the service to be restored and asked when that would be.

“Around 9 a.m., when the man arrives, was the reply.

“Oh, fine!” I said with great relief.

By 11 a.m. no one had come. I called the St. John office and it turned out that the St. John man as on vacation — but a man would be coming from St. Thomas “at the end of the day” — “when was that?” — “ 3 p.m.

By 4 p.m. no one had come — but upon inquiring again, he would be along in 15 minutes. At 5:30 p.m. — voila! — the good man arrived, opened the box, and reconnected the power in two minutes.

It seems they had had a bad day fixing power pole collision accidents and entanglements with the phone lines.

My dear daughter and son-in-law had spent a week in my cottage to celebrate his 50th birthday  and kindly stocked the refrigerator with all sorts of delights as a thank-you gesture. Alas, I have never seen so much moldy, smelly food in my life!

But, I must say that, while sitting patiently waiting for the power to be restored and feeling the steady, cool breeze blowing through the cottage, I couldn’t help think about installing a wind generator… so simple, so reliable, so free!!

After all, the Danes built many windmills.

Frank Langley