Over the weekend we had our gas cut off [exhales loudly].
Oh. The. Shame.
The reasons for this are several:
1) We didn’t contact the energy company when we moved in five months ago
2) When we got a ‘you’re busted!‘ note through the door from National Grid last week and were told that we would be cut off in five days if we didn’t arrange registration and payment, I immediately called them and went through the application process, only to get to the end of the call-centre conversation (see Lost in Transatlantic Translation), and was told that I couldn’t complete it because I don’t have a (freaking!!!) social security number
3) When I told the H1B that he would have to call them instead, he sat on the idea for three of the remaining four days
4) When he finally called the company on Friday late morning, and faxed over a copy of his passport, a copy of his visa, a copy of our lease, a drop of his blood and a lock of my hair, (and even though he received a receipt to say all is tickety-boo), everyone must have been busy watching the opening game of the New York Yankees because…
5) They cut it off anyway
i) American call centres don’t understand that it’s possible that your previous address could have been overseas and had a postcode rather than a zip code, which while it may not fit exactly in their alloted number of digits, causing the whole system to implode, is actually a bone fide place of habitation
ii) National Grid are dickheads
And while they have the ability to remotely cut off someone’s gas over the weekend, the department that is able to reinstate it is closed.
So the H1B had to go and stand in a queue at the local office on a Monday morning with all the documentation, blood samples and necessary follicles to prove that we were indeed real people, not just phantoms who wanted to give their ghostly cash to a leading energy company just for the pure fun of it.
The moral of this story is:
a) There’s no such thing as free gas
b) When you are an ex-pat and need to do anything official or involves a call centre, give yourself at least a two week lead-time and never, ever believe that a problem can be solved via a quick phone call
c) We need to call the electricity provider Con Edison asap
Mind you, by the sounds of it, Americans don’t have it that easy either.
When we told the upstairs neighbours about our predicament, the Pianist said that when he took his father (a fully fledged, allegiance-swearing, genuine citizen of the United States), to a Verizon store to sign up for a mobile phone, the manager typed his social security number into the system, and swiftly halted the application.
“Sorry sir,” the manager said blankly. “You’re deceased.”