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Monday, June 7, 1999
Houston, Texas
Volume 64, Issue 146

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Psst ... Don't let Reliant see this

Amanda Mahmoudi

The summer season in Houston cannot commence without something going wrong. It just wouldn't be right.

Last year, the water heater in my mother's house broke down. (Faithful readers may actually remember the column.) My whole family was forced to take cold showers for a week before our repairman could fit us into his schedule.

It was a good thing that he showed up when he did. I was beginning to feel like a boy in his pubescent prime with all the cold showers.

All right, so that was last summer. A whole year has passed, and I have moved on. In fact, I have sprung the nest. Yes, I have severed the ties to my mother's apron strings.

Just in case it has eluded you so far, here it is in plain English: I have moved out of my mother's house.

Although my roommate and I had only been in our new apartment for two days, life seemed remarkably splendid and hopeful. As we sat side by side on our couch, we couldn't fathom the possibility that something could go wrong.

That is, until something did.

Our moment of relaxation came to an abrupt end when the soft, humming serenade of our air conditioner was suddenly silenced. Now, keep this in mind, I said silenced -- not muffled, lower or louder. There was only silence.

We weren't going to overreact. Instead, I got up to get us both something cool to drink. That was when I noticed something else rather interesting.

The light in our refrigerator did not come on when I opened the door.

At that point, I decided it was time to overreact.

I ran around the apartment like a chicken with its head cut off, trying to find the number for the electric company. After nearly half an hour (and a good cardiovascular workout), I found it and was quick to punch in the numbers forcibly into the poor, defenseless telephone.

Once I got through to Reliant, I was put on hold by a friendly computer-generated voice, asking for my patience because my call is important. I held on desperately waiting for a human voice -- someone, anyone to save us and our gallons of ice cream from melting.

Instead, all I got was elevator music for 10 minutes.

Just as I was about to lose all hope, a haggard, male voice interrupted the Muzac version of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony.

"Thank you for holding. This is Mike. How can I help you?"

I recounted my story from start to finish, only to be disappointed by his response.

"Well, ma'am, it doesn't look like we can get someone out there until tomorrow or so."

Or so?

You see, I can be friendly and understanding to a certain point. Believe me, after more than an hour without air conditioning, television and a way to prepare food that would not burn the whole complex down, I had reached my limit.

I asked to speak to his supervisor.

I told my story once more to an unsympathetic ear.

"I'm sorry, ma'am, but there really isn't anything we can do for you at this point."

I thought I was going to die from lack of oxygen to the brain, I was so incredibly angry.

Through clenched teeth, I managed to tell her that I was going to send in a written complaint to the executive office if my power was not turned back on before the next day. I then thanked her for her time and hung up.

To my surprise, our power had been restored less than an hour after the phone call.

I am very grateful and impressed with the consideration my situation was given. The only thing that disappoints me is the fact that I had to fight so hard to get it. Was it really necessary for me to risk having a coronary when Reliant could have rectified the situation anyway?

This is the kind of thing we have to deal with as consumers when we are forced to be dependent on a sole provider of service of any kind. But what can you do? If something of this nature had happened with my long-distance carrier, for example, I would have just switched to another. That option does not exist in this case.

We are all at Reliant's mercy, regardless of our background, credit or social status.

Now I have my air-conditioning, and my gallons of ice cream are safely frozen in the freezer. Everything appears to be well.

So why do I feel dread when I think of what could happen if someone from Reliant could happen upon the column?


 
Mahmoudi, a French and German major, sits in a dark corner in fear of the wrath of the powers that be from Reliant.
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