Some people wait for Godot. I just wait for the DWP. It makes for better drama.
Case in point? It’s been months, and they still haven’t come and fixed the streetlight outside of our house.
It shouldn’t be rocket science, either. This streetlight simply has a buzzy bulb. Actually, really buzzy. So buzzy, in fact, that Myra-Jean won’t get out of the car after dark without saying, tremulously, “is the streetlight on?” and then demanding to be carried.
I have called them three times. The first time was a couple of months after we had moved in. Calmly, I explained that the streetlight outside was very noisy. I knew they could take care of it for me. “Of course,” they said, cheerily. They added that it would take a couple of weeks for someone to come check it out. Fine. Problem solved. Or soon to be. Who has problems with their utility company? Not us!
But two weeks came and went. Night after night, MJ asked me if the streetlight was on. Night after night I carried her, huddled in fear, into the house. I waited some more. “The DWP is busy,” I told MJ. “They are busy helping other people. Soon it will be our turn.”
I gave them the benefit of the doubt. I waited two months.
Finally, a couple of weeks ago, I received new motivation to call. In the form of Daylight Savings time.
It was the first day of the time change. MJ was trying to wrap her head around the idea that she was expected to go to sleep when it was light out. She lay in her crib, staring at the sunlight seeping in beneath the curtains.
“Is it light outside?” she asked.
“Yes,” I explained. “But it’s still time to go to sleep. I know it’s confusing.”
MJ was silent for a moment. Then tears sprang to her eyes. “Is — is the streetlight on?”
“No, not yet,” I said, as soothingly as I could.
“The streetlight is coming?” she asked, her voice choked with grief and terror. “Is it? Is it Mama?”
What could I say? I can’t lie to her. I can’t change the truth.
“The streetlight will turn on, yes.”
She began to scream. I ran to her and wrapped her in my arms.
“I will protect you, I will protect you,” I murmured.
As soon as she was down, I stormed out of her bedroom and strode to the phone. I dialed the DWP. The computer voice informed me it would be a loooong time before anyone picked up. I waited, grim-faced.
When I finally got a lady on the phone I let her have it.
“My daughter is terrified,” I informed her. “Why haven’t you fixed it yet? Where is my repair truck?”
Once I had calmed down enough to actually let her know what — specifically — I was talking about, the representative looked up my account.
“Oh, yes,” she said. “I see that you called. They sent a truck. They found the problem. And they’ve called it in to the District…”
“Yes. I’d like to let you know when they’ll be coming out…but they’re closed, so I can’t ask them. You’ll have to call back tomorrow.”
This was unacceptable. So I did it. I exaggerated. Just a little. And I’m sorry about it. But my daughter was really upset.
I told the lady that I feared for our lives.
“I think there’s a frayed wire up there. Maybe that’s causing the buzzing. And, well, I just really don’t want it to fall on our house. That would be really bad, right?”
“Yes, Ma’am.” There was a pause. “Let me see if I can get an emergency crew out there tonight.”
Hah. Victory! And look. I did think the wires up there looked frayed. Or bumpy. Or really uneven, at least. And the buzzing, it was like a chainsaw. Like an amplified chainsaw. Like an amplified chainsaw feeding back! So what that Mike claimed he hadn’t noticed it at all until I pointed it out. I noticed it! And my daughter was terrified!
That night, while I was out, the emergency truck came. Mike told me he saw them, but that he was too embarrassed to go out and talk to them. He, in fact, hid in the garage. Whatever.
The next day the problem was not fixed.
I called again yesterday. As the torpor-inducing hold music droned on, I dreamed of the things I could be doing with this free time. Reading about Byzantium. Cleaning the microwave door. Vacuuming the dog…
Finally a man came on the phone. He seemed very pleasant. Then again, they all had. We went through the preliminaries. He read my file. He apologized for the inconvenience.
“It’s my daughter who is inconvenienced,” I informed him, as calmly as I could. “It’s going to take years in therapy to undo this. She’s going to scream at the sound of an electric razor when she’s thirty. She’s going to go live off the grid. I’ll never see her. She won’t pay taxes.”
There was a pause. Did he hang up on me? “Hello?”
“Yes, Ma’am. I’m still here. I’m very sorry about that. I see that some service technicians were out last night. They found the problem. It seems it’s a ballast failing.”
“A ballast failing.”
“What the hell is that?”
“I’m sorry, Ma’am. I have no idea.” He chuckled. He actually chuckled!
“Fine,” I said sullenly. “I guess I’ll Google it.”
“It says here they’ll be out to fix it in 24 to 48 hours.”
“That was three days ago.”
A beat. He wasn’t chuckling now! “These things generally run a little over. I’m sorry for the inconvenience.”
That was four days ago.
It’s going to rain all weekend. Somehow I suspect our streetlight will be buzzing the whole time. And, for that matter, for a long time to come. I have, in fact, stopped expecting it to ever get fixed.
Instead, I am going to call the DWP and ask for a credit. You know, for all of the “inconvenience.” And I will do that once a week, as long as the buzz remains.
And then I will put that all money away. Every last penny of it. For when a certain someone starts therapy.