Sunday, September 29, 2013

Sunday Rerun: No peaking!

Here's the deal. The Baltimore Gas and Electric Company, the energy giant in our town, offers a program called "Peak Rewards."  In return for giving customers a break of around 200 bucks in summertime, the electric company (still known to longtimers around here as "The Gas Company") installs a radio-controlled gizmo on said customers' central air conditioners. When the temp hits 106°, as it did the other day, and generators from here to Iowa are generating all the juice they can squeeze, BGE cuts off a certain amount of air conditioners for a certain amount of time.

Certainly you understand this is a gamble that some customers are willing to take, in return for 200 shekels, and certainly you understand that taking the risk also means there are going to be times when your AC is DOA.  A deal's a deal, am I wrong?

Well, the other day when the mercury was about to burst out of the top of the thermometer and the tv news was all over itself showing firefighters and roofers and guys working on asphalt trucks and cookies baking on car dashboards and polar bears bobbing around with giant fish-flavored popsicles, the paper had a top of the front page article about people howling because their air conditioners were cut off when it got so hot.

So, to recap, people sign up for a program where they can expect to have their air conditioners taken away from them on the hottest days of the year, when they need them the most.  But they get some money for it.

And, being people, they're hollering, screaming bloody murder.

And, like most things in life, it all reminds me of an Albert Brooks movie.  Do you remember "Lost in America," the 1985 picture in which Albert and his wife (played by Julie Hagerty) get rid of their status-y possessions, buy a Winnebago and set out to drive across the country and "touch Indians"?  There's a great scene - SPOILER ALERT! - in which Albert's wife gambles away their entire nest egg in Las Vegas, and Albert tries to talk the casino manager into giving it back, as if it all never happened.

The people who signed up for the Peak Rewards program knew they were gambling a day's comfort in exchange for a couple of hundred semolians, and yet they get to do a complainologue because they lost a day's comfort.  It's not as if they were unaware of how this worked, and it's not as if they didn't get their two thousand dimes from the BGE.

A note of clarification:  My father worked for Baltimore Gas and Electric from 1929 - 1978, taking time out only to go fight in World War II.  He was so loyal to the company that it was said there was no other firm from whom he would purchase electricity!

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