Two months after Hurricane Sandy, an electrician arrived at my house to make repairs. First off, forget about getting anyone sooner than that! Business is a-booming due to the destructive force of that hurricane, even in my small neck of the woods. Which was reflected the past two weeks or so when I was stood up by 4 different electrical contracting companies. I won't even go into the licensed and insured construction contractors who fail to show up as well!
I don't know if this lack of professionalism is because, unlike the rest of the US where 23 million people are unemployed, in my neck of the woods, business is booming and electricians and contractors now pluck money off trees and can afford to treat potential clients with disdain.
At any rate, my generous insurance company allocated $149.02 to splurge on an electrical service call to check stretched wires leading from building to cottage. Check, mind you, not REPAIR!
Let me 'splain a thing or two about this ferkakta living arrangement I have. Electrical service from NYSEG's brought to my utility shed which houses my electrical panel, well, water tank, hot water tank, propane tank, washer and dryer. When the 120 foot tree fell on the attached storage shed, it shook a few things up. The washer up and died. *sigh*
Getting back to the wires: the utility shed, the heart and guts of my living arrangement, has 3 210 volt wires (my personal electrical wires) that extend for 100 feet from the top of the shed to the top of the summer house. These wires pass by the entrance to my cottage, formerly ABOVE the entrance to my cottage.
What occurred during Hurricane Sandy (which the electrician told ME in glee): the huge branches from the neighbor's massive tree over my house broke off onto my roof. With the 80mph winds, they bounced off my roof onto the three wires which acted as a trampoline. I had three piles of branch limbs underneath the 100' stretched out wires and pics to boot!
Previously, the wires were 10' up from ground level at their lowest point. Now, in front of the doorway of my cottage, it'll be ZAP should, say, snow, continue to stretch them out a wee bit more:
My $149.02 worth of advice from the electrician paid off when he said, "No can do this job."
"What do you mean by 'No can do?'"
He turned to me. "Those wires are BRITTLE! They can't withstand any tightening - they've been stretched beyond belief. Actually, those wires are fucking UNSAFE!"
He went on and on. It wasn't only the wires, it was the fact that once repaired, they'd have to be in 2012/3 codes, not 1923 code which requires the entire electrical panel to be redone.
He had a point. All $4,000 worth which he emailed me in great detail. His parting shot, since it seems he doubles as a meteorologist as well, "You gotta get those wires repaired and soon. The weather's not going to get any better, we'll have more of these storms."
I phoned my insurance company. "I finally got an electrician here."
"Yeah," said the woman.
"Well, you know the $149.02 you gave me to have him LOOK at the wires?"
"Yeah," she repeated.
"It'll cost around $4,000 to REPAIR them."
"You know, you should've had this done before our appraiser came out." He arrived a month after the Hurricane.
"Sorry, I couldn't get anyone over. You know, there was a hurricane that went on and the county was devastated and no one was available UNTIL today!"
"Didn't you point all this out to our appraiser?"
I laughed. "OF COURSE I DID! But, I gather he didn't see the importance of me being fried to death on low-hanging electrical wires."
I've been living with this threat for nearly 2 months now. Just because no one else values my life doesn't mean that I don't.
"Well, we gave you a settlement. WHAT DID YOU DO WITH ALL THAT MONEY?"
I laughed again. They gave me enough money to settle with the guy who cut down the tree. I still have a mountain of tree detritus here because I couldn't afford to pay anyone to get rid of that and STILL have enough left over to pay an electrician or contractor to shake their moist hands.
Honestly, the remaining money was bubkas to getting repair work done. Instead, I spent the entire amount on replacing my washing machine, a casualty of the hurricane with one on sale for another 30% off and no delivery fees. We're talking about a frigging KENMORE washing machine - no A top of the line extravagant expenditure. It has 2 functions: Wash and spin. I'm walking a fine line here.
I said to her, "Wait until I come back to you with the contractor's estimate."
She tersely said, "Email what you got to our people."
I knew, deep in my bones, the insurance company will find a way to screw me.
Now that I was armed with one estimate, I promptly dialed FEMA. A month ago, I spent 2 1/2 hours with 5 FEMA men going over my insurance papers and the contorted conga dance to get FEMA aid. They gave me a number and told me that they'll contact me.
My girlfriend, Jane, told me that a FEMA inspector came to her home. "He was pissed that I had no damage." Jane walked over to FEMA the day after me and spent three minutes there. "Did they come to your house?"
After my phone call with the insurance company, I phoned FEMA up and gave them my FEMA ID # and my FEMA Disaster Number that THEY wrote in block letters on at least 5 documents for me.
"We don't have you on file."
"WHAT?" My heart nearly burst from my chest.
"You're from Louisiana?" the woman ventured. "You're so-and-so?"
"Does this sound like an accent from Louisiana?" I ventured.
"The disaster number you gave us is for Katrina."
"WTF? This is the number THEY WROTE on ALL MY DOCUMENTS!"
"I guess they made a mistake."
INDEED!! NO WONDER WHY FEMA LEFT ME HANGING!! NO WONDER WHY THEY DIDN'T BOTHER TO CONTACT ME!!!!!!
I said to the kind woman. "Considering there were only 6 people who visited with FEMA over their 3 days here and I'm the ONLY one with sustainable damage, I guess it makes sense that only I would fall through the cracks."
She said "Wait - I'm diarizing what went on. I have to transfer you to a Level 2 specialist."
Another hour later, it turns out that I have to fax all my documents that I brought live, face to face to 5 FEMA employees for 2 1/2 hours to be cast off into the wind. That's the only way to get a FEMA inspector over at my place.
Unlike my girlfriend, Jane. She walked over to FEMA, paperless, just to ask questions. And SHE got a FEMA inspector! Not me, the one with DAMAGE!! The one who spent 2 1/2 hours with 5 FEMA men with INSURANCE PAPERS IN HAND!!!!
Yep. Go figure. Right!
Well, yes, dear readers, I melted down afterwards. And expressed my depression through composing my obit on twitter:
Should I fry from the low hanging electrical wires which aren't covered by my insurance & trying to get FEMA to act... wrote my obit:
"Obscure literary award-winning author, Maura Stone, fries to death due to insurance company & neglect by FEMA. No cremation required."