Saturday, March 24, 2007

Toronto Hydro Blues

Toronto Hydro began life as a make-work project for returning war vets. Today it's a repository for the laziest workers on the planet. OK, the Greek bricklayers I watched working 5 minutes per day are lazier.

When we replaced our circuit board, the electrician and Hydro argued over who was going to hook it up to the main power supply. Now you'd think Hydro workers with their plethora of safety equipment would de facto hook up our power to the hydro line running down the street. Nope. Too dangerous. Couldn't possibly do it. The electrician had to tie a temporary line to the main grid, then they could come in, otherwise how would they know what to do? Are you kidding, returned the electrician. Me, go anywhere near those high voltage lines? Day dragged into days as they argued, and candles remained our friendly sources of light. Finally we hooked it up ourselves, and nope we didn't have all the safety equipment, including wooden ladder, that the Hydro boys do. Soon after a Hydro truck pulled up smartly, and out swarmed at least 10 wimpy adult males. One, wearing full safety gear, was designated to replace the temporary connection with a permanent one, while the rest looked on in case the voltage flung him off. It would've been rather satisfying to see.

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After a bunch of storms, some tree branches were interfering with nearby power lines. So we called Hydro. Oh no, we don't touch trees, they retorted. So who hacks at them and leaves them looking gouged out and lopsided all over the city? The city. Oh. Do you have a number? Ummm...maybe Parks and Rec? Nope. So I open the phone book and find the right department, I think. Ha! Nope, we only do city trees, they tell me. Call Hydro. Excuse me?! After some huffing, I asked what number to call as the number on my bill got me zero help. Oh, they have a Forestry Hotline number. Are you kidding me? How come Hydro doesn't know it has a Forestry Hotline?!? And where is this number listed by the way? Nowhere. Certainly not on one's bill, which would be the logical place.

The guys come out a couple of days later, they look, scratch their heads, look some more, haul out a saw, pick the point on the branch closest to the lines -- instead of where normal people do, where the branch joins the trunk or main branch and is pretty stable, but that point would require more muscle power -- and saw. Bounce, bounce goes the branch. Pause. Saw. Bounce, bounce. Pause. Gee, this is pretty hard work. Maybe go get a coffee, you can see the guy thinking. They talk. Well, better get sawing again. Bounce, bounce. The branch comes down. Phew. That's it for the day here. Lots more to do in Toronto, gotta get going now. If the other branches over the line come down in the next storm, well, they'll take 'em down then...or to be more precise to clear them up and repair the line. Too efficient to do it now and prevent inconvenience to Torontonians.

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On the other hand, Torontonians have rather put Hydro in a pickle. They conserved energy, just like they were encouraged to, and Hydro finds itself in a shortfall. Now, normal companies would scale back on expenses in order to obey the law of supply and demand, you know, that law that states that when supply exceeds demand, price goes down; when demand exceeds supply, price goes up. In Hydro's world though, demand goes down, price goes up for electricity distribution rates by 6.3 percent. After all, conservation does cost more. I don't buy it. Do you?

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