Power Struggle

Fuck APS. Fuck the useless bunch of cretins who work for that worthless company.

There, I feel better now, although a little explanation is probably in order. APS are one of the two electric companies here in Arizona, and unfortunately, they are the only one we can use. This effective monopoly is reflected in the service – or lack thereof – that they provide, and makes them a poster child for de-regulation. Readers of a certain age may remember, for example, what it was like trying to get a GPO engineer out to your house to fix your phone, back before they were privatised and became British Telecom. Yes, APS is that bad.

Their general service is questionable enough: I’ve seen more blackouts since coming out here, than in the twenty-five years since the era of the three-day week I spent in Britain. And they are swift enough to take your power away. It’s just getting them to bring it back that’s the problem…

This all started because our 40-year old circuit-breaker box could no longer cope with the strain of life in 2003. Careful co-ordination was required – don’t run the microwave and the washing machine simultaneously – to avoid tripping the breaker and plunging the kitchen into darkness. When it got to the stage where the whole house would go, we decided it was time to upgrade. An electrician was found, and an appointment scheduled.

Which is where APS (may they rot in hell!) came in. Before work could start, they had to disconnect the meter, and then after the work was completed, and it had been checked by the city, they had to come back and re-attach it. Nothing too taxing there; you’d have to be a bunch of brain-damaged monkeys to screw that up, right? Unfortunately, it seems as if the “S” in APS stands for “Simians”. The approximate timetable:


  • 8am: APS switches the power off and disconnects the meter. Makes mocking comments about electrician’s estimated time of completion.
  • 8:05am: Electricians begin work.
  • 2pm: Electricians finish work. Call city inspector.
  • 4pm: Inspector inspects, pronounces it good, calls office to fax APS and give them the go-ahead.
  • 5:30pm No sign of APS. We call, and discover that part of the company closes at 4:30, regardless of whether or not you have electricity.
  • 9pm We give up on the medieval lifestyle, and go to bed.


  • 7am We start phoning APS, and discover that part of the company hasn’t rolled in yet.
  • 8:30am They – we picture them with a cappuccino in one hand, and a bun in the other – deny having received any fax. We point out we haven’t had any electricity for over 24 hours. They fail to give a damn.
  • 8:35am The City confirm, yes, that fax of completion was sent last night. It was Message #18. The one marked ‘URGENT’? They agree to refax and also call APS.
  • 2pm Let there be light. And, perhaps more importantly, refrigeration. APS finally turn up, represented by the same smug, smirking motherfucker who took the meter away. He is lucky to escape without being torn to shreds by Chris.

30 hours without power was enough to convince us that electricity should be filed under Really Good Things. Every facet of life requires it, from the radio-alarm which wakes you, to the table light by which you go to bed. Sure, there’s stuff you can do which doesn’t require power – reading, for example – but the options are limited, and once the sun goes down…well, there’s only so much sex you can have. Especially with record-setting temperatures (this week saw the latest 100-degree day in Phoenix ever), and no air-conditioning. Fine if you want to recreate the Rourke/Bonet romp from Angel Heart, otherwise not ideal conditions.

I think it was partly not knowing that was irritating – if we had known from the start that power wasn’t coming back, we could have planned around it, but having our hopes repeatedly dashed to pieces on the brutal shoals of APS incompetence was remarkably dispiriting. Unfortunately, we have no option but to continue under their retarded regime – though the idea of solar panels was an option that grew a great deal more appealing over the 30 hours for which we returned to the prehistoric era. And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go and stare in awe and fascination at the toaster.