It is about more than electricity


I was thinking today about where bitterness comes from and how to make it go away. Again, I am one of the lucky VERY FEW to have not been flooded on my whole peninsula of over 100,000 people. I am appreciative, my tears have been for family and friends in terrible situations. You'd think I'd be skipping through daisies and smiling the rest of the time, and I probably should be. And yet, I do have moments of anger, and when you are "in it", there are so many emotions, it can be hard to keep up with them. Maybe some of my petty-er malcontent is misplaced, but when I really thought about it, it points in a very specific direction – at companies who provide services that I pay for, that I feel are not providing their end of that smple business relationship.  

 

And then I roll my eyes at myself, slap my inner self around a little bit and lecture myself about first world problems. But, beyond having to do without some creature comforts, learning to live more simply and realizing just how spoiled I am…I think there is a small and probably obvious lesson to be learned here for brands. And because some of the bigger emotions I'm not quite ready to tackle, I can only seem to start here. Let me explain.  

 

I realize that getting my electricity on will take time, that it is complicated and in an effort not to cause fires or more devastation… the linemen of national grid and LIPA are working their asses off and people are away from their families, from all over the country working, and that is not a small thing that needs to be acknowledged..  My beef with them is communication. Auto dial us with updates, provide timelines or something, anything. I don't want this to be about LIPA because enough is being said and scandals uncovered in the media, and since I really have no choice with who provides me power – I am going to move on and try to explain what I'm thinking in regards to other companies. (I'm also writing on my iPhone and it is tedious, I could fill volumes with the follies of our dealings the past week, it has been bafflingly epic).  

 

My renter's insurance is through Liberty Mutual. And while I probably could have read all the fine print and known specifically what I am NOT covered for, I pay for relocation if my apartment is uninhabitable. And, while I had no flood damage, I have not had heat. I know, I have seen many sleeping on parked city buses because they have no home at all. When I go there in my head I think I shouldn't say anything at all, and maybe I have no right for this rant. But, I guess I need to get it out, so I don't forget. It has been warmer, but last week was brutal at times. I also could not reasonably commute to and from work, the subway bridge out to where I live was destroyed, buses stopped running at sundown. And without electricity, I couldn't work from home. Then add a gas shortage and driving was not a reasonable alternative. Apparently though Mayor Bloomberg seemed to evacuate us on live TV the day of the storm, no evacuation order at any time was reported to my insurance company. Fires were cropping up with exposed gas lines and my house is surrounded by sinkholes. Maybe I should be angry with NYC. But, in common sense terms, I would have thought that enough conditions were wrong that my dwelling was not habitable. Not to mention seeing questionable hazards all around me – neighbors keeping their houses warm with exposed range top fires, freestanding fireplaces being delivered, and fumes from generators from every direction. I didn't even get that far in explaining to the rep assigned to my case. It was as if he has no idea a hurricane happened or that my address was now in a disaster zone with FEMA, the Red Cross, and countless other relief agencies you never think you'll be seeing in your neighborhood. He was not remotely compassionate when I first called not knowing if I even had a structure to return to. Fine, not everyone has a good bedside manner, or whatever term you would use for a good insurance adjuster…but, a week after this all started, I saw that Allstate has a team here. They are in my neighborhood in our time of need, providing telephones for anyone who needs them and on site to help their customers. I would even pay a decent amount more, just to know they cared enough to send people, in person to actually be here for their customers. And in the end, I don't want to not be here, I just thought I was paying for the option if I couldn't be, and I probably shouldn't have been until recent days. They might also come up empty with coverage to get me out of here when I wanted to be, but still, you better believe I will be calling Allstate and switching my service just as soon as I can.  

 

On the flip side, Geico insures my car. They were the only company I could find to insure me when I hadn't owned a car for several years. They are also here. They are providing water in areas that need it, they are visible and available for questions, in person. Their assessment marks were visible on the endless fields of flooded cars just days after the storm, before FEMA or the Red Cross arrived. They have sent emails offering to defer payments, they have sent information to make filing a claim easier, they are advertising human words of encouragement on the radio, which for many of us is our most reliable broadcast media. Yes, I could probably find a better rate now that I have insurance. But I am happy to be their customer, Moreover I am proud of the work I see them doing. I see their reps on the side of the road and feel like I'm passing a comrade, not some random person from my insurance company.  

 

And then there is Time Warner Cable. I have to say, from the day I moved they were a disaster, so I am biased. But, I have a choice. And I see Verizon here. trucks everywhere.  I pay more for their service than I will for Fios, so surely they can spare something, maybe auto dialed updates or emails for starters or even mobile internet if i really were to push my luck. Instead they can't give me an estimate for when I will have service, even a broad range after my electricity comes back on…but it's been two weeks and nothing.  

 

These are just a few examples., and I know I am leaving so many others out I almost feel unfair naming names and not including everyone who is here, sharing our heartbreak, seeing the amazing good in people, and doing something.  

 

There are food trucks I recognize from the city, we have virtually no dining options out here right now, so being able to grab a bite while walking around numb seeing your home town flooded and torn to shreds is comforting. And I dare not get on most of those lines because I know they are providing food for free, for people who need it more than I do. I take note of them and I will be standing in their lines at a later date, patronizing them because they were here. I know Home Depot and REI are donating cleaning materials and coordinating volunteer efforts. Not because they are flaunting it, because I see the notes of thanks from people on Facebook and Twitter.  

 

There are things you balk at when shit first goes down and then become regular over time. Shoddy cell phone service, living in the dark, snuggling hot water bottles at night, the only local grocery store being open the hours you are at work, the dampness from boiling water to keep warm ruining my stuff that was spared any flooding. A devastating storm flooded the entire peninsula I live on, and so many towns up and down the coast – nothing like this has happened here before. I know getting the basics back won't happen quickly. I have amazing friends and family who have offered an out, places to stay, generous offers that make me wonder if I am bordering on some sort of Stockholm syndrome, but my home is here, for better or worse.  

 

I can live without all these things because I know it is a lot worse out here for so many. I can flush my toilet, I don't have to walk down 10 or 20 flights of stairs to get out of my home, I am not sick and unable to get needed medication, my car was not here when everything went underwater, my home didn't flood, it didn't burn down…just to name a few.  And that's just NY and NJ, just this one thing.  More on this part later when I have a chance to really process and understand how this has changed me in what feels like a very fundamental way. Or maybe I'm totally full or shit, another reason I had to to document what this feels like, right now, so I don't forget.  

 

So just as I'm learning a different sort of lessons, there are lessons to be learned for companies with paying customers.  Time ranges are a must, it is scary to be in the dark with little communication. Your customers can't continue to pay you if they can't work.  If you can't restore services or let someone know when they can get back to work, you jeopardize that whole circle. I realize I am also very fortunate that I work for a company that has been unbelievably flexible and understanding. But, at the end of the day, just as my eyes have been opened to the suffering around me, I will resume being a consumer again one of these days…and I will be a lot happier working with companies who showed up, who made themselves visible, the ones who keep sending emails, who made my life and those around me just a little easier.  It seems so simple in such a complicated situation, I really can't say more at this moment… because I still don't really know where to start and my phone is about to run out of battery.

 

 

Update: It appears that Time Warner and Liberty Mutual are helping, I was incorrect in my assumption that just because I couldn't see them, that they aren't there.  – gothamist.com/2012/11/12/big_business_like_twc_now_funding_s.php

 

Also, heard from my Godmother in Florida that Allstate has an abysmal record there, something to consider and investigate before I switch insurance companies