I think a lot of people (particularly on Facebook) are misinterpreting why I am livid with Jersey Central Power & Light due to its handling of our lack of power, which started around 8 p.m. Monday, Oct. 29, during the roughest part of Hurricane Sandy, and has not been resolved as I type this.
As of 4:30 p.m. today (Nov. 7), more than 168,000 JCP&L customers in New Jersey are still without power, and I am one of them. Do I think I deserve preference over any of the others on the list? I absolutely do not. Do I have any malice toward those whose power has been restored? Again, I absolutely do not.
My problem is with the awful communications between JCP&L and my new hometown of Basking Ridge, or Bernards Township. We have received little or no information throughout this process, and the precious nuggets of news have been inaccurate, conflicting, and useless.
Two close friends (ironically both former roommates) live in areas serviced by JCP&L. One, in Brielle, was told that power would be out for 15 days, and it was restored in seven days. The other, in Whippany, was told that power would be out for 18 days, and it was also restored in seven days.
We received no such information, other than a very vague statement that most homes would be restored by today (Wednesday, Nov. 7), nine days after power was lost. The implication was that power would be restored gradually throughout that period. The truth was that very few homes in the area had power until Sunday, or six days after it was lost, and as of 3 p.m. today, 4,494 out of 12,567 homes were still down. Does the number of restored homes qualify as “most?” I suppose so, but JCP&L’s communications to our town were still extremely misleading.
I don’t know if the issue was that the company was afraid to deliver bad news, but had it come out with a statement saying something along the lines of, “Most residents of Bernards Township will not be restored for several days,” I would have come up with a much more efficient plan for getting through this than the one we chose. No one wants to be told that they will be without power for several days, but after digesting the news, no one could possibly blame JCP&L or any other company for the damage caused by this storm. I can, however, blame them for not being honest with us and allowing us to plan accordingly the way our friends did.
We are currently staying with my mother-in-law in Cherry Hill, an hour-and-a-half from Basking Ridge. We chose to do so because we were led to believe that this situation would linger for a handful of days, not nine and counting.
We have cats, and they absolutely do not travel well, and are completely freaked out by change. So I have driven back-and-forth from Cherry Hill to Basking Ridge every single day since we set up camp down here last Wednesday to check on them, feed them, reassure them, and spend some time with them. I don’t even want to think about how much I have spent on gas. On the way back from Basking Ridge to Cherry Hill this morning, I topped the 1,000-mile mark of distance driven specifically because of Hurricane Sandy.
We have a six-month-old baby who is absolutely driving us nuts and not letting either of us get any work done. It’s not his fault. He is stir-crazy and bored out of his mind. But our daycare center, also a JCP&L customer, is out of power, as well, meaning that we can’t even make alternate daycare arrangements so that we can have a few hours of peace and quiet to get some work done.
This situation is far from ideal. If I had any inkling that it was going to last this long, I would have tried to figure out something better, where the cats weren’t left alone in a house with a temperature that has dropped as low as 50, and where we had better resources in terms of sleeping (we bought an air mattress because the sofa bed was slaughtering both of our backs), possible child care, and other things.
In other words, if JCP&L was honest and upfront from the start, we would be in a completely different situation.
No one wants to hear bad news, and no one wants to be told that something as vital as power will be kept from them for several days. But that was the reality dealt to us by Hurricane Sandy. JCP&L should have been honest and straightforward about how long this process was going to take, rather than spending two days saying it was “assessing the situation,” and then issuing three completely conflicting estimates of when work would start in our town and how much of it would get done.
I’m sure my next-door neighbor, an older woman who lives alone, would have come up with a much better plan, as well, since her plan consisted of sitting in her car with the engine running to stay warm, and eating crackers because her stove is electric and she can’t cook. Do you think she would have done something different if she knew we would be dark for nine days and counting?
JCP&L told my friend in Brielle it would be 15 days. JCP&L told my friend in Whippany it would be 18 days. Why didn’t the company give our town the same courtesy?
And on another note, it doesn’t help my mood that my former hometown of Hoboken, which was absolutely decimated by the storm, with most of the city under two to three feet of water, is fully restored. Naturally, I am happy that Hoboken is back up, as I still have many friends there, but when it comes to restoring service, my old provider, PSE&G, is kicking JCP&L’s ass, and sadly, there is no way to switch back.
After reading that, if you don’t think I have a right to be angry, then we will have to agree to disagree. But I would think friends would take the side of their friends, and not of an ineffective power company.
Speaking of friends, a lot of ours have made generous offers, and I wanted to explain why we haven’t taken any of them up on those offers.
Parents out there can back me up on this: When you travel with a six-month-old baby (or any baby, for that matter), the amount of stuff you need to bring with you is ungodly. Packing and unpacking it is a mission, as is setting it up. We don’t want to uproot the baby at this point, and force him to get used to another place, when we have no idea whether it will be for one night, one week, or one month.
Plus, for our friends who don’t have kids, they take over your entire house. I know everyone’s offers were sincere, but some of you don’t know what you were potentially getting yourself into. We are used to being awakened at 4 a.m. by piercing screams. We don’t want to put anyone through that.
And for those who have offered to help with the cats, I really don’t think it’s a good idea to move them at this point. They are already completely freaked out, not to mention cold and lonely, other than the one hour or so every day I have spent with them. Bringing them to a new place would be overload. And they might do a lot of damage to someone’s place, not out of malice, but due to stress. Plus, if anyone whom they don’t already know comes to check up on them, 8-Ball will be happy to get fed, but the other two will hide and not benefit from their company, and likely think they were abandoned.
So I do thank everyone who made offers, and there were many of you, and, as I said, I have no doubt every single one was sincere.
In any event, I hope anyone who reads this now understands that I wasn’t simply whining about not having power, as there are still hundreds of thousands in the same boat. I believe I have a right to be angry about JCP&L’s communications with my town, or lack thereof, and I stand by everything I have said about the company on Facebook. And if you still side with them over me, well, I just don’t know what to say anymore, but I take nothing back.