I’m 68, my time is precious!

I am not in a place of grace right now.

This week, a new struggle with a corporation arrived. Central Hudson, provider of our gas and electric service, lobbed a $1400 bill over our virtual transom. No, we didn’t consume $1400 of gas and electric in one month. We have solar panels that provide about 90% of our electrical power during the summer. And we only use gas for our stovetop to cook, our oven is electric. So no, there is no way we could have used that much gas and electric in one month. Or even several months.

The situation might be that we are finally being charged for electric and gas over many months. I don’t know. I have dutifully checked my account every month and when there was a bill, I paid it. There has been, for the past few months, a credit showing on our account. It seemed a little strange, but we are level billing customers. Twice a year, there is a recalculation of the average monthly usage, and a leveling up of the difference between projected and actual usage. In the past, this has meant we wound up with a credit that could cover a few months of payments. So, it didn’t seem that strange, given it was about time for the new calculations to be made and differences settled.

I am not the only customer having this sort of experience. There have been big problems with Central Hudson’s billing practices. There is a Facebook page dedicated to it. There is a class action lawsuit in progress. The phrase, “I’ve been Central Hudson-ed,” has become a thing.

Utility company bills have always been opaque. Central Hudson bills are particularly bad in this regard. It feels like you need an advanced degree in accounting to be able to sort them out. They admit that an attempt to improve their billing system has been a disaster, leading to all kinds of wild billing errors. Word on the street is that they still like to insist that the big bill is the bill. But really, which bills am I to believe? Those that showed a credit, or this seemingly outrageous and impossible bill? I suppose perspective is everything.

This weekend I will be devoting myself to researching our billing for the past year to see if I can develop a theory of where we stand. Then I will begin the process of getting things straightened out. Or at least to a place where I am pretty sure of what I do, or do not, owe.

You will recall that just a couple of weeks ago, I got embroiled in a fios-by-Verizon debacle. That has turned out reasonably well as I was able to find my way to a case manager, Wilson, who got it straightened out. It still required more time and energy than I wanted to give it, but at least I had a competent case manager who made sure I didn’t get lost in the wasteland of their bureaucracy.

I wonder if humanity made a mistake when people turned, or were forced to turn, away from a direct connection to the earth for their sustenance. When we began to allow bureaucracies, public, corporate, etc., to manage us and determine how we spent our time. Evilly conceived, ill-conceived and/or incompetently conceived bureaucracies suck up so much of our time with soul-deadening work and labyrinthian challenges to sort our consumer lives out.

I rather like this description of labor…

Representing an economy in which most people worked directly on the land or water to pull wheat into wagons and fish into barrels, Lincoln believed that “labor is prior to, and independent of, capital; that, in fact, capital is the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed—that labor can exist without capital, but that capital could never have existed without labor. Hence, they hold that labor is the superior—greatly the superior of capital.”12

And this observation about corporations is all the more true in present times:

“The gulf between employers and the employed is constantly widening, and classes are rapidly forming, one comprising the very rich and powerful, while in another are found the toiling poor…. Corporations, which should be the carefully restrained creatures of the law and the servants of the people, are fast becoming the people’s masters.3

They are not only the masters of our time and effort, they are the chief wasters of our time too. I resent that. At 68, my time is more precious than ever.

The idea of a tiny cabin in the woods, completely off the grid, is starting to appeal. Do you think my wife would go for it?


Yesterday, I logged on to my Central Hudson account to begin the process of sorting out what was going on. The $1400 owed had become $109. There were a bunch of credits, negating most of what I had owed just three days earlier. I paid that bill. I am going to have to keep a close eye on things. I resent that too.

  1. September 2, 2023 - by Heather Cox Richardson ↩︎

  2. Here, the interesting concept of holons is echoed. The idea of a hierarchical system of organization in which each successive level of the hierarchy is dependent on all the levels below it, a fact which humanity, driven by capitalism, steadfastly ignores in all kinds of ways. Ken Wilbur describes holonic organization in Sex, Ecology and Spirituality↩︎

  3. September 3, 2023 - by Heather Cox Richardson ↩︎

fios By Verizon, A Contemporary Take on The Myth of Sisyphus

Tenacity and acumen are privileged spectators of this inhuman show in which absurdity, hope, and death carry on their dialogue.

—Albert Camus

Verizon fios recently arrived on our street. The trucks descended like a swarm of locusts in July to string the wires. “At last!” we thought, “an alternative to Optimum!” When the get-everybody-signed-up crew arrived at our door, we discovered we could have faster internet for half the price of Optimum. There were perks too! Our price guaranteed for 4 years; A $200 Verizon card; A $200 Home Depot card; 6 Months of Disney+ for free. We jumped ship immediately.

A week later, a technician came to install a wire from the street to the house, set up the equipment, and get us going with the promised blazing fast internet. We were up and running in less than two hours.

There was only one problem, the ugly white signal extender tower sitting on the floor of our living room. It’s ugly we said. “It’s powerful, the technician said. “It will cover the whole house,” he said. “No need for your Eero mesh network,” he said. “Ok, we’ll try your ugly white tower,” we said, “maybe it’s better.” It wasn’t. So we unplugged it and plugged in our Eero mesh network. Strong signal everywhere. “Yay! Let’s return the ugly white tower!”

The next day, we hauled the ugly white tower to the Verizon store. “We can’t take back fios equipment here,” we were told, “You have to go to the store across the river.”

The next day, we went to the store across the river. “Sure, we can take it back!” the sales associate said. He sat me down at the counter, and got busy working magic on the computer. I told him I didn’t need it because my Eero mesh network was better. He said something that made me think he thought I was unhappy with fios. I told him I was happy with fios, just didn’t need this piece of equipment. He nodded, finished the computer intake, and printed out a receipt. We went merrily on our way, free of the ugly white tower.

When we got home, we discovered we had no internet. “Oh no!” I thought. I called the store across the river and asked if they had disconnected our service. “Yes,” they said. “But why?!” I said, “I didn’t ask for that!” “A misunderstanding,” they said. “But we’ll get it back for you.” After 20 minutes of back and forth, being on hold, etc., the sales associate came back on and said, “I have bad news. We can’t just reconnect you. You have to start over again and set up a new account.” “What?!” I said. “You disconnected me in a matter of minutes, but it’s going to take days to reconnect me?! What about my signing bonuses?” I proceeded to call him every filthy word I could think of, and hung up. It was not one of my better moments. I wondered if the river we crossed had been the Styx.

When I became more rational, I decided we needed guidance for our journey through fios purgatory. I asked my wife to post what had happened to the Facebook hive mind. She got much commiseration and some good suggestions, but none of them seemed like “the” suggestion. And then, an old high school classmate of hers sent a private message saying, “yup, you really do have to set up a new account, but here’s what you do. You send a letter to the Chairman/CEO of Verizon explaining what happened. Include all available documentation. Send it overnight and require a signature. In a few days, a very competent person will call to help you deal with the situation.”

And that is exactly what happened!

A man named Wilson was my case manager. I was in yoga class when he called. He left a message with detailed instructions on how to get through to him. He also emailed. I replied to the email saying I would be available from 2 on. He replied, saying a sales associate would call me at 2. As I am communicating with Wilson, I can’t get the image of Wilson, the volley ball from the movie Cast Away, out of my head.

At 2 pm sharp, a woman called to help me with my new account. When we finished an hour or so later, she told me I would see a reconnection date on my order confirmation that was for sometime next week. She said Wilson would call, and he would be able to expedite the reconnection. Later that afternoon, Wilson called to tell me I was all connected and that I should test it out. “Oh,” I thought, “so you can punch a few numbers and letters into a computer and have me reconnected just as quickly as you disconnected me!” I told him it would take me some minutes to do that, so we agreed I would send an email letting him know if it was working. It was, and I did.

Wilson and I have been emailing back and forth, sorting out the last few details. A credit for the month already paid for on my former account. The restoration of the $200 Home Depot card that was no longer available for my new account and way better than what was.

“All’s well that ends well,” I thought. “Think of it as part of your hero’s journey,” I told myself.


The other night, a truck pulled up and something landed on our front porch with a substantial thud. I went out to see what it was. A box from Verizon? I hauled it into the house and opened it. I was speechless, it was a new ugly white tower! I had told the woman I didn’t need it. Wilson had confirmed with me that I didn’t need it. But fios purgatory was having none of it!

I emailed Wilson and asked him if I should call an exorcist, return it, or stick it in the back of a closet until the day comes that I do want to terminate my service.

I haven’t heard back from Wilson yet, but I’m sure I will.