I did a very bad thing last month. I confess. I’m guilty. I failed to pay my electric bill. I don’t know how it happened exactly, but somehow it just got by me. Utility companies have a very nasty attitude about unpaid bills. They cut off the electricity. I don’t know if I received the bill and mixed it up with the junk mail, or if it was lost in the mail and just never arrived. I’ve looked through everything in retrospect and it is simply missing. Not to worry, however, the electric company gives you a second chance. It is called the “cut off notice.”
I was at the office when I found out. I had hurriedly stuffed the mail in my purse and decided to look it over on my lunch hour, perhaps write a check or two since the mailbox is handy right in front of the office. When I opened the electric bill, my heart sank. The bill was for two months, not one. And there at the bottom was the dreaded notice. I have until 4:00 today to pay the overdue amount or my electricity is subject to cutoff. Oh no, it can’t be today! But, they won’t cut me off. I’m a good customer. I always pay on time. But there it was in black and white, “Subject to cut off.”
I felt so guilty. I didn’t mean to do it. It was an accident, an accident I tell you. I’m not trying to avoid paying my electric bill. “Please, give me a second chance. I’ll do better,” I thought. But, who hasn’t heard all the stories about the heartless electric company cutting off the electricity of people who don’t pay their bills. No mercy from them. It’s pay up – or else.
Panic! My gosh, I thought. They will come tomorrow and cut me off. I’ll beg for another chance. I’ll go over and pay in the morning as soon as the door is open. But somehow I just had that sinking feeling it was not going to work. I could just hear them saying, “Sure, that’s what they all say!” I called on the phone to plead for an extension, and they gave me the now too familiar news, “You are subject to cutoff tomorrow for non-payment.” Groan. There is no mercy for suspected deadbeats from the hardhearted utility company.
Anyhow, nothing to do at this point but take off work; it’s too late to send a check. I was too embarrassed to tell anyone at the office the real reason. “Sure,” they would think, “She forgot.” “I’ll bet she did.” “Trying to avoid paying money she owes.” “Deadbeat! Probably doesn’t pay any of her bills.” The shame of it all, the embarrassment.
I secretly looked in my checkbook. Maybe it was all a mistake. I must have paid the bill and they forgot to put it on my account. Yes, that has to be it. But no such luck. Sure enough, there was no check written last month. The bill was truly unpaid. Drat! It’s my own entire fault.
So, I took off work, went to the utility company and paid my bill. I could not look the clerk in the eye. I wanted to apologize, to explain, to fling myself at her feet and proclaim my innocence, to confess, to promise I’d never do it again, and to beg for forgiveness. But the clerk was behind bulletproof glass.
Either they are afraid of being robbed back by their irate customers or they have really, really annoyed somebody. I just meekly slipped my bill and money through the deposit slot. When the clerk said, “Are you paying for both months?” I nodded. She stamped the bill “paid” with a big red stamp and slid my change back. I turned and fled.
Redeemed! Guilt free! Honest again! What a relief! Funny, there sure were a lot of other people there doing the same thing I was, paying their bills at the last minute. Guess maybe I’m not the only one that doesn’t remember to pay on time. The company even has a night deposit box for people who can’t make it during the day.
“I’m glad that’s over,” I thought. I have electricity. I have light. I have heat. I can cook, watch TV, and use my computer. Wouldn’t it have been ironic if the electricity was out due to some systematic malfunction, and I didn’t even know it because my electricity was out due to human dysfunction?