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What is it that Edison doesn't get?

December 21, 2011

I feel like Bob Cratchit, toiling not in the pinched shop of Ebenezer Scrooge, but in a La Cañada home which is — four days before Christmas — once again without power.

Like many of my neighbors, I was plunged into the abyss by the horrific winds of three weeks ago, and was without electricity for six days. I grew up in Chicago, and, like Bob Cratchit, am accustomed to bone-numbing cold. But my dear wife, her mother and the caregiver who share our home have not been subjected to Lake Michigan winters and deserve better — particularly my mother-in-law, who is 101 years old and who, because of her dementia, does not understand why her hospital bed can no longer shift positions, nor why she must be cocooned in layers of down like Admiral Peary.

We sat for days in our stocking caps, scarves and layers of winter clothing, huddled in our home like the Cratchit family, hoping that Mr. Scrooge, a.k.a. Southern California Edison, might favor us with a bit of light and heat.

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What makes me so angry is the fact that these circumstances are all too familiar. For some years now, I have dubbed my earthquake kit the “Edison Kit.” In addition to flashlights, batteries, a hand-cranked radio and extra clothing, it includes oil lamps borrowed from our vacation home in New Mexico, which despite its higher-than-average levels of poverty, school drop-outs, infant mortality and alcohol-related traffic deaths, somehow manages to keep its lights burning.

I don’t know what it is about electrical transmission that Southern California Edison does not yet understand, but whenever television weatherman Dallas Raines gestures to an area of low pressure looming off the Pacific Coast, I run for the batteries and the lamp oil.

Four days before Christmas, and I am once again wondering if the heat will be on, the lights will be twinkling, and if Mom must be moved to a warmer location. Will La Cañada open warming centers and will Sport Chalet begin selling the gloves with cut-out fingers?

Like the Cratchit family, I try to remain optimistic and not begrudge my neighbors in Montrose and Pasadena their more-enlightened utility providers. I want to remain on their good side. I may have to ask them if I might borrow a cup of heat.

Michael Gross

La Cañada Flintridge

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