2008-02-05

Phone ... Bill?

When I first moved into my new house back in June, I did my best to anticipate all the little things that would need to be taken care of. I filed change of address forms, updated my driver's license, and made sure that the power and gas utilities were changed to my name.

It was no small surprise, then, that while I was traveling on business in California that I received a phone call from my panicked roommate. There was a notice on the door that the water was going to be shut off for the unpaid water bill. I had assumed, erroneously, it turned out, that the city would just send me a bill, at which point I would pay it and go on my merry way. Not so...

Trying to make sure that this most essential of utilities would not be deactivated, I called city hall:

Me: "I got a notice that you're going to shut off my water."

Lady: (after some clicking on a keyboard) "Yes, we're going to shut it off on Friday if you don't pay the outstanding bill before then."

Me: "I had no idea I had an outstanding bill. You haven't sent me anything."

Lady: "You don't get a bill until you come in and sign up."

Me: "Can't you send the bill to the house? You guys obviously know where I live."

Lady: (simply) "That's not how it works."

Me: (honestly perplexed) "Okay... If you'd like, I can fax or e-mail you the sign up form and pay the bill over the phone."

Lady: "Um... I don't think we can do that."

Me: "Well, I'm in California right now for work. I can't be there until Tuesday."

Lady: "But, we're going to shut off the water on Friday if you don't pay it."

Me: "Can you just NOT shut off my water until I can get there to pay it?"

Lady: (impatiently) "... you're using water that no one is paying for..."

Me: "I understand that. I'm not trying to steal the water, I just don't know how this works. I'm more than happy to pay the bill right now. Do you take VISA?"

Lady: "Uh, we only take checks."

Me: "Then you're going to have to wait until Tuesday. Until then, can you tell your water guy to NOT shut off the water?"

...

Finally, she relents and decides to leave the water on. She does, however, take my name over the phone. On Tuesday, I go in, sign the form, pay a deposit, the outstanding bill, and fully legitimize my use of the city's water. At least, I thought I had everything legit until I got my first bill. The name on my first bill? "Don Viffer."