Yesterday, I got the usual recorded message from PSEG Long Island, our electric company. The phone rings. A storm is approaching, they tell me. And it is the strangest piece of reverse advertising ever. Perhaps you get called too.
“Heavy winds and rain are expected in the next few days in our area,” it says. “We know how important this is. Our emergency plans have been activated. Our crews are standing by. Additional personnel have arrived. And we are taking steps to see to it that if the lines are downed and the power goes out we get it back up just as soon as possible.”
I may not have this message exactly right. The recorded voice, a male, speaks pretty fast and it is hard to catch, but you get the idea. The man finishes, then hangs up. No further information is offered, and there’s no way for you to say anything.
Yes, PSEG is doing robocalls. And yes, often the storm misses. Or it’s a springtime drizzle, or a winter plop. Big soft snowflakes putting you in mind to take the kids sledding.
The thing that’s so odd about this message — and we never used to get this sort of thing in the old days — is that PSEG is spending our money, good money, to plead with us not to beat up on them if the power goes out.
It’s like “Thanks for buying your new car from Speedway Motors. We know the right front wheel flew off the last one we sold you, but rest assured we have activated our emergency plans, our repair crews are standing by, and additional personnel have been alerted so if it does happen again, we will have it fixed in jiffy time.”
Keep in mind, since PSEG was hired to handle our electricity to replace their incompetent predecessors, our electric rates have gone up substantially to cover all the beefing up PSEG said they had to do to fix the mess they found on the telephone poles when they took over.
Hey, you fixed this. Remember?
In the old days, when I got to the Hamptons more than a half-century ago, lots of storms came through too. And we just lived with it. Hearing about it, we’d put plywood on all the sliders, close the shutters, stock up. And there were people around who remembered the Hurricane of ’38 which downed trees, destroyed buildings, sent all of Napeague under water and tossed cars and boats everywhere. Yes, there was the weather bureau. But it was in its infancy.
Farmers and fishermen had their ways. “Blood-red glow in the sky in the afternoon means storm will be here soon.” It rhymed. We had the Farmer’s Almanac which, month by month, predicted the whole year ahead of time in a little booklet. Right. And we had Groundhog Day. There was one special groundhog who reported six weeks of winter if he saw his shadow.
Today is very different. We have groundhogs all over the place available instantly on social media on that special day reporting more winter or spring is here in equal measure.
And we have the weather service which, using satellites circling the Earth predicts how many hurricanes we will get in the upcoming season. It’s based on the amount it rains in Africa, the temperature of the ocean, the behavior of El Niño off San Diego and what these highly paid meteorologists had for breakfast, whatever that was.
But have you noticed? We haven’t had a big hurricane in years here. The ones that used to come charging up the Atlantic Coast to bash us now either veer off into the wilds of the Atlantic Ocean or go rattling around in the Gulf of Mexico with the protuberance of Florida blocking their ability to get to the Hamptons. Is this a permanent shift? A gift from global warming?
Uh-oh. Maybe I shouldn’t have said anything about that. Knock wood.
HOW A DOG WON GEORGIA AND THE SENATE!
The control of the U.S. Senate was decided by a beagle named Alvin. The Democrats needed to win both runoff Senate races in Georgia. A long shot. But then, according to The New York Times, public relations specialist Adam Magnus came up with the idea of featuring a dog in a TV commercial. It would be a very special dog. Magnus would film the Democratic candidate Rev. Dr. Raphael Warnock, in real life an African American pastor in a Black church, walking a dog on a leash in a white neighborhood alongside a low white picket fence with a clipped lawn behind it. The idea was to show white voters in Georgia who feared that an African American senator might be trouble that they had nothing to fear from Raphael Warnock. He was just like one of them.
The sun shone down, white people said hello, and the dog he was walking wagged his tail happily.
But Warnock, who has had dogs in the past, does not currently have a dog. So, a casting call went out and hopeful dogs auditioned to get the part.
A beagle named Alvin won. He’d trot happily along. He’d pee on cue. He’d jump up in Warnock’s arms and lick Warnock’s face. That he was a beagle mattered. Beagles are the dog du jour among white people in Georgia.
Warnock would hold up a baggie of poop. His Republican opponent (the incumbent) was flinging this sort of stuff at him, he’d say. Just ignore it. He’d drop it in the garbage.
And so, with Alvin’s help, Warnock, the underdog — I couldn’t help the pun — won. And that’s how, with a wet-nose nudge from Alvin the beagle, the Democrats snatched control of the Senate.
Three-quarters of a billion dollars was spent on this special Senate election in Georgia. Everyone got to see Alvin. The gross domestic product of Georgia is about $2 billion a week. But for the two weeks of the campaign, there was this windfall that bounced the Georgia GDP up half again. And who got the money? Why, the “fake news” media, of course. And of course, they trickled it down.