Curiously, I had a conversation with a representative from our local power company (a monopoly don'tcha know) about my bill. You see, your ol' pal Clark has been going through a bumpy fiscal situation and sometimes doesn't have enough coming into the coffers to pay 100% of the bills. I try to pay the electric company in full, but if I do that, some other bill "recpient" will be forgotten, so to avoid all of that, I try to make sure that I'm paying everyone something. The electric company usually gets at least 75%-100% of what I owe them. So far, it's been keeping the lights on.
After a few months of paying the electric company "something" close to the monthly balance (and oh, BTW, they raised our rates another 10% recently), they dropped a letter in my mail box saying that we needed a "security deposit" and that it was about $500 dollars. Wow. I was a little dumbfounded. I'm already having enough financial trouble, but then the power company drops this bomb on me.
Since I had no idea where I was going to come up with the money, I called them up and got an "agent" on the line. After exchanging the usual name, account, address, phone, name of next of kin pleasantries out of the way, we got down to business:
Me: I'm having a little trouble making ends meet and want to know how to deal with this "security deposit" you are requesting.
Agent: Yes, sir. I can help you with that.
Me: Well, since I'm having trouble paying the full bill each month, how are you going to be funding this deposit.
Agent: We've conveniently split the payment up into three easy installments.
Me: OK, so on my next payment, you will be taking out money for the deposit?
Agent: Oh no, sir. You have to pay the first installment along with your next payment.
Me: OK, so what happens if I'm not able to pay. As I explained, I am having some financial problems. I have been paying most of my bill though.
Agent: Well, sir. We've been able to help you out by splitting the payment up into three easy installments.
Me: I see. That helps, I guess. So what happens if I can't come up with the bill amount?
Agent: I'm sorry to hear that sir. I have no idea how to help you do that.
Me: Right. So what happens if I am short again?
Agent: Well, I guess we would have to disconnect your service.
Me: So you're going to disconnect my service because you are asking me to pay another $150 dollars over the amount of the monthly bill that I've explained I'm having difficulty paying.
Agent: I'm sorry sir. That's correct. But we've conveniently split the deposit into three easy installments.
Me: What happens if you have someone that wants to pay their bill, but can't?
Agent: Well, we get involved with Social Services through the states.
Me: (Seeing where that was going...I thought it best to move on) So when is the deadline for paying the first of these easy installments over the regular billing amount?
Agent: The first installment is due next month on the 8th.
Me: OK, so I have a few weeks to come up with the extra money. Thanks.
Agent: Was there anything else I could help you with today, sir?
Me: No, thanks, you've been completely helpless for me today.
As you can see, I can pay the amount that I can't afford to pay in three easy installments. I felt like I was caught in an old Abbott and Costello routine.