Hypothermia acceptable for Michigan Residents

7 01 2012

Have you heard those heating assistance commercials on the radio? The one’s with the nice sounding lady that says there’s help available for those who have trouble paying their heating bill. Well, it’s bullshit. Just so you know. Those commercials are sponsored by a corporate conglomeration that monopolizes heat energy in Michigan. Let’s call them STD.

Imagine that you’re a 40 year old woman on disability for mental illness. Sometimes you hear voices. It’s November and you live in Michigan. It snows in Michigan and the furnace runs to keep the house warm all the way through April. You make $700/month and you live with your domestic partner. We’ll call him Al. He’s almost 60 and has filed for disability because he is no longer able to work as a mechanic. He has arthritis and can barely make a closed fist. He spent his youth fighting as a civilian soldier in the drug war in Nicaragua. Shot. Stabbed. Almost died. Al gets food stamps.

Last winter you rented a drafty house with an inefficient furnace. The heat bill got out of hand. Now it’s $2000. You tried to set up a payment plan, but STD won’t turn on the heat until it’s all paid. You only make $700/month. You dumpster dive for cans. Offer to rake yards. Dog sit for your neighbors. The government will give partial assistance for heating bills only after your portion is paid. But that doesn’t help right now. Electric heaters cost money and raise the electric bill. You sleep on the pullout couch in the living room covered by layers of blankets. It looks like a scene from Charlie & the Chocolate Factory. You worry about dying in your sleep from hypothermia or carbon monoxide fumes from the Kerosene heaters.

The gas bill is in Al’s name. He reasons that if they put the bill in your name, they should be able to turn the heat back on. After all, it’s Michigan. There is no such thing as domestic partnership. Well, things must be different in STD-land. They slid that balance over from Al’s account to your account. No problem.

Finally Al complains to the Utility Commission. STD turns on the heat. December is a good month. You get some extra money for Christmas and put it toward your heat bill. Things are looking up, you say. Not even a week after you put that extra money toward the balance, STD shuts the heat off again. It’s January.

So what are you supposed to do? You’ve got voices in your head, $700/month and a gimpy boyfriend. And no fucking heat. Honestly, who could afford to switch out their furnace to electric or wood heat? You most certainly can’t. There is no other gas supplier and STD knows that.

Happy Fucking New Year. Thanks STD.

**Based on actual events of a couple in Michigan.
***Addendum: Shortly after posting this blog, STD started following me on Twitter. Creepy. I don’t have any money. Can’t afford to get sued. And I would like to continue to heat my house this winter. Therefore, the corporate conglomeration Should Not Be Named. Names have been changed to protect all parties.