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The Dark Side of SoCal Gas


Imagine a world in which what happens to you is based not on what you do but what a computer program estimates you are likely to do. Isn’t this life as depicted in the film Minority Report? Actually, it’s the world of the Southern California Gas Company’s billing department.

I was unexpectedly thrown into a universe in which virtual reality trumps real life when I returned from an overseas trip and found that during my absence my gas usage had tripled! Thinking it would be a simple matter to clear up this obvious mistake, I called SoCal Gas only to hear a sanitized version of the famous line from The Treasure of Sierra Madre, “I don’t have to show you any stinking badges.” Translation: The Company had long ago dispensed with simple meter reading and was now fully embarked on a journey to the dark side of “estimated billing.”

My yearly usage had indicated I should have used triple my normal daily use for the period from December 6-January 9. “But I didn’t live in my current digs last year at that time,” I protested. “I only moved in last July!”

“Not to worry,” I was reassured. “We’ll send this to the Investigation Department.”

Now the fear is upon me. If I buy a used car, is my insurance going to be based on the driving record of the past owner? If I marry a divorcée and apply for a loan, will the decision rest on the credit record of my spouse’s ex? Has life been replaced by Game Theory in which, to quote from Wikipedia, “When they’re finished, a predetermined condition decides which player won. This condition need not be specified by any definable rule.”

Thank heaven the Investigation Division will sort everything out.

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