Friday, June 12, 2009


Yesterday I wrote about my stint as a collector for the power company. Collecting, my boss used to say, can put you in direct contact with murders, rapists, child abusers, thieves, drug dealers, users and just down right ugly people. Electricity is equal opportunity. Any one with a house and a few dollars can have it. When you knock on a door, you don't know what type of person you are talking to.While it was an unpleasant job at best, filled with sad stories, children begging you not to cut the power off and the occasional abandoned animals, sometimes you had a good day.

At first the day did not start out that way, in fact it was mind boggling awful. Bruce was my trainer and as we pulled up to a house with the doors and windows open we were both thinking that the owners were long gone. Bruce banged on the door frame half heartedly just to follow protocol.

That is when we saw movement so Bruce called out. There was no answer but a small sniffle. Then we looked inside and saw little furniture, just a folding chair , a refrigerator. and a mattress on the floor. Sitting on the mattress were three children, all preschool. The baby was naked and showed evidence of diarrhea. All three were filthy.

Bruce asked where their mother was but only got blank stares. Then the oldest, a boy, said something in Spanish. Since all we knew in Spanish was "No deniro, No luces" (no money no lights), we knew we had a problem. I cursed my mono lingual status. Bruce left me with the kids to find a Spanish speaking neighbor which he did.

The neighbor told us the people had been gone for several days. She said the parents were migrant workers who had probably run out of work and had left to look for some. No, they didn't know if or when they would be back. They said they had not seen the kids and did not know they were there. They thought the people had taken them with them as the house was so quiet.

I had checked the refrigerator and there was only a little stale cheese and some mustard. The children did not cry or ask for anything. They just stared at us with huge distrusting eyes. This was before cell phone days so Bruce left to call Family Services while I stayed to watch over them. The neighbors brought over some cold spaghetti and milk which the kids inhaled.

Soon a case worker showed up who spoke Spanish. She was able to determine how long the kids had been alone and that they had barely had anything to eat for three days. They were 5, 4 and 2. Evidently the parents had told them to stay put and not go outside.

Bruce and I were feeling a terrible rage at the parents who had abandoned their children. Had they returned right then, it would have been ugly. It is terrible to say but the only way I could ever forgive those parents is if they had been victims of foul play. That would be the only thing to make sense to me.

The case worker took over and Bruce and I kept in touch with her. We learned she eventually found relatives who lived in another county to care for them. The case worker did an amazing job to find the relatives, but never found a trace of the parents. It seems the kids flourished at least physically under the relatives care. You can only wonder about the scars that don't show.

So how was that a good day you ask?? It was good because we got there in time.


  1. Oh. my. goodness. Thank God for Bruce and Patti! And, thank God for the social worker who cared.

    You write such awesome stories, Patti. Your life is full and rich!

  2. You have seen things that confirm the worst about humans, and you have done things that confirm the best.

  3. hmm......
    you are really made up of lovely stories

  4. When I read this, I could really "see" those poor children. It is amazing the sadness and depths that some young people have to endure, but good to read that these children later "flourished.. under the relative's care". I wonder what did happen to the parents?

    (Thanks for your kind comments on my site Patti, Bless you!)

  5. Patti,

    I know what a tough job bill collecting is and what lengths collectors go to to try and get the money that is owed.

    I sold real estate for many years and sellers were always trying to get to settlement before they got caught putting pennies in the electric meter. That was their favorite. The Electric Company would cut off their power and five minutes later the wise guys had it back on by putting coins and other things in the meter.

    The company could never get them to pay so the collectors decided to go after the listing agent that was selling their house. They would call the Real Estate agent about 2 hours before closing and tell her that unless the bill was paid immediately, they were going to dig up the lawn and remove the underground wires.All this was happening with the buyer's moving van sitting in front of the house.


    We would scramble to pay the bill ourselves and when we got to the closing we presented our bill for electric service to the Title Officer and were reimbursed by the seller before they could close.

    The sellers would be furious because they thought they had succeeded in skipping out on a big bill and then they found out they had to pay to settle.

    So, I know what you went through collecting from some people.

    Those little babies that were left behind were better off without those awful parents. I hope they were treated better by others.

  6. Pat
    The social worker in this case was a hero. Most are so swamped with work that 3 little kids could have stayed in Child Services forever. She really worked hard for those kids.

    You know as bad as some people are I still think the good way out number them. When I look around me, all I see are good people. We will win.

    Have lived a long time and have been single a long time also. That opens up the possibilites.

    You know, as time passes I tend to think maybe something happened to the parents that they could't get back. My heart doesn't want to believe anyone could be so heartless.

    Wow, your power company has more teeth than ours did. In a similar situation, we would just have to eat the loss.
    We did have a current diversion department(I worked there for a while) that would have caught any attempts to steal power. If they would keep stealing power, we would just cut it off at the pole. Only when they were caught stealing power were we allowed to prosecute.

  7. I really wanted to her that story when you alluded to it earlier.

    I find it hard to believe the cruelty children endure with, or becasue of, their caregivers, be it parents, grandparents, or guardians.

    I bet those kids were suffered mentally the rest of their lives.

  8. nitwit
    It would be hard for them not to have many scars. You would hope that they would get help. The two year old was probably the luckiest. She at least won't remember the days with out food or caring adult.

  9. Hi Patti, Even though you had a job to do and it wasn't easy, you also had a 'ministry' of sorts... By helping those precious children (and the dog yesterday) ---you did SO much good. Thank you so much for going over and over --in the call of duty!!!!!

    I'm like you... I could kill parents who do things like this... Grrrrrr!!!

    Hope you are having a great day.

  10. Oops---I meant "over and above"... Duh!

  11. Yes a good day because you did get there in time.

  12. Betsy,
    Thanks. Of course we will never know how meager a life they lived. But still nothing could justify leaving your kids? Aargh.
    Glad to know if I ever need to put a contract out on a lousy parent, I know where to go.

    Welcome to TNS. So glad you stopped by.And yes it was a good day.