February 12, 2014

Dear Gas Company: Send More Pamphlets

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Dear People’s Gas,

First, I just want to thank you for all the pamphlets you’ve already sent me. When I first signed up, you sent me 5 pamphlets, and I said, “Only five?” but then the technician connecting the gas gave me another pamphlet (“Here, you might need this pamphlet,” he said). Six pamphlets! The unmitigated gluttony of it! And yet still I wanted more! More pamphlets! Each month, you sent them to me, at least two with each bill, and before I knew it, I had towering stacks of free, informative pamphlets to enrich my life.

Sometimes I open other utility bill envelopes, and there’s only the bill inside. “Only a bill?” I whisper into the void. “ONLY A BILL?” So disappointing, like a fortune cookie with no fortune or a baby born with no skin. These other companies have no regard for their customers, see them only as “customers” and not “receivers of pamphlets”. You would never do me like that, People’s Gas. You would never switch off the gushing pamphlet spigot.

My favorite pamphlets are the ones where you tell me how natural gas can explode or poison me at any moment, out of the blue. You know which pamphlets I’m talking about? Just kidding, IT’S ALL OF THEM. ‘Natural gas is colorless and odorless,’ read the pamphlets. ‘So you need a carbon monoxide detector in every room.’ Unless, of course, it goes off every time you cook breakfast, in which case, remove the smoke detector, and genuflect to the mad hand of fate. After all, what could be more peaceful than quietly asphyxiating in the night? An endless sleep.

The signs of a natural gas leak, as revealed in the pamphlets, are subtle, like a moment of foreshadowing in Final Destination: ‘a blowing or hissing sound coming from pipes,’ ‘grass turning brown,’ or ‘water bubbling’. One of the signs is ‘Fire coming out of the ground’, and that one is not subtle. If I saw fire coming out of the ground, I would definitely call you, People’s Gas, and say, “This might be nothing, but there is a column of flame erupting from the earth. I remember in the pamphlets you sent me that I’m supposed to call you if this happens.” And you would say, “I never knew you were listening.” And I would say, “I always listen to you, baby.” Then maybe we’d both start crying. I’d like that.

I feel a deep and abiding connection with you, People’s Gas, and I know you feel it too. That’s why one of your pamphlets is called “Customer Connection”. As with the other pamphlets, it’s covered in photos of ethnically diverse, nondescript gas customers, smiling at the thought of all those hydrocarbons being pumped through their homes, the same blissful expression I’d imagine Siddhartha had beneath the Bodhi Tree. And nearby, these words: “Carbon monoxide poisoning can result in unconsciousness, permanent brain damage and death,” the implicit connection: inhale carbon monoxide, shed your corporeal fleshsuit, join the Cosmic Souldance. Message received, People’s Gas. Natural gas is a conduit to infinity.

But lately, you’ve stopped sending me the standard monthly supply of pamphlets (a shipping container), only sending one per bill, as if I never meant anything to you, as if you think I don’t deserve carbon monoxide safety tips. What happened to us? Did I do something wrong?

Is this about that time I didn’t pay the gas bill for a year? Is this about the time you had to disconnect my gas, and I called to ask what was going on even though I knew what was going on, having never paid my gas bill? Is this about that time I called you a hundred times, trying to get my gas reconnected because I didn’t pay my bill, and then told all your customer service reps that, without heat, I’d freeze to death, and afterward, I’d arrange for my frozen corpse to be chopped up and shipped to each and every People’s Gas employee, along with a pamphlet titled “Why It’s Your Fault”? That was unreasonable, I know that now. I was in a dark place. But it was just the one time, baby.

Listen, according to a recent pamphlet, it’s Energy Action Month: a time for redemption, reconnection, and installing foam insulators under electrical outlet covers. Let’s take this opportunity to recapture our own energy action—in the form of pamphlets. Hundreds of pamphlets. Thousands of pamphlets. Please, for God’s sake, send more pamphlets. Every one of them is important and necessary, and I never throw them away ever.

People’s Gas, I want to gently cradle you in my arms and whisper in your ear: “Send me your pamphlets, let me read your pamphlets, flip through your pamphlets, be buried in pamphlets, pamphlets, pamphlets, pamphlets, pamphlets, pamphlets, pamphlets.” TC mark

Brad Pike

Brad Pike is a writer and performer in Chicago. His writing has been featured on The Sixth Wall, Thought Catalog, The …

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