Neighbor's BGE balance is just a phone call away


March 13, 1998|By DAN RODRICKS

I don't know why you'd want to know how much your neighbor owes Baltimore Gas and Electric Co., but it's easy to find out. If you know a BGE customer's telephone number, you can quickly learn how much he owes, how much his last payment was and when his next meter reading is - just by pushing a few buttons. I've tested the system a couple of times, using friends' phone numbers, and it works perfectly. (Hey, Lee, you have an overdue balance of $253.56, your last payment was $217.04 and it was received Dec. 15. Your next meter reading is April 1. Nya-nya!)

All of this information is accessible through BGE's automated telephone system.


According to BGE's Peggy Mulloy, the company developed the system a couple of years ago to make it easier for customers to report power outages and access billing information. Only a phone number is necessary for the access. Customers don't have to go hunting through bills to find 10-digit BGE account numbers. They don't have to memorize access codes.

But while that makes reporting power outages easy, it also opens the billing information door to anyone who knows someone else's phone number. Mulloy seemed to acknowledge a flaw in the system. "We are looking into ways of creating better security," she said.

As I said, I don't know why you'd want to know whether your neighbor pays his gas and electric bill on time, or how much he owes. At the same time, I can't see what harm could come of

such knowledge.

But it's no one's business but the customer's, and BGE ought to close the door to anyone else.

(Hey, Lee, what's the matter? You need a loan?)

Blame it on 'Vino'

Ingmar Burger, our man in Hamrol (where Hampden meets Roland Park), has a nephew named Avri. Avri works in an office in Owings Mills. Avri has large ears. Recently, Avri overheard two of his co-workers blame the weird winter weather on "El Vino." Says Uncle Ingmar: "Probably a lot of things can be blamed on El Vino." I know some marriages that can. ... From the banquet booklet of a Carroll County volunteer fire company: "Thoughts to ponder: 'There is no such thing as a free lunch' - Unanimous." Can't say that I disagree, either. ... A TJI reader who calls himself Vito The Squid writes from Jarrettsville: "It was so windy last Thursday at Rocky Point Golf Course, I missed an eagle by four strokes."

Formstone forever

John Waters, quoted in "Little Castles," the Formstone Foundation's new film: "Formstone is the polyester of brick." ... Am I alone in noticing a sudden explosion in blue shopping bags on tree limbs? They're the starlings of the plastics kingdom. ... Hon Man has struck again! His calling card is back on the welcome sign on the B-W Parkway. ... Local artist, upon hearing of new BMA Director Doreen Bolger's decision to remount the 42 Matisse paintings from the Cone Collection in their original gilt frames: "I think this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship."

His aim is true

Those who did not take seriously the 10 mph posted speed limit at the Sinai Hospital employee parking lot got a rude awakening Wednesday morn - a man in a van aiming a radar gun at them! Hey, everyone, the sign said, Enforced by radar! (You were warned here first, TJI, Jan. 7) ... Sign on a bagel bin at the Bagel Bin, Columbia: "Because of your incessant nagging, chocolate chip is here to stay!" And aren't we the better for it? ... The handout listing next week's entertainment for Mick O'Shea's Irish Pub says it will mark St. Patrick's Day on March 17 with The Flying Cows of Ventry and O'Malley's March. The listing for March 18: "CLOSED FOR REPAIRS."

Anybody for coddies?

Two of the best sources for church-made Lenten coddies: weekdays at St. Benedict's, 2612 Wilkens Ave.; April 1 and April 8 at the Episcopal Church of the Resurrection, 2900 E. Fayette. ... There are plenty of good uses for the Mechanic Theater, should it be left behind for a new performing arts center in the old Hippodrome. Tell me the Baltimore Choral Arts Society, the Handel Choir of Baltimore or the Baltimore Chamber Orchestra - to name a few - wouldn't like that venue.

The Captain for Lt. Gov.?

I don't know what happened, but believe me, it's true. I've seen recent studio photographs of both women, and Ellen Sauerbrey looks just like Toni Tennille. We're talking separated-at-birth here. You could look it up. ... From a Republican member of the Maryland bar: "I am a certified Clinton hater, but for the life of me I cannot understand why Kenneth Starr is spending millions upon millions of dollars to find out whom the president slept with - and oh, yes, he lied about it. What the hell do men do when they sleep around? Confess it on 'Oprah'?"

Read his lips

Apparently I'm not the only one who has been reprimanded in public for leaning against the exterior wall of Enoch Pratt Free Library. "I have also been yelled at by the guards," says a Pratt employee. "Once we were finishing a discussion from a meeting. We had name tags on. We knew the guard. He told us we were loitering and must move on. The guards are equal opportunity yellers."

Pub Date: 3/13/98

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