Fast forward again to last week. The house was once again dark when we arrived in the evening. This time, the power had been cut off by NSTAR. There was no immediate smell of rotting food this time. We left the refrigerator doors closed.
A call to NSTAR revealed that the bill hadn't been paid, so power was cut off. The quickest way to get power restored was to pay the bill at the local grocery store in the morning. Five of us spent the night in a hotel. Once the bill was paid, we had to get NSTAR to come to the house and restore power. We were told to shut off all circuit breakers at the panel. I did that, but I noticed that there was no master breaker on the panel.
NSTAR came while we were out, but the house remained dark. We called NSTAR hourly. At first the company didn't believe us, saying, "Our records indicate that power was restored." When we insisted that the house was still in the dark, the company said someone would be there in two hours. That was 4:30 p.m.
Then we were told someone would arrive at 6:30 p.m., then 8:30 p.m., then 10:30 p.m., and still no power. Finally, we received a call from someone who actually knew about electrons and power circuits, not just some customer service representative in a call center. (All this time, we kept going to our cars to charge our cellphones.) I took a flashlight and, with this technican on the phone, turned all circuit breakers on and off and on again. No lights. Next, I went outside and found a 60 A breaker inside a connection box. The breaker was in the on position. I turned it off and on -- still nothing. The meter and another connection box were tagged by the electric company that afternoon, and I wasn't about to touch them.
At 12:30, an NSTAR technician arrived and opened the tagged box. Sure enough, there was the main breaker, and it was off. I turned it on and turned on the breakers at the basement panel, and power was restored. Now we had to deal with the refrigerator.
There was some smell, but nothing we couldn't handle. We disposed of the food and cleaned the freezer, and all was well.
The NSTAR technician didn't replace the tag on the box surrounding the main breaker, and thus it's accessible. Next time, I'll check there first.