When we received our last electricity bill, I was concerned that the electric company (We will call them NYE) hadn’t read our meter since December so had estimated charges for the last six months. Bill, my partner, asked why I should be concerned about this. I reminded him that I am unemployed and prone to worry about incidentals including why he cannot handle plastic wrap. I patiently explained that NYE’s estimated readings are always low. He argued that missed readings would then be a good thing. I reminded him that women think ahead, contrary to the script that most men follow, and when NYE finally reads the meter, we may owe them considerably more than one employed person (him) could afford to pay. Fearing an untimely disconnect, I figured having electricity this winter would be a better thing.
So, I called NYE and, as you might expect, was transferred numerous times. I ended up with a young woman who sounded concerned. She agreed six months is a long time not to have our meter read and did I have dogs? Yes, I said, but the dogs cannot be the problem. She did not believe me. Maybe there is a new worker, she said, and the dogs bother her. The only way to find out, she continued, would be to talk with the meter reader. So, she scheduled an appointment for the two of us to meet when the worker would be in the neighborhood--between 8:00 and 10:00 yesterday. I put the date on my calendar, which, of course, is crowded with job interviews. Okay, the last clause is an exaggeration.
I was dressed by 8:00 a.m. and told the dogs we’d take our walk after NYE left. They accepted that, along with breakfast served at their feet. At 10:30, I called NYE. Again transferred a few times, I explained to the young man what wasn’t happening. He confirmed that my address was on the schedule and said the worker had to be on his way.
At 1:30 p.m., I called again and explained to a third person that NYE was supposed to have visited me this morning in order to tell me why there was a problem visiting me. The woman I got this time said she was sorry but I was not on the schedule and that this was her fault. She could have been crying. Would I still like someone to come out today? I had already been confined for five and half hours, so what were a few more hours? I said yes. I could tell she was drying her eyes.
At 2:30 p.m., as rain came from nowhere to flatten most living things, a guy in a NYE truck appeared saying he was there to turn on my electricity. The dogs and I, on the porch and wet, were perplexed but we patiently explained the situation again.
The NYE visitor said, “Let me call in to see what is going on.”
“Believe me,” I said, “I’m the only person who knows what is going on.”
He didn’t believe me. He took out his cell phone. I told him his cellphone probably wouldn’t work out here (we live in a rural area known as the boonies) and he could come in to use our land line. Of course, his cellphone worked, but the dispatcher didn’t answer her phone. I told him I thought she ran to the store for more tissues.
He said he had no idea why someone wasn’t reading my meter. I convinced him to put in a good word about our dogs. He asked for their names, but he seemed to lose interest when I told him one of the dogs was named Snot. He left after reading the meter.
About 3:30 p.m., the dispatcher called me. She had done some research. It turns out that the meter reader hadn’t finished our route since December and about 70 homes were affected. All my neighbors were paying estimated bills and our dogs had been wrongly accused. I told her I didn’t know whether Snot and Buddy would get over it, but I’d help them work through it.
You may think this is the end of the story but our real meter reader returned today to read the meter. I ran out to say hello. The young man said he went home sick last time and didn’t finish the route. I told him I was sorry I ever inquired about the issue. Sometime before the last phone call yesterday, I no longer cared that our bill was estimated. I just wanted NYE to get out of my life.
Now, I debate whether to tell Bill the saga of this unemployed day because he will say, “I told you not dealing with NYE was a good thing.” And I will have to agree.
Find Sheba Marx's 174 Good Things about Unemployment at unemployedmarx.blogspot.com