Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Greeting Meter Readers With Heat

Our little mountain cabin isn't all that remote, but it has its archaic charms. No internet. No cell phone service. Electricity we have, but not so steadily as to feel like we're entitled. A tidy fellow in a dapper cap comes by our back door in his buggy and drops off neat parcels of electricity in brown paper and twine, and he can't make it if the weather's bad or his horse throws a shoe. So when we saw the meter reader for the first time the other day, we had to chat.

He agreed it was good to be seen. He'd expected his job to come to an end a year earlier, because they were going over to the digital metering and no longer required personal monitors. Almost all of the meter readers had lost their jobs in the county, except in the remote areas where they hadn't put in the digital meters because the satellites wouldn't be able to find them. As a liberal, I thought that it was a shame that a decent job was being sacrificed to technology yet again, but on the other hand it made sense to modern-up the metering system. It's a big deal, the electrical grid. Used to be the electric company could tell how much power you used in a month, and that was that. They sprayed out power all over the region and let it settle out on its own, then charged you for how much you were able to suck up. Now, with the smart meters, they can tell when you're using it and when you're not, and can make wiser decisions about divvying up the power packets, so they don't waste as much. The enhanced data will help mitigate demands on the increasingly strained power grid, and possibly prevent overloads. I'm sorry for the meter guy, but it makes a lot of sense.

Here. But not in Texas. In Texas, a digital electrical meter is seen for what it is: a threat to personal liberty. Personal freedom is something Texans hold dear, from back in the days when a man could go out and collect debts with a bullet and scrub the territory of Indians and dang near kill off all the bison just because, and nothing's changed to this day, except there are about three hundred million more of us, which thins out the liberty a bit.  Anyway, people are upset. Some damn little socialist in power-company overalls comes in to replace someone's old meter in Texas, he's liable to meet up with the business end of a gun. Many Texans believe their arguments are sharpened up consider'ble with a gun, and it sort of helps make up for that whole education deficit.

Thelma Taormina at the ready
"This is Texas," affronted citizen Thelma Taormina thundered at a recent public hearing. "We have rights to choose what appliances we want in our home." Damn right, sister, that's exactly what our troops are Over There fighting for. The Fondling Fathers said it right in the Degradation of Independence, when they said it was self-evident that Amana's created equal, but if you want a Maytag or a GE instead, why, that's your right as an American. Boo-yah! You want to have five freezers going with the doors open all day long, why, you go ahead on, and if you need something to run them all with, you can by-God go out and slay some electricity yourself. Lookit Junior. Killed him a watt when he was only three. Hell yeah.

Many fear that the smart technology might allow government agencies to monitor their whereabouts and activities. Norman Throckwit was so incensed by the intrusion upon his privacy afforded by the smart meters that he organized a Texans Against Smart Things page on Facebook, where he later noted he was enjoying funnel cake at the state fair.

"Government has no right to spy on us," agreed Dolly Mortimer in the comment thread, just before updating her status with a photo of her and Juney Sue making duck lips at Walmart at 3:14pm, where she was stocking up for a two-week vacation at the beach, details to follow.

Ms. Taormina is not the only concerned citizen in Texas who has greeted the meter installer with a gun, and good for her. If you don't exercise your second-amendment rights by threatening a utility worker, you might as well not have them.


Want to be on the back cover of my book? The first Murrmurrs collection is coming out soon, and Mark Twain isn’t answering his phone, so I’ve got some space available for blurbs. Trousering Your Weasel will include my usual stuff and blather, but nothing overtly political, and it will be illustrated with my own drawings. So have some fun and send your pithy and entertaining bon mots to me at pootie@spiretech.com. I can’t guarantee I’ll use a single one. But I’d sure like to see what you come up with. 

77 comments:

  1. Ole Thelma ain't all that stupid. One thing about them new fangled meters, they tend to be a bit more accurate than the old ones and likely as not, will end up costing you more money. I once had some roofers up on my roof and one of them dropped a hammer on my meter and broke it. Electric man came right out to replace it and Shazam! my freaking electric bill went up by nearly a third. Where's my gun?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Euch. Accuracy. That's the worst. Sorry, man.

      Delete
  2. Oh to live in Texas where I could shoot me a freezer full of bear meat and digitally enhance my local polititians.
    Seriously, smart meters, we got 'em here and believe it or not we are actually saving money on our hydro. Of course, we aren't really using it either.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey, I get a readout of my hour-to-hour electrical usage since we put in solar panels, and I use way less now just from my own self-education. Specifically, We Don't Hardly Use The Dryer Anymore. Turns out it takes a lot of juice to bake your laundry.

      Delete
    2. I knew that is why your towels are like sandpaper. I'm OK with that very invigorating. Love you

      Delete
    3. Yes! I have achieved the Great Towels of my youth. Keep 'em out of the dryer and they are nice and scratchy. Whoever though soft towels were the way to go, anyway?

      Delete
  3. We are on our way to Texas on Friday. I'll have to check out my daughter's meter, make sure it ain't smart.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I wouldn't want any meter that, for instance, believes in evolution.

      Delete
  4. I would like a different style of meter, although the problem we had probably will not come up again. (Never say never...)

    My little boy was playing in the snow, walking around on the crust over a couple feet of snow. The crust broke and he went down, grabbed for anything -- and the meter came off the house.

    To their credit, when I called the electric company, their first question was, "is the child all right?" And they sent someone out to install a new meter.

    My little one turns forty this month; he will be sure no similar accidents befall his little ones.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We lost our meter at the cabin during a break-in. Someone stole our lamps and tried to yank out our meter. Guess they needed some electricity to go with the lamps.

      Delete
  5. Our remote corner of upper Michigan is served by the REA. For years, REA members self-reported meter readings. About once a year, someone would come around to check the meter and make sure members' reports matched reality. That changed about ten years ago; now the meters read themselves. I have no clue how they work, but it does not involve a satellite or radio signals. Apparently the data goes back to the REA billing service over the power lines. At the time the REA transitioned over to the new meters, no one cared. If anything, we were collectively relieved we'd no longer have to go out in subzero winter weather to read the meter while hoping the meter wasn't buried in six feet of snow. Have we as a nation become crazier when it comes to sniffing out conspiracy theories and worrying about our nonexistent privacy? Or can I hope that most of the tinfoil hat types are living in Texas?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think that's where the BEST tinfoil hats are, but it's pretty shiny all over, don't you think?

      Delete
  6. They'd probably be delighted to have their news delivered by town crier and a hand crank phone as well. Anybody see the newspaper boy?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And we really should be pooping in the back yard again. Don't want any sewer workers to be pawing through our shit.

      Delete
  7. Um…

    No internet. No cell phone service. = I would DIE!

    "Almost all of the meter readers had lost their jobs in the county, except in the remote areas where they hadn't put in the digital meters because the satellites wouldn't be able to find them."

    That's pretty sad, actually.

    ""We have rights to choose what appliances we want in our home." Damn right, sister, that's exactly what our troops are Over There fighting for."

    You made me laugh over that sentence, and yet I feel guilty about it!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sadly, that quote about the appliances really was hers.

      Hm! If you really think you would DIE, I think you need to unplug for three days and report back to us (because I really don't think you would die). Doesn't it seem like something you need to investigate? It is weird to me how much we need that, when we didn't used to have it. What will we need in fifty years?

      I know, water.

      Delete
  8. We recently got smart meters in the Vancouver area, and there has been a LOT of controversy and anger (no guns though; this is Canada). Some people are convinced that the government will be using them to spy on us, or at least to determine when we use the most electricity and then charge us more at those peak usage times. Others are worried about the radiation the meters give off being a health hazard. Some are saying that the readings are all wrong with the new meters, that their electricity bills are now WAY higher.

    Me? When the installer came to put in my smart meter, I just rolled over and went back to sleep.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think that's a sensible reaction to almost everything. Or having a beer, either one.

      Delete
  9. "...there are about three hundred million more of us, which thins out the liberty a bit." - LOL!

    See, thin out the population a bit and all that liberty will be freed up again. I'm sure you'd be able to suggest a few places to start the cull...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Uh-huh. I like the idea of the cull, but I think it will really happen in this century, and I'm not sure I want to be around to see it.

      Delete
    2. I've got room for you, Murr. We've got meat and dairy, eggs and chicken, honey, fruits, veggies. We've got homebrew, but we're lacking coffee. If you and Dave bring coffee, I'll unlatch the gate for you.

      Delete
    3. Oh dear. Dave doesn't drink coffee and I've cut way down. There must be something else I can contribute. Hm.

      Delete
    4. If you're gunna to have a cull, start in Washington. No, not the state — the other one.

      Delete
  10. Texas's most notable contribution to the English language is the phrase "Git of my propity", punctuated with a shotgun.

    I was once held at gun point for six hours, over on the San Jacinto, for participating in an Audubon Christmas Bird Count. The owner of the adjacent land assumed anybody crazy enough to be on the river after dark must be up to no good.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sure did miss not going with you on that trip.

      Delete
    2. I'm still figuring out what "miss not going" means. It's like the election ballot measures. You have to sort out all the double negatives to see if yer fer or agin.

      And are you SERIOUS? About the gunpoint? I'll bet anyone who would do that would be very suspicious of the bird count idea, all right. "We're counting birds." Why, sure you are!

      Delete
    3. Oh yeah, I'm serious, myself and three other counters, all in canoes/kayaks. He was very drunk and thought we were poaching. Once TPWD convinced him that he was the one they'd have to arrest, he became our best buddy and helped us get our boats back to the cars. Marilyn attended the year before, when we got stuck out all night on an island in Luce Bayou.

      Delete
    4. AZ is just as nutty. An elderly friend of mine was birding from her car, driving slowly in very unpopulated areas, and when she saw something she wanted to check out, she would pull over and pull out her binoculars. She had a heck of a time convincing the State Trooper that she was not looking for illegal aliens to either shoot or hide in the trunk to smuggle farther into the US, that she was indeed looking at birds.
      Sure lady.

      Delete
  11. Here in the District of Columbia (that's somewhere back east), the power company is swapping out all the meters for smart meters. Their approach is different -- they just don't tell anyone anything about anything. This might be a good approach -- in this town, 1 of 10 people has a law degree, so I'm waiting to see the fireworks when-and-if any issues come to the surface. You think it is hilarious to watch conservative Texans try to cope with change? Ha! There is nothing funnier than a gaggle of attorneys getting huffy and self-righteous over something they know nothing about....

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't even know whether we have smart meters here in town. They sure came in without fanfare if so. Mine (pictured) is smart though. It says "Parallel Generation On Site." And I haven't even hooked up the hamster wheel.

      Delete
  12. "Parallel Generation On Site." Does that mean you're living with your cousins? They're in a parallel generation, right?

    Satellites taking jobs away from hard-working Americans? When will people cotton on to the fact that gainful employment is an endangered resource? Of course, if we run out of air, water and food, it won't matter that we can't find the jobs to earn them. Thank you for putting in solar panels and air-drying your laundry!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're very welcome. I don't think my neighbors are as enthralled with the tighty-whities on the line.

      Delete
    2. Tighty-whities---woo woo!!!

      Delete
  13. Our local electric company is in the process of switching to the smart meters. The outrage has been so great that people have been given the choice to "opt out." Because - according to furious Letters to the Editor in our papaer - those smart meters cause cancer!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh my! You know? Maybe they do. But I sure don't think most of our letter-writers have the straight poop. The least I can say for myself is I usually know what I'm ignorant about. That's one kind of smart, anyway.

      Delete
  14. When I was working at Providence (RI) Water we had a bunch of guys swapping out the meters. Then they went to work doing something else. There's always something doing at ProvWater. Had a few complaints but just from people who didn't want our guys poking around in their cellars. Are Yankees more rational than other folks?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Or (to use a better Yankee phrase) "poking around down cellah."

      Delete
  15. I would have preferred a smart meter in the case of our recent cottage power bill. It generally cost us $35 every second month because we weren't using it. Because the meter reader couldn't get to the meter the last time, the power company estimated our usage - at 12 times that amount. Gah. Serves us right for letting those bushes grow up while we weren't there :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oooh, you're in for a massive refund right around Christmastime!

      Delete
    2. I wish ... it's auto debit, which means we get a credit on our account ... which will take, hmm, two years to gnaw down to zero :)

      Delete
  16. Well, I'm sorry to hear that the meter readers are losing jobs. Technological advances are responsible for growing unemployment. I'm pretty sure there's a way Texans can blame this on Obama too. What the hell. Everything's his fault, right?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That is what I hear, yes. Albeit not so much in this space...I love this space...

      Delete
    2. Yes, one of the many things I too love about your space!

      Delete
  17. Up here in Maine, lots of folks are concerned about the microwaves those smartmeters use to communicate with the power company, afraid they'll cause brain damage. These are the same folks who have a cell phone grafted on the side of their skulls. Go figure..

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, shoot, SOMETHING's causing all that brain damage, you must admit that.

      Hey! Since I got my first cell phone last April, I am pleased to announce that it has not taken over my life at all. I still hate talking on the phone and only about a dozen people know my number. Which means (speaking of smart) I'm paying about $12 apiece for mushy text messages from my baby.

      Delete
  18. I spend quite a lot of my time using no electricity and not contactable by phone. Some of my best time is spent that way.
    They are threatening us with smart meters as well. Smarter than the average voter? Probably. More expensive electricity on the way? Most definitely.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Most things should probably be more expensive. As you note, we really can do without.

      Delete
  19. I think we still have a dumb meter but the other ones are creeping out our way. They might be part of that zombie apocalypse I keep hearing about.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes. Slow and inexorable. Bring 'em on. I'm tired of stupid.

      Delete
  20. Oh. Wait. I had to read the words twice. I thought Thelma was trying to coax the meter reader inside with a gun, not keep him out. Well, that's how we did it in Oklahoma. And 'lectricity? That's what that wind mill squeaking in the yard is for. It sure isn't for water...that dried up 200,000 people ago.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think that particular windmill was for water, but that picture was taken during the Cretaceous. I do remember peering into that well and how I didn't fall in I will never know.

      Delete
  21. And Congrats on Trousering Your Weasel.

    ReplyDelete
  22. Texas? They keep telling us the stars down there are big and bright (clap 4 times) so maybe they could all go solar?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh thank you so much for the earworm (clap clap clap clap).

      Delete
  23. HA! You think you're so day-gone clever 'tending yer talkin' 'bout Texas. We here on the Eastern Shore know you wuz talkin' 'bout us. Dint fool us none. 'Sides, we got NASA here and we got drones readin ar meters. Yessah!
    But tell me somepin, how do ya keep that Reynolds Wrap from itchin?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Bustid! Aw, you jist grease up first with that udder cream.

      Delete
  24. While tinfoil isn't microwave friendly but can get hot. No itch problem. More likely a burn issue.
    Spy theories? Never mind the smart meters. Think about all the chips from China that help create smart tech and that lurk in your modern appliances and gadgets all over the house.

    Congrats on getting out your first collection soon.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oooo! Little Chinese gremlins built right in! I'm going to make sure they get a show. I'm gonna walk around nekkid.

      Delete
  25. Shoot! I keep forgetting---Congratulations on your book. Can't wait to download it, or buy it if there are pictures!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think we'll have both options. Thanks!

      Delete
  26. We recently had so-called 'smart meters' installed, against the wishes of virtually anybody, who saw this as a cheap excuse for the government to jack up electricity rates 10,000 percent and which also likely cause dropsy, incontinence, impotence and brain cancer. Shooting seems like a good response.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I was going to disagree until you mentioned dropsy. Dang their hides.

      Delete
  27. I'm glad to see that you understand the threat to liberty posed by these technological monstrosities. Why, next thing you know, they'll be mapping my neighborhood from the sky!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Should we all just go outside and shoot straight up in the air? I can't see a downside.

      Delete
  28. 'Scuse me, but that there weasel you're trousering, is he the same one you sent through the mail a few posts back?

    If he smelt back then, he sure must now.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If you want to know how to trouser your weasel, you'll have to buy the book.

      Delete
  29. Homesteaded in northern Vermont for a few years. Had no electricity or indoor plumbing and things were going good till we finally put in a power line and a meter. One fine day the meter reader drove right into the corner of the log cabin while I was showering outdoors. (Hadn't gotten around to walls on that shower though there WAS a door.) Knocked the meter right down. I didn't have time to reach for my gun but no need. He didn't come back for weeks and by then the shower was decent.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Um, was he distracted by something?

      Delete
    2. I don't know about the look on my face (we didn't get much company up there in the woods and I'd forgotten about the meter) but the look on HIS face was priceless!

      Delete
  30. Well, I'm glad Thelma's got something important to spend her time and energy on... just don't try to figure out how much energy she used! Lord knows we just don't have enough to get fired up about in this country.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And if we do have enough, we won't soon.

      Delete
  31. I set my tea down before starting this. good thing. Another blogger once commented that all the normal people who are trying to get out of Texas could fit in once van with luggage. My question as an outsider looking in is why the hell didn't the USA let the south go when it had the chance?
    We don't have a dryer. too expensive in this country to use anything but sunshine and my expensive towels from Canada take the hide off. What a waste of money they were.
    Waiting for your book.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks! I have recently discovered the joy of air-dried towels. Scratchy and efficient, just like the towels of my youth (and for the same reason). Fluffy towels are way overrated.

      Delete