Sunday, March 17, 2013

This time, it's impersonal



I hate hospitals and courtrooms, one reason I never entered the medical or legal profession. I'm not crazy about doctors or lawyers either, so that's another. Not that I've made such great career choices. Stress and distress, for the most part, I've fallen into one unpleasant way or another to earn a buck. Shoot, at one point I had to spin why nothing says love like a fully-paid burial insurance policy.



From an aesthetic perspective, my dream job would be something outdoors and benign -- forest ranger, for example, landscape architect, utility meter reader.



And really, honestly, I'm most drawn to the last, as a career. Don't know why I never thought of it. I'd be perfectly happy walking door to door, checking gas and water usage, fiddling with words on the side.



Meter readers enjoy fresh air, exercise; they don't have to deal with surly bosses or disgruntled customers.



Just learned our local gas utility will replace our meter readers with the ADVANCEDmeter, a device that transfers our daily gaseous habits to -- well, I don't know where. The pamphlet doesn't cover that part. But according to the pamphlet, this change is to our advantage. The ADVANCEDmeter will clear up some really complicated and scientific shit, like, "Gas usage increases during cold months as your furnace and water heater use more energy."

Well, slap my ass and call me Charlie.



According to reliable sources, the meter exchange will cost consumers $1 billion in rate hikes. But, says the pamphlet, it will also "take 1,000 SoCal Gas vehicles off the road every day ... operational savings will be passed along to customers."

I did some quick and dirty math. By wiping 1,000 meter reader jobs from the SoCal landscape, we consumers can start laughing all the way to the bank in 2033.

So I called the number on the pamphlet and put my name to the installation deferral list. Something we can apparently still do until the Public Utilities Commission undefers us (an inevitability, sighs the pamphlet). And this ineffectual gesture probably does nothing more than add an additional item to my personal/consumer/professional report card accumulating in the cloud: Doesn't work and play well with others.



32 comments:

  1. How is it that some people fit so naturally and comfortably into pre-made boxes labeled "doctor," "layer," "real estate agent," while people such as I, you, and probably most of your audience have to construct theirs from scratch and make it work? Maybe J.K. Rowling is right and we're all wizards and witches trying to make the best of it in a muggle world.

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  2. . . . and that applies equally to most of my audience, too, and so much the better. Muggles give me the creeps.

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  3. And you're so good with dogs, Charlie. That would surely have stood you in fine stead for such a career. {And a deferral for a good cause is worth the demerit marks on your report card.}

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  4. Good God, woman! Some managerial git is pulling his/her hair out as we speak. 'Another muggling deferral' - just who do we think we are?

    C'mon, Swede, join the Team and get in on the Big Win!!

    (nope, I ain't callin' you Charlie)

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  5. I guess a monopoly is still the private sector, and I often wonder if it's ever NOT about the money in that sector. Your good wit, good out-of-doors photos help the medicine go down.

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  6. Add another 1000 jobs to the list magically disappearing...

    And what happens when the electricity fails???

    Personally...I'd go for the Forest Ranger position!!!

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  7. This system has already been instituted in a lot of areas in Canada - and I don't think we've been given much of a choice in the matter. Out here, in the rural prairies, we still have meter readers. Although, they allow us to call in our own meter readings and seem to trust us. That's country living at it's best.

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  8. They can pass some savings on to the consumer right away by just dropping the whole idea.

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  9. Our electric company had a very contentious meter reading relationship with us, probably due to them showing up while the kids, who were all under 8, were outside with Sarge, the mastiff who preceded Thor, and Sarge scaring the meter reader onto the hood of his car, where he huddled in fear for his life, while the dog just stood and looked at him. When they came up with the remote readers, we were first in line to get signed up. Mastiffs don't like meter readers, as it turns out. Hmmm. Who knew?

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  10. Your mastiff would have liked me. See, I would have been a natural.

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  11. Yes, Sarge would have liked you; he liked pretty girls. And I'm betting that (a) you'd have been smart enough not to just walk toward "his" children, and, (b) Albert has you well trained enough to always have treats around for dogs, or at least to share your lunch with the 240 pound dog smiling at you as you perch on the hood of your car.

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  12. It's amazing how much money is spent in the name of "improving" things. It's really only one more way to get rid of employees.

    I want to be in charge of everything!

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  13. I can see you as a meter reader, or as a forest ranger. Love the photos with this post -- what marvelous light!

    Our meters here are read digitally. They supposedly scan them while tootling through the neighborhood in company vehicles.

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  14. Great series of photos. They came in the dead of night and installed "smart meters" for our water. No advance warning, no pamphlet letting us opt out. Didn't get too upset though, because reading the meter still requires a human. They just don't have to get out of the truck anymore. They have a wand they wave out the window and it takes the meter reading. Not the job for you since they took the great outdoors out of the equation.

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  16. We should bring back telephone operators, too. So every time you call someone you can chat with the operator first: "Lucy, connect me to Pasadena 5, 2456." FYI, when the electricity goes out, the gas keeps flowing. The reader sends out a signal only periodically to indicate how much fuel was used.

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  17. $1 billion, Bob. Even a fan of the automated anything has to question the price tag.

    Re: the photos, last week we had the most amazing sky. I was going to take some pictures of a mid century street for a friend of mine and forgot all about that.

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  18. When I was a kid I wanted to be a garbageman. Looked like fun. Now I chase chem-trails, like the ones in your photos.

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  19. Love the last shot the best. Now I need to track down that house.

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  20. We live in Altadena and SoCal Edison already installed the meter. (I think it's the one you're talking about.) We didn't know we had a choice, we spoke to the Corix technicians as they stepped on our property and asked them if we should turn the power off. They said NO, that the power would go out and come back on and shouldn't affect any electronics. Of course the power came on except for the microwave/oven. After circles with them they said sometimes computers have gotten fried. Well they fried the computer in the control panel! Now I have a $3200 paper weight and the replacement part is $945! Best to just leave things as they are. I wish solar roofing was more affordable!

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  21. We live in Altadena and SoCal Edison already installed the meter. (I think it's the one you're talking about.) We didn't know we had a choice, we spoke to the Corix technicians as they stepped on our property and asked them if we should turn the power off. They said NO, that the power would go out and come back on and shouldn't affect any electronics. Of course the power came on except for the microwave/oven. After circles with them they said sometimes computers have gotten fried. Well they fried the computer in the control panel! Now I have a $3200 paper weight and the replacement part is $945! Best to just leave things as they are. I wish solar roofing was more affordable!

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  22. I was hoping you were going to say you had gone that route. I missed the boat and I still think about reversing the swap-out. But I hate talking to bureaucrats. I really, really do.

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  23. This time I'm starting to believe it.

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  24. Fairclaire, This is about the gas meter, but I'm sorry about your paper weight. You mean SoCalEd wasn't liable? Not surprising, I guess. We all held frozen turkey sacrifices during the windstorm and didn't see a penny back.

    Paula, I only had to talk to a call center.

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  25. It took me from July of last year until February of this year to get my DSL line fixed...I guess I'll have to gird my loins for awhile before I take on Gulf Power. Southern Bell was, as the French say, formidable.

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  26. I'm so impressed you read the small print.

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  27. we've had both electric and gas meters replaced here in NorCal by PG&E. Deferrals were an option, but buried on page 96 of a 200 page "pamphlet" in 6pt type.

    We were at a client's home one day when the power went out. I went out to check the panel to find a guy yanking the old, installing the new "Smart Meter". I asked him what the hell he was doing, as he didn't have PG&E clothes, nor did he have a badge. He said "they sent out notices". I replied "I've been here for 2 months while these folks have been on holiday, I haven't seen ANYTHING come in the mail". I called PG&E and they claimed they sent out notices. I again repeated what I'd told the guy standing there with the old meter in hand. I explained that wasn't possible. After 15 minutes of discussion, PG&E admitted some houses might not have gotten notices. I explained to both PG&E and the guy that they were trespassing, they had responsibility for any damage caused and they were not to set foot on property until I could discuss with the client/owner. Amazingly enough, the sudden shutdown fried 2 of the cable boxes, one computer, the microwave (was not on at the time of the outage) a phone and several small devices. PG&E dicked around with the client until I submitted a notarized letter detailing what happened, including whom I spoke with and a photo of the guy who trespassed and yanked the meter without even coming to the door to warn us.

    Upshot is, eventually, PG&E insisted both meters get replaced. Bills have, quelle surprise, gone up since replacement. One client got a bill for $845 in December when it was rather chilly here.

    As an aside, why do places like the electric companies hire people to "read meters" who are AFRAID OF DOGS?!?! It is like hiring ME to be out doing cold call marketing door-to-door sales. dumb, dumb, dumb! On the other hand, I'd be GREAT at dealing with dogs, even mastiffs don't scare me, I either bark back or just call them over to pet them on their bellies.

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  28. Ahhh, the mysterious post that disappeared from my GR! No doubt the gas company's doing. We have many people coming to our door to try to change us over to another energy supplier, much better for us it seems. By our calculations, we will save approximately $10 a year if we sign a contract for the next 2 years. I just know I'm going to get rich this way.

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  29. I just noticed I'd been scratching my to-do list the past few weeks on the back of the ADVANCEDmeter letter. Guess I should open it so I can read with my own eyes how gas usage increases during cold months...

    These photos are gorgeous.

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