Friday, February 5, 2010

Secret Lives of Meter Readers

If you are looking for a long walk every day with not bad pay, maybe meter reading is the ticket. Generally, you get to spend a lot of peaceful time by yourself, plenty of serene reflecting space, unhindered by a bickering work crew. Simply dedicating yourself to reading meters all day can actually lead to a very ascetic lifestyle.

When a vault into the earth is uncovered, great mysteries lie inside. Neighborhood kids dash over and want to spy. Newts and frogs, snakes, snails and polliwogs are all revealed from these tiny underground arenas. If the meter reader does not watch carefully, he may uncover a hornet's nest. Thus, most workers carry a medicine pouch within their toolkits.

Meter reading routes are hard roads at first; but endurance soon builds up, as the man (or woman) becomes self-reliant. As he walks along, he strengthens his full character, all the way down to his stem cells. Striding along, his breathing becomes natural and he finds himself more plainspoken.

Travelers often pose directions or unusual questions from meter readers. Does the deer turn into elk at the same elevation rattlesnakes stop snapping? On what Idaho road did Hemingway kick the can? Having snappy answers handy makes the job more pleasant.

Dogs are an inherent part of meter reading. Most browsers are friendly and can decipher the meter reader's spirit with a high degree of accuracy. Many dogs will grant you easy access through their gated community to inspect the meter. It's getting out again that presents a problem, as pups craving companionship insist that you stay and play.

Some meter readers get to thinking up fantastic ideas along the trail. They begin to carry a notepad alongside their number recorder and write down musings in a Thoreau-like manner. Even in cities, they see bits of nature, which many motorists blur by too fast to appreciate. Along the glistening stream: some morel mushrooms for their pouch, a storytelling of crows over in that towering tamarack tree, trying to alter a chapter in an owl's life.

Meter readers of various utilities develop an eye for detail and take note of safety concerns that might otherwise go unnoticed: A dead tree branch leaning into a power line. The scent of gas somewhere, or loose manholes in the street. This talent is not lost on Homeland Security officials who sometimes speak of enlisting meter readers to keep "an eye out" for all of us. However, most meter readers are not into this sort of thing. They could draft maps of homes of the stars if they wished, but most prefer to shine as more of a nameless Pale Rider-type of hero. Blending into the background; but emerging with more than speedy serendipity, for the occasional good deed along their way.

Daydreams of meter readers include running a line of electricity up to Pioneer Cabin. Imagine the boss man wondering why only one meter was read this afternoon. Meter readers face harsh conditions in the winter, post-holing through deep snow and truly appreciate your efforts to keep the pathway clear around reading time. Some consumers seem to forget that having a utility company representative freshly familiar with the physical location of the meter is a key aspect for safety, since the utility meter is also the spot for the emergency shut-off valve.

Customers must think that meter readers are as secretive as wolverines, since they are so seldom seen. However, when they are detected, it's nice to give them a high howdy and a thank you for their dedicated service. They will likely remember that for a long time. During my years of meter reading, there were only a handful of times, when someone offered thanks, but it always brightened my week.

Alas, many healthy aspects of meter reading are rapidly transforming, along with much of our world’s unquestioned “progress.” With the advent of the GPS receivers, probing rods and older methods of tie-down measurements are less required to locate meters obscured by leaves or grass. In addition, remote registers and smart-grid telemetry are phasing out some routes. Therefore, if your dog seems a tad more lonesome lately, it could be that he didn't receive his monthly belly rub and a pat on the head from your friendly neighborhood meter reader.

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