modern times

I came home to two envelopes containing identical letters (yes yes -I know, the computer) from my energy company, who have booked an employee to come and read the meter between 12.00 and 4.00 on Friday.   It says “If this time is not convenient, please call us at least 48 hours beforehand on (telephone number) to re-arrange our visit.”   So I rang. We’ll set aside how you work your way through to the alternative that seems to be for you and then – because there is a wait – how to endure the kind of music that makes an MRA scan sound like a delightful option.   And I wait.   Well, it’s Saturday. I can wait.   And wait I do, eventually answered by Keith (not his real name).

Keith was great.   He asked for my account number. I gave it. He asked for my name and address and my date of birth. “Why ?” I said.   Instead of mumbling defensively, he giggled.   “Let me see if I can ask you something else …” he said, and the penny dropped.   “Sorry “ I said “security ?”   He said yes, I told him and he asked ”How can I help you today ?”

“You could change the music for a start” I said. He agreed it was awful.   I told him about the meter reading and said I would like to alter it, I couldn’t be available for when it was booked. I offered the 23,25, 26 October. He said “Can’t you read the meter ?”   I said “Young man, I am an old woman, and we have arranged that my meter, recently replaced, should be read.”     He began to ask about the meter being replaced, found the entry on the screen and countered “But you don’t need to do this.”   I said “The letter, both copies of it, says –“ and I quoted.   “So “I said” I am calling, with lots of time in hand, to rearrange.”   He said again ” But you don’t need to do this.”   I asked why, if that is what the letter tells me to do ?

“Well” he said “it depends on the meter reader.   Usually what happens is, the meter reader arrives and if you’re not there, he puts a card through the door and tries to come back within 24 hours.” “Then” I said “why does the letter ask me to ring this number ?” He said he didn’t know. “Normally (!) what happens” he reiterated “is that the meter reader tries to come back as soon after the missed call as possible, and he leaves a card so you can read your own meter – “   I said I wanted the meter read, particularly after it had just been replaced and if the meter reader usually came back, then this call therefore is a complete waste of time ?   “Well, no” he said, the laugh warming his voice.   “But that’s generally what happen, if he’s a good meter reader.”   I said “Keith, give me a break: can you see me walking up to a man I have never met and asking – are you a good meter reader? “   He said he could see my point. “So what you are advising me to do is to leave it till the meter reader comes, and work it out from there ?” He agreed. I told him that if I had to listen to that ruddy awful music again, I would invoke the protection of my civil rights (he laughed aloud) and when he finished the script with “have a lovely day” he sounded as if he meant it.

I tell you this because it made me laugh and a laugh is good thing in a week of starvation, natural disaster and not one single person who knows the film industry thought to explain to civilians (the rest of us) why women put themselves through the Weinstein mangle. Gifted producers are rare, and often when somebody in the industry says “I’d do anything” they mean just that.    I don’t endorse the way the power structure works but my biggest single insight was that all sorts of companies function the same way as the movies do without as much reward for the unspeakable.  

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