Friday, October 30, 2009


I left banking in the mid seventies for purely financial reasons. I was an officer and making a little over $6,000 a year. Banks in those days believed in giving a title in lieu of a raise. The job was clean, I loved who I worked for, worked with, and adored working with the public. I just really needed to eat. I never learned how to cook a title. As most of the banking positions were filled by women, banking was looked upon as a great job to supplement the income of the husband but since I was divorced, it meant I often worked two jobs to make ends meet.

Then I heard about the salaries of a large electric utility company. I was stunned. In the first year, I could expect to earn $4000 more than I made at the bank and that was as a beginning meter reader which was the standard entry level job. I had never thought of working outdoors to make a living. Like many women my age, I had grown up thinking the only opportunities for employment being either in education, health, retail, food service, secretarial or customer service. Times were beginning to change.

Quite a bit nervous for I had 10 years with the bank, I applied. I lost the first opening due to my age. Meter reading is physically demanding and for the first time in my life, I was being turned down for age. Yikes. My potential boss said he really wanted to hire me but since a younger person had also applied, management was insisting he hire her. He promised me the very next opening which came quickly when the younger woman quit because it was too hard. Hum, that was a bit daunting.

I was in so I told my bosses at the bank I would be leaving. They asked what they could do to make me stay and I said, give me a $4000 a year raise and another assistant. They didn't really laugh but neither did they agree. I was told by our Human Resources fellow that had I been a man, I would have earned $10,000 more for the same job. In a months time, I was hit with age and sex discrimination that would not fly today. Ladies, be glad times have changed. But this was then.

The job was very hard. Walking ten miles a day was not unheard of and this was in the hot Florida sun. There was the heat, the thirst, jumping fences and of course the dogs. If you read meters as you were supposed to, you would be bitten by dogs, and many times. I had fourteen dog attacks during my days as a meter reader. In one of those attacks, I was bitten 17 times by the same dog. But,that is for another day.

This particular day, I was in a nice neighborhood but one I had not been in before. We only worked a route for 3 months, then were given all new ones. As a result, we never really got comfortable in a route. They didn't want us to form fast friends that we might be tempted to do billing favors for.

There were two telephone guys working the same area that day. I am not sure what they were doing (it had something to do with "pairs" that I didn't understand) but we kept running into each other and we started kidding like old friends as the day wore on. Meter reading is a very solitary job so when you found someone to talk to even briefly, you took advantage.

I was starting down one side of the street and they were almost directly across from me. I waved as I approached the gate. I had a warning card that said there were dogs so I rattled the gate to let the dogs know I was there and to see what I had to deal with. All was quiet. I rattled again and called out but still nothing. The yard showed obvious signs of dogs but I figured they must be in the house. Most people were good about putting up the dogs on read day.

I opened the gate and latched it behind me. I had learned that lesson early after chasing two fat Pomeranian one day for an hour when they got out because I had failed to latch a gate. As I turned the corner of the house, my breath caught. The back door sported one of the largest doggy doors I had ever seen.

Then,with an absolute explosion of snarl and howl, three very large German Shepherds slammed out that very door. There was maybe ten feet between us. Teeth were bared, slobber was flying and they were screaming their intent to rip me to shreds. In those days we carried a hefty book to write the readings in and that was my only weapon out side of an umbrella I was carrying that day as it had rained on and off and we were not supposed to get our books wet.

Not my picture but multiply by three and remove the hefty restraining guy and you can imagine what I was faced with. The dogs I faced were thankfully not professionals but they took their job seriously.

We also carried pepper spray but the wind was blowing directly in my face so that was not a good idea. I popped open the umbrella which backed them up briefly but then they flanked the umbrella and I was hitting at them with the book. This rewarded me with several wounds to my hands. I was backing towards the gate and cursing the fact that I had latched it.

That was when I heard shouting behind me. My two phone guys had heard the ruckus and had come flying across the street to my rescue. They opened the gate for me to ease through and swung palm fronds at the dogs to back them off. These were two of the most beautiful humans I had ever met. I thanked them profusely as they took me to their truck to patched up my punctures and scrapes.

After I had been thoroughly doused in peroxide , the shaking had calmed down, and as the last band aid was being applied, one of the guys just shook his head.

"We know how much you all are paid and Mike and I have have been discussing today that we thought you all were grossly overpaid to just read meters." He paused long enough for me to feel a bit offended. Then he shook his head again and said,

"Lady, they don't pay you near enough."

That day and all those days where we were basically chew toys for dogs, I had to agree.

Hope you will remember this when your meter reader comes to call. A lot of places now use remote, electronic reading but for those who still have the person come into your yard, please be kind. Put your dog up, if it is a brutally hot day offer them a drink, but really, just give them a smile. They have a really hard job.


  1. I so enjoy your writing Patti, this post had me sitting on the edge of my seat. You are persistant and brave,14 attacks!!! I'm afraid I would have quit after the first attack...and after the 3 German Shepherds for sure! Did you stay in the job after being bitten "17" times in a "single" attack? If you did you deserve a "medal of honor"

  2. Just for this reason, we have read our own meter faithfully for 30 years.

    Once a year the meter reader physically checks our meter, to be sure we are honest. He comes to our door, we lock the dog inside, and he reads the meter. He offered to start reading it as he claimed he got along with MOST dogs. We did not want to take that chance. We don't mind being checked and consider it a privilege Entergy lets us read our own meter.

    I had 3 Ger. Shepherds. I would not have trusted one of the three at all.

    Luckie has a little Ger. Shep. in her but God only knows what else. She is only 40# so about half the size of most G.S. The fact she is a dog I guess makes her likely to bite. She warms up to women faster than men, except for Husband whom she follows around like a love-sick puppy.

    Mother had a Chihuahua that bit my husband on the ankle the very first time he came to met my parents. Surprised he hung around. He dislikes Chihuahuas to this day!

  3. What a nasty job, Patti! I wonder how long did you work as a meter reader? You are an extremely couragious lady! Your writing is excellent and gripping!

  4. My goodness – that got my adrenalin going. Are you an adrenalin junkie? Your fortitude is admirable. Let me see what we have in common…I had 17 accidents and you were bit 17 times – where’s that story? A life time sure does make up a mixed bag of experiences doesn’t it? I am glad you are with us; that could have ended very different. WOW!

  5. That's quite a job, patti. I can't imagine being bitten 17 times. And you still love dogs! You make me wonder if utility companies let customers know when their meters are going to be read, so dogs can be somewhere else (inside the house) and the yard safe for the reader. I always remember being surprised to see the meter reader.

  6. Meter readers, mail delivery and delivery people in general can find it a bit rough out there. We always made sure our dog was in the house when the meter readers came by. Thank goodness this past summer, they installed an electronic water meter, so now they can read it from the front sidewalk and they don't have to come in the front door, living room closet to read it. I bet you have a million stories and lots of scars Happy week-end.

  7. I probably would have had a heart attack! Yikes!
    The discrimination back then was just awful, unfortunately it still happens today, the only difference; employers just can't come right out and tell you so they come up with some other reason not to hire.
    I hope you will write more about your meter reading adventures.
    Sunny :)

  8. OUCH!! I wouldn't have that job! Our meter reader drives up into the driveway, and since we no longer have a dog, he is in and out in no time at all. I hope you were never seriously hurt!

  9. How long did you read meters? What another great story.....I enjoy them all.

  10. Wanda,
    Thank you so much, I do have fun doing it.
    I guess if we didn't convince ourselves that each attack was the last, no meter reader would continue. "Seventeen times" was when I was no longer reading regularily but filling in for someone out sick.

    Glad I did but would never do it again. I was physically in the best shape ever doing it but it was too hard to keep up.

    Ah you are one of the good ones. I did that myself We had to have access once each third month. We weren't as trusting. We actually had an automated system to call the "customer readers" on read day to remind them.
    Hated going into a yard with a small dog. While they couldn't cripple you, those nippers hurt though they didn't rate as an acutal dog bite.

    Reader Wil,
    Thank you so much. I was a regular reader for 6 years but would fill in when ever needed through out my career with them. I loved being outdoors especially in the rural area I ended up in. There were more fun times than scary.

    I thought about the number 17 when I read your post this AM also. Looks like we both took a while to learn a lesson.
    It doesn't seem so mixed when you are living it but when you write about it many years later----Gee.

    I never lost my love for dogs or my desire to rescue. For each biter, there were many roly poly tummy baring sweeties that made your day.
    Actually on most power bills is the "next read date" so people can "be kind". At least we did.

    So glad you are one of the good ones also. We often had to go in homes for the home would have been added on around the meter.
    I have electronic water meter here also and never see a reader for he is driving by in a car. Amazing what they can do.

    Boy isn't that the truth. I was also hit on by my "bosses" all my working career till I got old and saggy enough that they just didn't bother. Of course by then, it was no longer considered a perk of being boss.We have come a long way.

    It was not a job for someone who wasn't thrilled about sweating. I used to love houses like yours.
    Nope never seriously hurt. Still have all my body parts. Knew of people not so lucky though.

    As a regular job I read for 6 years but was always on call when sudden sickness left a vacancy. I didn't mind till I got older and the physical part got really hard to do. Then I would mostly fill in for the driving routes, not the walking ones.

  11. Great story - they are all great. I can't imagine doing that kind of work. I'd probably get bitten by every dog in town, even the friendliest ones.

  12. Hi Patti, As I was reading---I kept wondering if this was going to be one of your stories where you left us 'hanging' until tomorrow!!!!!! ha

    That is a scary story... Glad the two men came to your rescue. I do feel sorry for meter readers and for post office people (when they used to bring the mail to your door) for this reason. I admire anyone who can work a job like that. Scary!!!!

    I'm surprised that you are a dog-lover to this day. I'm not sure I would be.

    Happy Halloween.

  13. Dog bites are just painful and shake your pride if you're a dog lover. I can't imagine having that many hits. I got nailed by an Akita earlier this year but was able to limit the damage to one hand before fighting him off.

  14. Betty,
    The funny thing is that is was the dog lovers that got bitten the most. We would wait till the last minute to use the pepper spray and the last moment was too late to save our hides.

    Hopefully with my posting only 3 days a week, I won't hit you with the dreaded, "to be continued...."
    Sure I was bitten 14 times but there were hundreds of times, I just enjoyed a sweet faced dogs on a daily basis that just wanted petting.
    I never blamed the dog for the attack. Often it was the owners fault but sometimes it was mine.

    Ouch, Akita's are really big animals and the hand hurts about the most due to all the bones there.
    I knew of a reader that had to have plastic surgery on their face, one had the muscle ripped out of his leg and one was bitten so many times by one dog that he lost consciousness from loss of blood. The dog belonged to an older woman who couldn't stop the attack. The dog only quit because he just got tired of biting my friend. Those are the horror stories. If they don't get you on the ground, it will usually be all right.

  15. I have lived here 11 years and I have never seen a meter reader...My meter is in the front yard..

  16. Patti,

    You are so right about how in banking you get a title and not much money.

    I had a friend who used to say that if you passed the bank on a Friday afternoon in August and it was 95 degrees and you saw a man with clippers trimming the hedges, he was probably a Vice President.

  17. 4th Sister,
    You are probably lucky and have electronic readers. They don't have to get near your meter. My water meter is like that but I still have the old fashioned two legged reader for my electric.

    Sadly you might be right about hedge trimming. I had hoped things had improved. Maybe not. Sad in a way for the job is really pleasant.

  18. Yikes! As always with these sorts of things it's the owners who are negligent, irresponsible and so ignorant when this sort of thing happens, and sometimes I think they actually enjoy this kind of spurious, proxy power. My previous dog was a German Shepherd, and the one before but crossed with a Rottweiler and I could take credit for them both being well behaved and obediant, but dogs are wonderful creatures and they will learn, that's all we lesser creatures have to do, teach them, although I suppose there's always some that can't be trained. I had them because I then lived in the wilds and was vulnerable and there were people wanting to intimidate me too. But those dogs were my best friends, nanny like in Peter Pan to my kids and always watchful. I am on a big, tall hobby horse here!

  19. Wow. What a post.

  20. Hi Patti! Thanks for your visit! Yes that wall means privacy. French people don't like strangers to come into their gardens, let alone walk uninvited into their houses. Here it's different: anybody can come into the garden and ring the frontdoor bell and, when the door is open, they can enter the house and call you. In Australia it's even easier.

  21. Thank goodness those men were there to help you out! I can’t imagine how scared you must have been. Your story about the dog that bit you 17 times sounds terrifying. Do you still have scars from it? The closest I have come to being attacked by a dog was when I was in my teens and a pit bull charged me - was very fortunate to have a friend’s dog intervene and save my hide. Glad Opie found a better place to roam…any black snakes that need to be relocated are welcome at my place. : )

  22. That would have scared the living daylights out of me. I guess that the good thing about your posts is that, no matter if we are reduced to hiding behind our chairs in fear when reading them, and forget to breathe, we can cling on to our knowledge that you have survived to celebrate the "New Sixty".. and that is a wonderful thing! Best Wishes to you.

  23. Lizzie,
    I never blamed the dogs. It was always either the owners negligence or my carelessness. They are wonderful protection when they are on your side aren't they.

    Thanks so much.

    Reader wil,
    I'm with you, gardens should be enjoyed by all. That fence was really unfriendly.

    You can't find my scars today for all the wrinkles and liver spots. I was lucky as most of mine were puncture wounds.
    The dog that bit me 17 times was a pit bull. So glad you weren't harmed. Hope you bought the dog that rescued you a big steak.

    Guess what, that scared the daylights out of me also. As I wrote it, I relived it. So glad it is in the past.
    Thank you for your wishes.

  24. Hi Patti,
    I retired from banking, so I completely understand your reasons for leaving. It did not get any better after you left - in fact it got worse.
    My husband works for an electric coop. He has had to fill in for meter readers when they were on vacation or sick. He never was bitten, but he said it was a hard job. I don't think I could have continued after the first time being bitten.

  25. Scary Scary Scary...! I would not do well in that job, at all!
    ThankK God for those Telephone guys...!
    You certainly have had a varied and interesting bunch of jobs and careers, my dear...!

  26. Oh Patti, this is heart wrenching story even if it is narrated in somewhat humorous way being your trademark.

    I am glad you posted this so whoever owns a dog, yes, these people should really be considerate with your kind of job.

    I know what its like to work especially if you are alone and nobody there to help you out and you have children to look after.

    I have darkness and dogs to trade with yours walking alone solitarily on the road to go to work. All the time, the minute I rose from bed, my mind was already filled with prayers for my safety.

    Not only darkness and dogs I needed to conquer, there was human beings too for I would never know who was lurking in the dark.

    These days and those days are not much of difference.

    I'm glad you did not contract Rabies after those scratches and bites.

    But the dog owners what do you think if it was them who was in your place?

    (Very sad).

  27. You were very lucky those men were there, although i am sure you would of got out if it somehow.

    I bet your heart was in your throat :-/

  28. SVB
    You really can understand both my long term jobs. I am sorry banking hasn't gotten better for it really was a pleasant job.
    What your husband does by just filling in is how I read meters in my later years. Glad he hasn't been bitten.

    When you look at the total life long picture, it looks like I just couldn't hold a job:) Now YOU have had the interesing work.

    I am so sorry that you experienced daily fear of attack. How awful. I am so glad that things have changed for the better for you.

    Once a dog bit me, it was impounded by law for 10 days to make sure it didn't have rabies. All in all, I was very lucky.

    I am glad I didn't have to find out what I would have done with out my fellows. I probably would have gotten out but would have let them out also. Then when I got them down wind, I could have used the pepper spray. Just glad my boys were there.