Monday, March 29, 2010


This is a post I should have done much earlier that I am just getting around to. Sorry. This is like explaining after all the horses have left the barn, why the door was open. Better late than never.

I sat across the desk from the man I wanted to be my boss. We had made an instant connection and I really wanted to work for this fellow. The power company was making a concentrated effort to hire more women as meter readers. The new non-discrimination laws demanded it. His job was to hire the proper quota, but his job was also to discourage those who would not make it through the first week wasting training time. Almost all paths into the power company started in the meter room. The president of the company had started there. I wanted to start there.

He painted the blackest picture possible. He talked of the brain cooking heat and a new meaning to the word "thirst". He talked of the fatigue, spiders, lizards and snakes. He talked of dogs that had a passionate taste for meter readers. He talked of isolation and the need to be self-motivated. He was quick to inform me that women received no special consideration. No route would be for "men only." Then he talked of something I had not even considered but realized just how true it was.

"You will read the meters of the average Jane and John Doe but also those of wife beaters, child molesters, thieves, con-men, serial killers, drug dealers, prostitutes and murderers. You will walk through their yards and stand in front of their meters in full view. They will see you but if you see them, you most likely won't recognize them. You will unwittingly give them the same cherry "Good morning" you give the retiree. Often you will have to go inside their houses to read the meters. You will walk through sections of town that if you had accidentally found your self driving through, you would locked your car doors. You will step around homeless men in alleys with their minds completely blown from wine. They will preach at the top of their voices, that God is coming while using the foulest language you can imagine. We are an equal opportunity service provider. Anyone with money, can have lights. It is the law."

Having thrown all the available brick-bats he could at me, he sat back and studied me while awaiting my reply. Hum, so much for my illusion of walking around in the sunshine through manicured yards, petting cute, gentle dogs, getting in amazing shape with a super tan while earning half again more than I earned at the bank as an officer. The gap between each of our versions was Grand Canyon in scale. Only the the money factor was right.

Like a lot of women who meet a "bad boy", the urge to tame is strong. Surely the "bad boy" won't act that way around me. Sometimes we are just delusional for the sake of want. For someone who had spent her till-then-life working indoors, this sounded quite liberating. The creep factor was a bit daunting but I mean really, how many of those would I ever see? Even creeps work don't they? As for dogs, well all dogs love me. I later learned that some actually "loved" to chew on me.

When I did not crumble, he smiled and asked."Can you start in two weeks?"

This is just to let those of you who feel I lost my mind to read meters know that you were mostly right. However, to be honest, I had been warned. Somehow, the actual job fell between those two versions. It got a lot closer to my version when I moved to the small town.

The hard moments were quite rare though memorable. The good moments were treasures and equally memorable. Besides, I ate quite well. I was finally earning the same salary that a man did and it blew the doors off a banker's salary. That is what we ask of any job unless you are going for creative fulfillment. That I didn't get. Would I do it again--- you bet. With out that job, I would never have gotten into rescue work and I wouldn't have missed that for the world.

I'm convinced we need a national Hug Your Meter Reader Day. I am lobbying for that anyway. Bet it would get through Congress quicker than Health Care Reform.

I can just see the Hallmark cards now.


  1. I will look at my meter reader differently after having read this post, Patti...I always smile anyway, but it will have more meaning behind it now. Maybe I will place a cheerful plaque, there by the meter!

  2. Again I say -- you have led a remarkable and most interesting life!

  3. I rarely see out meter reader, but I'll keep my eye out from now on and thank her! I hope she appreciates my tended lawn and flower garden and lack of a flesh eating dog as well.

  4. That was quite a list of unsavory types your prospective boss rattled off for you. I think it may have deterred me from such a job. You have definitely raised my consciousness about the hard working meter reader. I will greet them with a new-found sense of appreciation.

  5. Very interesting. I don't think I've ever had a conversation with a meter reader. They always seem to have their heads down looking at a clipboard in their hands, and seem to be in a hurry. Next time I see one I'll make a point to speak.

  6. I am sure every body is going to look at their meter reading differently after reading this post. I have never bored about meter readers every thing is upto my parents but I am sure to careful next time.

  7. Very very interesting Patti...His warnings were certainly the honest way to fo and you were very brave to say "Bring It On", so to speak...!
    I never see ny Meter Reader anymore---not that I ever saw him/her, a lot. But I am not out working in the garden the way I used to be....And Thank God the only possible thing that might bite my Meter Person is a!

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  9. Wanda,
    A cheerful plaque would be wonderful. Most meters are on the most neglected side of a house. That would be cool.

    Well, it hasn't been dull. Too bad I couldn't hold a job. :)

    Unintentionally you have provided some MR with a piece of cake meter. Thanks on their behalf.

    Almost all jobs have unknown aspects. I'll bet even college profs have down sides that few are aware of. Thanks

    That will make a difference in their day and they will make sure to read you meter correctly. Always a plus.

    Femin Susan,
    Gee I hope so. Thank you, they will appreciate it.

    They are a stealthy group and are seldom seen. Speed is very important and quiet helps incase there is a dog. I have been cactus bit before, kind of smarts. :))

  10. a bit like a mail delivery person, come rain or shine, kudos to all.

  11. Well in this past year, we now have our indoor water meter switched over, by the town, so it can be read from the street. The electric meter has also been switched over so it can be read from the street. Only the gas meter is still needing a meter reader to come into the enclosed (high privacy fenced) backyard to read it. I'm hoping some day it will also be switched over, this way I don't have to remember to unlock my gate.
    Now I don't have to worry about anyone having to come inside to read a water meter.

  12. Meter readers are a disappearing breed. Our local electric coop has installed meters that are read remotely from headquarters. They are even upgrading to meters that can be disconnected from the office when you are behind in your bill. No one has to go out and cut off your electricity at your home.

    My husband had to fill in as a meter reader for a couple of months when he was unable to climb due to an injury. It is a hard job.

  13. I used to feel so sorry for our meter reader. One of the houses that backs up to our yard had two huge ill tempered dogs. He would come in our back yard to read their meter with a telescope.

  14. Hi Patti, I will certainly look at meter readers with a different attitude now. Gosh---that was quite a 'job description'... Glad you liked the job though!!! I'm not sure I would be cut out for a job like that.

  15. Well we read our own meter because it is inside our dog yard. Have done it for near 30 years.

    I surely have been missing a lot of interesting people. However, other than my dogs, I hope I don't fit into any of your boss's job description.

    We are in NC after a exhausting drive with will make good blog material.

  16. What a WONDERFUL post!!! You have a really nice perspective..your way of looking at things is refreshing. Loved reading 'how-it-all-began'. Truth be told, I haven't even encountered our meter reader(except once when there happened to be a faulty meter). But I will keep you in mind. And my first 'Hug your Meter Reader' is for you!!:-)

  17. That job provided you with many blog posts - so I think it was definitely worth all of the crap!!

  18. Linda Star,
    Funny you should make the comparison. My sister just retired as a mail carrier. Gee, do you think masochism runs in the family?

    You are right, electronic reading will put the meter reader in the same class as the dinosaur. All things do pass.

    The only problem with such electronic genius is that now the customers will be able to steal power more easily. Half our
    job was catching the current diverters.Sure they will find an app for that also.

    Amber Star,
    Those monoculurs are brutal to use but do save on the hide. I never felt like I got a good reading with one.

    Aw, you would be perfect with all the hiking you and George do. Meter reading is just hiking with pay---if you ignore the crummy scenery and a few sundry drawbacks. Ahh, maybe you are right.

    I am so glad you made the trip safely and of course blog material is a plus.
    Waiting to hear your stories.

    Just to let you know the "hug" arrived safely after such a long trip.Thank you so much.
    So glad to be the first.

    You are so right. My blog would have crashed and burned the first month with out the stories MR provided directly or indirectly. I would do it again, but I would wear sunscreen this time.

  19. Patti, I love your outlook on life. We've moved so much that I've met many meter readers. They've all been special people, like you.

  20. Brighid,
    Thank you so much. Glad you like my outlook for it is the only one I've got. Kind of stuck with it.