June 1, 2002


Editors’ note - This is a rerun. Sometimes, I just get lazy, y’know?


Once each summer, we devote a newsletter to the subject of meter reading. It is particularly appropriate right now, when we are involved in a weather “event” as they are fond of saying on the weather channel. They talk about rain events, ice events, snow events because the word “storm” is not suitably descriptive of a weather ah, event. But this ain’t no storm anyway.

             The current conditions of air movement and sunshine are creating a situation exactly like a drought, or if you prefer, “dry event.” This leads people to want to create a “water event,” and if said water comes out of a sprinkler which is attached to a pipe which is connected to a water meter, then the wheels go round and round and often lead to a “shock event” upon opening the envelope containing what we no longer refer to as a “bill” but rather a “revenue collection event.” So, it’s in everyone’s interest to learn a few meter reading facts.

             We start reading meters in March, and stop after October. We consider the remaining winter months to be inconvenient (assuming there are snow events), and not productive enough to bother with. All customers are charged the monthly flat rate ($23.00) during November through March. No attempt is made to collect for any overuse which may have occurred during winter months.

             We have five meter reading cycles. Each cycle includes 150 or so meters, which are allotted a three-day period for reading. Your bill is calculated according to the gallons used from one reading to the next, which is a month, plus or minus three days at most. Our billing software allows for the fact that the billing period might be longer than a month, so you are not gouged in case of extra days between readings. The reading dates of the five cycles are printed on the other side of this newsletter, along with the rate schedule.

             If you are using a lot of water, it is important that you learn to read your own meter to avoid an unhappy surprise. We have installed several different brands of meters over the years, trying to find the perfect one (in vain). They all have an odometer-style display, showing the total number of gallons that have passed through the meter since it was new. The last zero on the right end of the odometer does not change; it is painted on. That means the odometer increments with each ten gallons. A few of our meters have the last two zeroes painted on, thus the odometer clicks over each hundred gallons. Most of the meters also have a sweep hand, like a second hand on a clock, that measures gallons and fractions of gallons. The newer meters also have a leak indicator on the face, which is a small wheel, or triangle, or propeller-shaped widget that turns with the slightest amount of water flow.

              If, when attempting to read your meter, all the digits look the same to you, it doesn’t mean you need new glasses. Meter numbers are the result of competition among engineers to see who can make the digits 0 through 9 all look exactly alike. A flashlight helps to prove this.

             Sometimes the glass lens on the meter gets foggy from moisture entering the “lifetime sealed” register (the lifetime claim is the product of a marketing event). In that case you hold your warm palm on the glass long enough to dissipate the moisture and clarify the numbers, which you will find all look alike anyway. You want to learn to identify the arachnid species Latrodectus Mactans (B. Widow) before trying this. It may help you avoid a hospital event.