Thursday, May 26, 2005

The Water Bill

Glass of Water Posted by Hello
We live in an impersonal and automatic world and I don't think it's a good thing. It's isolating and confusing for a "normal" adult. Can you imagine what it must be like for those who are old, left of normal on the bell curve, on psychotropic drugs for various mental maladies, or just young, shy or just having a bad day???

We need people to ground us. To help us. To smile at us. To respond to a look or a question. To have the opportunity to help others is often the only thing that makes a day good.

Where my son Joshua is living now, the atmosphere is like a small town. He was telling me about how he had to pay for the water bill up there. In order to open, an account you go see Eva. She handles the water accounts for everybody in Hypoluxo and the town next to it. Josh found her sitting at her desk with an old windows 98 PC opened onto a spread sheet. When he introduced himself and said they were new to the town and would like to put the $75.00 deposit down to open a water account, she asked him, "How much water do you think you will be using?" He said, "Well, we have five kids and I really didn't know how to estimate it". Eva said, "Five kids! Well now, you don't have to put anything down. You just take that money and get your kids whatever they need to settle in here." So, she opened the account. He gave her $40.00 to pay for the first month since that was all he had in his pocket and he wanted to make sure they had water to use.

Three months later, Josh realized that he hadn't gotten any notice about not paying for water, so he took a drive to see Eva and was hoping the bill wasn't going to be high. When he got there, she recognized him and said, "Hi! How are you guys doing? Are you settling in alright? How are the kids?

"Fine, fine." Josh said. "Ah, we haven't paid anything toward the water bill since I last saw you and I was wondering what we owed now. The seven of us take a lot of showers, but the laundry is really the problem. The washer is always full and running."

"Alright, I'll look up your account. Hmmm. Yes, you are right; it's been three months since your last payment. I see that you owe $ 67.00 now."

"(!) That's all?"

"Yes, that's about it." These new condos have very efficient systems. I think that kinda helps."

"I see that you have a spread sheet on your computer. Is that how you keep track of the water accounts?"

"Yes, it is."

"But, doesn't it get confusing?" Josh asked. He was feeling relieved at the low water bill and perplexed by the system he saw here. He was used to paying his water bill, electric and other utilities on-line when he lived in Tamarac.

"How do you know who has paid and who hasn't?"

"I just know that if I haven't seen you for awhile, you probably haven't been in, so I look up my entries on the spread sheet. If I see you are getting behind, I'll send a notice."

"But how do you know who you haven't seen?"

"We only have about 900 or so accounts and I know everybody in these two towns."

" (!) " "So, if I hadn't have come in today, you would have sent me a notice, soon, and I would
just come on down and pay it up. Just like that?"

"Yeah. That pretty much sums it up. I know everybody around here."

"Don't you think having your accounts computerized would make your job more efficient?"

"Maybe. How would it work?"

"When I paid my bill in Tamarac, I set up my account through my bank to pay the city of Tamarac through my checking account. Every month when I got a bill, I would go on-line and have the money transferred from my account into the Tamarac water department account. It only took me a minute or two to do it on-line. I didn't have to write a check or use stamps to mail my payment in. And, if I was late, they would shut my water off."

Unfortunately, Josh and his crew had suffered some lean times last year and this is just what happened. The system was efficient and it worked. All too well. Each time the water was shut off, it happened without warning and getting it started up again required another deposit. And, to add to the problem, the bank always added fines if checks he had deposited hadn't cleared by the time he had authorized the water payment. It was an exasperating cycle.

"How do you know if you are typing in the right account number?" asked Eva. "People are always doing that you know. And, how can you be sure the bank is putting it into the right account for you?"

"They don't make mistakes, Eva. They have a very efficient system, once it is set up."

"Maybe so, maybe so. But, we really don't need it around here".

And with that, Joshua smiled, happily paid his water bill and said good bye to Eva. Walking out to his car, he just couldn't help shaking his head and smiling. What a nice day!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I can't wait to see when the husband gets to be the topic of one of your bog-lines. The "Water Bill" reflects nicely Josh's sweet side and his ability to relate to all kinds of people. Just don't get on his wrong side because he can easily put you in your place and usually rightly so.

I love all of the different things that you do to make the world a little happier place. Keep on bogging.

Love Ken