Meter Mystery

I’m dealing with a bit of a mystery today. I got my water bill in the mail, and it showed that I used 19,000 gallons of water more than I did a year ago, and 11,000 more than last month when I was watering every day. (I didn’t water at all during this billing cycle.)

Apparently, when the billing people saw the hefty usage, they sent a meter reader here to check the meter to see if there was leak somewhere, but they meter wasn’t spinning, which showed no water being used. At first, I thought they were referring to the extra water I was using to water my grass, but when I got the bill, I saw what they did — a huge amount of water being used. Also, I found out today that when they reread the meter, just a couple of days after the first reading, I’d used an additional 3,000 gallons, which is more than I generally use in a month.

One thing they suggested (because their electronic readers supposedly have an accuracy rate of 99.9%, so it can’t possibly be a reading error) is that I have an intermittent leak. Huh? I’d think you either have a leak or don’t. Leaks don’t repair themselves temporarily. They also thought that perhaps someone was stealing my water, though I don’t see how that is possible, either. I only have two outside faucets, both of which are attached to hoses (because I thought I’d need to water my grass occasionally this winter). I also have the faucets wrapped in insulation, so it wouldn’t be easy to get to them to turn on the water. (It’s not even easy for me to get to them!) Besides, with the snow we had, I could tell no one had been in my yard. Their third suggestion was that the 19,000 gallons came from the faucet I let drip on the subzero nights, but I know for a fact that uses less than five gallons, not the thousands they said it could use.

I eventually ended the call, leaving her as bewildered as I am. She said she will check with the meter reader again (as well as tell him where I’d stashed the tool he left behind when he read the meter) and see if he can think of anything, though basically, all he can do is read the meter again.

Luckily, I have a contractor on call. He’ll send someone over this evening to see if they can find a problem I might not be able to see.

I did think of one possibility for him to check: the dishwasher water lines. I haven’t used the dishwasher for a couple of years, and I recently started again, partly because I wanted to make sure it would still work, but mostly because it’s easier to stash the dishes in the machine than to dry them by hand. I only use it every five or six days, so if somehow there is a 3,000 gallon per use leakage rate, that would add up to the extra 19,000 gallons. But still, wouldn’t I hear all that water swishing through the lines?

One way or another, the contractor will help me figure this out. Meantime, I have a dishwasher full of dishes that I’m afraid to wash.


Pat Bertram is the author of intriguing fiction and insightful works of grief.

Small Town Traffic Jam

There was a real traffic jam in front of my house today, not a big city sort of jam with cars piled one behind the other, but still way more activity than I generally see in a week or even a month.

A friend and I had gone to what we laughingly call the big city (which is basically another small town but with a few more major stores than we have here). She pulled in front of my house, and as we were hauling my groceries out of her car, UPS pulled in behind her with a package for me. “Only one?” I asked, because the order was supposed to come in two packages. “Only one,” he replied.

As we were having this conversation, the water meter reader pulled up and took the cover off my meter. The UPS guy left, so I went over to the meter reader, smiled and said, “I thought you didn’t have to manually read the meters on this side of the street.” He agreed that normally he didn’t have to, but since my water usage has been trending higher, he needed to make sure there were no leaks. (He said he could tell there were no leaks because no water was running through the meter since everything was turned off.) He ran off to get a different wrench because the one he was using didn’t work, for some reason.

Before I could make it into the house with my groceries, the postal carrier drove up and placed a few pieces of mail in the box. The UPS driver came back with my other package. Then the meter reader came back with a different wrench. Finally, we got the groceries in the house, and my friend left.

Whew! The odds of all that happening at the same time are astronomical. Not that I have an equation to figure out such a thing, but in all the time I have been here, no two deliverers or workers have been here at the same time, and especially not when I had just returned home from a shopping trip. And for all of that to happen at the same time? Amazing.

That wasn’t the only interesting coincidence. Shortly after this traffic jam, I was at the house of the woman I care for, and my next-door neighbor, who apparently just got a job at the tax assessors office, showed up with property assessment forms to make sure they were current for that address and that no major work had been done on the house in the previous year. In itself, it’s not much of a coincidence, I suppose, since this is a such a small town, but I found it interesting that the city employee would stop by shortly after I arrived at the house. And that I knew who he was.

Even more interesting was all that activity in such a short span of time. I know my reaction seems laughable to big city folk because you’re used to real traffic jams (as I once was), but to me, now, it was . . . exhausting.


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