A large, fluffy cloud sailing slowly across the sky covered the sun. I looked up gratefully from where I sat in the shade. The hot June weather the last few days limited the time I spent outside. Now would be a good time for me to walk out to the roadside mailbox. Standing up, I stepped away from the shade.
A pleasant breeze tousled my hair and fluttered the leaves of a nearby tree. Looking at the sky, I noticed thunderheads and a few smeary mare’s tail clouds overhead and thought, “It’s going to rain, but that’s not too surprising after all the heat.”
Enjoying my leisurely amble, I tried to remember the scientific terms for thunderheads and mare’s tail clouds. I recalled, “Thin, whispy clouds high in the atmosphere that look like a horse’s tail are called cirrus clouds. The huge, mountainous thunderheads formed by water vapor carried upward on strong currents are called cumulonimbus.”
Reaching the mailbox, I found my electric bill and a grocery store flyer. Curious to know if all the fan and air conditioner use for the past month had made my bill soar, I ripped the envelope open. Glancing at the dates, I realized the bill was for the period before the heat wave.
Looking at my brick house, I pondered, “Does the electric company have meter-readers anymore? I don’t think I’ve seen one in my yard for the last few years.” An article I’d read in the newspaper about how some electric companies can read power usage remotely. “Is that how Marshfield Utilities does it?”
Walking back toward the house, I glanced at the shaded northside of my house where the meter is located. I wondered, “What do meter-readers do during the winter? There must be tremendous drifts of snow between driveways and meters!” With a smile, I remembered, “And barking dogs!”
The year I was eleven-years-old my big brother wanted a hunting dog so he bought a beagle. If beagles make good hunting dogs, I didn’t know, but the poor creature Casper brought home was clueless. Not only was my brother unable to train him, but the dog was horribly car sick. We named the animal Dopey and he lived an idle life among our hard-working barn cats.
One hot summer afternoon, a man came to read our electric meter. Seeming to think he was providing a service, Dopey followed him to the house, barking.
Mom was busy, but knowing our dog was being a bother, she ordered me in an exasperated tone of voice, “Go and make Dopey stop barking at the meter-reader!”
I ran around the corner of the house. To get the slow-witted dog’s attention, I shouted, “Hey, Dopey!”
The meter-reader turned and gruffly demanded, “Are you calling me dopey?”
Embarrassed, I turned and fled. Dopey could bite the man for all I cared.
Laughing at my memory, I went into the house and sat down at the computer. I found the website for my electric company and discovered that Marshfield Utilities switched to remote meter reading in 2014.
Sadly, automation has eliminated many jobs, but I suspect that most meter-readers in this world were happy to stop climbing through mountainous snow drifts and putting up with barking and biting dogs. In my mind, I pictured some of the former meter-readers in comfortable, climate-controlled utility buildings, sitting in cushy office chairs and with big smiles on their faces, remotely reading meters.