Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

Stranger in a Stranger Land

. . . . And the land I am talking about is utility bills, water and sewage bills to be specific.


This month we got a very low water-related utilities bill. I say this in relative terms, for about a year, we have been paying huge bills, bills which, to my perception, seemed out of proportion with the water we have been using. AdventureMan called the utilities company and they explained that the averages are measured in certain winter months, and then you are charged for that usage.

So this time, I called, because I didn’t understand the explanation. A very patient, very kind customer service representative explained it again to me. They send notices, she explained, saying they are about to monitor the water usage, and your sewage will be charged accordingly. “We can measure how much water you are receiving,” she explained, “but we don’t really know what is going down the pipes as sewage or waste water (laundry, etc) or going into the ground, which is not sewage. So we measure intake during three – four winter months when people are NOT watering, and guesstimate (my word, not hers, this is a sort of paraphrase, even with the quotes) what your sewage rate is.”

It’s still a little vague to me, but just clear enough for me to understand that just when we should have been NOT watering the year before, we installed a large new planted area and watered generously while the plants settled in. We watered generously during the exact time we were to be not watering at all and using water conservatively.

For a year, I have been calling in plumbers and asking them to look for a leak, fixing every kind of water problem I could find, not understanding how we were being charged so much.

We saw a program on 60 minutes, a follow up to the “Lost Boys” segment they did years ago on groups of Sudanese men who came to the US as the Janjaweed marauded through there villages, killing, raping, destroying everything in sight. It showed their disorientation as they learned how things are done here; I feel their pain. I can identify with their confusion. My next monster to tackle is COX cablevision; they keep raising my rates, it is all totally arbitrary, and I want to find an alternative. Our son – and many others – have explained different avenues, but until you actually do it, it seems complicated. I like to understand what I am doing, and I am not ready to just throw up my hands and give up; I insist on understanding! There must be some rationality (except for Cox’s mendacious billing) and we will prevail!

But for now, through no understanding on our part, we did not water during the measuring months this last year, and now have a very reasonable water bill. Ahhhhhhh. Life is sweet.

April 2, 2013 Posted by | Bureaucracy, Cultural, Customer Service, Environment, ExPat Life, Financial Issues, Gardens, Living Conditions, Pensacola | Leave a comment