Friday, September 25, 2015

The Square Peg - SAWS - Oh Just Cut It Out



The Square Peg - SAWS - Oh Just Cut It Out
© S. Bradley Stoner

Water. It’s kind of a precious commodity... at least that’s what they tell us. So, we have to conserve it. Hey, I’m all about conservation. Critters that are endangered anywhere else in the neighborhood feel welcome in my back yard. I make it comfortable for them. I have lots of flowers and bushes for the hummingbirds, the bees, and the wasps. The raccoons enjoyed my tomatoes... I already told you about that. I have two bird houses hung on my fence that the wrens love. In fact, I have a pair of them that should have headed south a couple of weeks ago, but aren’t willing to give up their little blue condo. But, I digress. Back to water.

I’m very careful with water. I run the dishwasher only about twice a week unless we’ve had company... you know, you have to get out the good china then. Laundry... once a week and then only two loads. Heck, there’s only two of us. When I shower, it’s five minutes in and out max, and I shave in the shower to save water. I keep all my faucets and spigots in good condition... new washers, seals and all that. Regular maintenance. I water my lawn sparingly... just enough to keep it from going completely brown like some of the other lawns in the subdivision. We’ve had enough rain in the last few weeks so I was even able to skip some of that. In short, I don’t waste water... period.

So, you can imagine my surprise when I opened my bill from the San Antonio Water System... SAWS... and saw that I had used 10,000+ gallons. That piqued my interest. Then I saw on the news where folks in town were getting bills that were double to quintuple what they usually run. I got suspicious. When a SAWS representative said that they hadn’t been able to read all of the meters because they "didn’t have enough staff," I got really suspicious. Now usually when they can’t get around to reading the meter, they present you with an “estimated” reading and adjust it the next time they actually read your meter. But my bill said “last reading” not estimated reading, which indicated they, in fact, had read the meter.

Not that I don’t trust SAWS... I mean they are a city utility and why would they lie about a thing like that? Still I decided to check the meter. I walked down the driveway in my bare feet (I hate wearing shoes in the summer, by the way) and popped the metal SAWS lid on the meter well. Much to my surprise, the well was stuffed full of a newspaper. San Antonio Times even. I pulled it out so I could see the meter. It was a little damp, so it weighed about two pounds. Sure enough, there was the meter... you could see it clearly, even though it was obvious the ants had been busy mining and piling up dirt around it. I made a mental note of the number (it isn’t hard... it’s only three numbers) and went and got my ant killer. Really, it’s SAWS meter and they are supposed to be responsible for maintaining it, but, heck, how can you expect a meter reader to report that there are ants in the meter well? I mean. how bright do you have to be to be a meter reader? So I can see where the supervisors and execs in SAWS might not know about a paper stuffed down the meter well and invading ants.

So, after treating for ants, I put the lid back on the well, picked up the soggy paper to dispose of it, and went inside to check my reading against their “reading” on my bill. Guess what? They didn’t match. As a matter of fact, when you used their little formula to calculate gallons, it showed that I had actually used half of what their reading indicated. HALF! The bill said they had read the meter on September 15th and I read it on the 25th. The paper that was in the well? August 26th. I’m thinking the meter reader just flat LIED.

Now, my bill is never that high... even with all the fees they put on it, but I know that winter rates are based on your summer usage, which is why I conserve water. Okay... maybe I’m cheap. I don’t like high water bills in the winter, especially if it is a cool winter and I have to heat the house. That can get as expensive as cooling it down in the hottest part of the summer. And then there’s the Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas expenses, not to mention the snack tab for all those football games. Still, my bill was almost twice what it usually is. So I was pissed (can you say that on a blog? Oh well, I guess I just did).

I called SAWS. I punched all the right buttons to get to a person who would discuss my account charges with me. Guess what? I got a recording. “Due to the heavy call traffic, we are unable to take your call at this time. You are a valued customer, please call back.” I’m guessing at that last part, but it seems reasonable since all service providers tend to add that. Why am I guessing? Because when I heard that message I slammed the phone down. Hard. Now I have to take a trip to Walmart... and I hate Walmart. I wonder if I can send a bill to SAWS for that?