The Demise of the Service Man
I just had a knock on the door, a fairly rare event here. It was a tradesman from Hydro One, our electrical utility. He said he was here to install our "Smart Meter" and the power would be off for a few minutes while he did this. We apparently are among the first in the Province to have them installed, for reasons for which I have no understanding. Maybe there are a couple of rural areas they are testing their procedures.
In a year, when they are made operational, smart meters will allow the customer to pay for electricity usage at different rates at different times of the day. Later evening hours, night hours and weekends will have the lowest rates. Hydro One will be able to electronically read the meter which, or course, means we will no longer have a person stop by to personally read the meter periodically.
Both Hydro One and the customer will be able to realize a financial savings. The wise consumer will shift electrical usage to the off peak hours. Voluntarily, the wise consumer may shift such things as clothes washing and drying, baking, welding etc to hours where they get the lower rate.
The smart consumer may put timers on other high electric usage devices so they do not automatically come on during high rate hours. Hot water tanks, air conditioner, pool heaters, and even electrical heaters may be controlled so that only by over riding the timer will they operate.
The meters will also be good for the environment for they, in conjunction with wind generation of electricity, will allow Hydro One to continue to close down the coal fired generating stations in the Province.
I have digressed!
The service man at the door made me think that the meter reader may be the last service man to come to a residential home. When I was was a child there were many. We lived in a semi rural area, my mother was a stay at home mom and did not drive a car. Lonely you say! No! She could count on a parade of servicemen coming to the house; daily, weekly or monthy. There was a paper boy, of course, which some people may still see. The mail man came six days a week and for five of those days he came twice. (I think I am correct about this. If not my sister will let me know.) We had a milk man, twice a week. And a breadman, twice a week. The ice man delived ice once a week and just came right into the house and put it in the ice box, whether we were home or not. My mother's favourite was the egg man, Mr Parkinson who had a farm where Pearson International Airport is now. Monthly our hydro meter was read and a man came by to collect the fee for the life insurance policies my parents had on us, (three children). Occasionally, the coal man came and manually dumped bags of coal down the chute into our basement coal bin. I think that is the list. . . . .No, there are more. My mother had some Jehovah Witnesses and Mormon missionaries drop by. There were, also, an assortment of peddlers: vacuum cleaner salesmen, encyclopaedia salesmen, knife sharpeners and ice cream sellers (in the summer). And now they are no more.
My mother who was always very affable and ready for a cup of tea often invited her favourite tradesmen in for tea and cookies and conversation. She certainly never had an excuse to be lonely. Some of these tradesmen silently went about their task, others passed with a look of recognition, a smile and an hello. But many ,at one time or another, were welcomed into the house for a pleasant break with my mother over tea and biscuits.
How times have changed. We now live in times when people live isolated from one another. My mother's open and vulnerable life seems almost foolishly dangerous in our present day. We lived lives that were amazingly safe. I never remember a crime ever taking place in our neighbourhood. Our house was never locked, even when we went on vacation for a couple of weeks. Even today, I do not lock my house. ( Old habits die hard.) Ironically, I think part of the security of our neighbourhood when I was a child was the very presence of all the tradesmen. To be a tradesman who came to people's homes you had to be honest. Your job depended upon it. Also, these men were seen as part of the neighbourhood and saw what was going on , discouraging those who might be a problem, usually children up to some mischief. Those days are gone forever, sadly.
Say hello to your electrical meter reader the next time he drops by, for he many be the last of the tradesmen once so necessary in bringing services to our homes.