Runoff

Yesterday I wrote about my water bill, and the apparent chaos under the hood of the city utility services.  I’m not saying that they aren’t competent people: managing a million people’s water might be a bit complicated, especially when some of the homes in my neighborhood have been here longer than Winston-Salem has been a city.  I’m, saying that there may be a little bit of turmoil under the calm exterior. Today I was introduced to one more cog in the machine: the drain and wastewater department.  From what I can gather, my phone call and observation that the city might have been over-billing me substantially for years triggered a full reevaluation of my circumstance.  And I mean full. The crew came out today to verify that my house was in fact a house.  I spoke to them right after they showed up, and they mentioned the possibility that my property was commercial, in which case I’d have a “different” water rate.  They refused to say if that rate was higher.  But they cheerfully acknowledged that it is in fact a normal home, albeit a large one. They seemed a little confused about why I was so eager to see them, so I recounted my saga of calls, broken meters, high bills, and lost support tickets.  They said they couldn’t help me with the bill, but that they were simply asked to “evaluate the non-porous surfaces” of the house for billing purposes: commercial buildings with flat roofs and parking lots mean something different to the wastewater department than houses with gutters and lawns.  But though the bill wasn’t their department,...

High Water

I moved into my house a little over three years ago, and the water bill has been something of a painful curiosity since it first showed up.  I think the first one was on the order of $200, which prompted a call to the city.  It had taken nearly four month of living there before the bill showed up, so they mumbled something about it taking a while for the change of ownership to go through the system. I gave the poor phone attendant a little bit of shade, but paid my water bill and moved on with life. The next bill was in the neighborhood of $150, so I got back on the phone.  That (slightly more terse) conversation triggered a number of visits from city inspectors and water system managers in which they put blue dye in my toilets (which I was never able to completely get out).  They also broke my water meter while trying to test it. Over the next few billing cycles they broke the water meter again, and I managed to get several refunds from the city since they couldn’t explain why their own people kept breaking my water meter, and my bills seemed to have little to do with reality. Eventually my case was escalated enough so that someone with little patience came and visited and informed me that the only possible cause of the problem was a leaking pipe in the ground- on my side of the meter. The water rules here are setup so that the city only needs to get water to your property- to the meter- and the rest...

The Eternally Moving Broom

I ran into my friend Emily at one of the Zinc Kings gigs last week, and she asked what exciting projects I’ve been working on at the big house.  I didn’t really have a good answer, in part because of the holidays, and in part because the low hanging fruit has all been picked.  What’s happening now is a lot of mowing, sweeping, setting up and tearing down of holiday decorations, and walking the dog. In other words, the important stuff. I have some projects I’m interested in finishing, others I want to get started, but most of my “house time” is maintenance, or at the very least finishing projects that were “done” a while ago and left a mess.  I guess it’s a philosophical shift into middle age. That may sound like a rather dramatic pronouncement, but I’ve observed a shift in how I do things lately.  In part its due to the fact that I can afford to hire people to work for me, eat out every once in a while, slow down and read a book (and not feel guilty), and I don’t have to bust my butt finding gigs just to keep the lights on.  I think it’s also in part due to the fact that I’m not 20 anymore.  Or 30.  Soon I won’t be 40 anymore. Being “not as young as I used to be” doesn’t really bother me.  I feel good, and while maintenance of a house (or myself) isn’t the most sexy thing, it really fits well with my personality.  I like pushing a broom.  I like weeding the garden.  Changing...