This starts with a story. We have a little chacra (mini-farm) 10 km inland with a little house that we’ve never even stayed in (others have, for a couple months). So there’s no energy consumption, and we usually end up paying the bare minimum of ~ USD 15 to be connected to the grid.
Except for last January, when I did a regular check and decided to vacuum up spiders and spider webs. The vacuum cleaner wouldn’t start. So I walked out to the road, because our attentive neighbor has been known to turn off the mains when I so much as leave a 5-watt LED light on in the bathroom. No, the main switch was on. So maybe a power a power outage. Returning to Atlántida, I discovered that indeed there was a widespread power outage. OK, no worries…
…oh but wait: the vacuum cleaner, a cheap horrendous screeching thing we bought from a departing German-Romanian couple (seriously: you should probably wear the ear protectors you see on airport runways).
A week later, pulling in for another routine check, I heard a strange, high-pitched noise. From inside the house.
You got it: I didn’t unplug the vacuum cleaner, and the power came back on, , and the damn thing had been running 24 hours/day for a week. I could feel the heat as I walked into the house.
And of course we had a frightful electric bill. But then the next month was estimated, and high, and the next also estimated, and high, and in April it was back to the minimum again. But by now we’ve overpaid!
I checked the meter, pretty much inscrutable behind a stained plastic shroud, and decided that UTE – the electric company – needed to do a real reading, account for what we’ve paid, and issue a credit.
Which – ojalá – which may actually happen next week.
But what tickled me is what I observed in our little local UTE office. UTE is the government electrical company, and apparently the “latest and greatest” for every little branch is their idea of the best use of their resources.
Here is what you see while waiting at the UTE office in Atlántida. A, B, and C are the actual service desks. Two out of three in service today.
D is an automated-teller size device with touch screen, on which there is exactly one option – push the orange button and it will spit out a printed number for you. So – curious minds want to know – how is this an improvement over the paper number dispensers in the ferias? You know, the ones that cost maybe USD 30, and look like this?
You’ve got to wonder how many thousand dollars that stupid touch-screen machine cost, whose functionality boils down to a single button. I mean, seriously, don’t you? Oh, but – government.
But it gets better. See E: not only is there a TV screen endlessly replaying UTE television ads without sound in a fraction of full screen, whose subtitles are not exactly effective in this context of size and distance, but there’s a little sound system below. So when they trigger the next number, a female voice says número setenta-seis, punto uno. (Yeah it did say “punto uno” instead of “puesto uno” – at least I think so.)
When it was my turn, I was immensely gratified when the woman at “punto uno” simple called out “setenta-seis” instead of triggering this ridiculous electronic voice.
And then it turned out she loved my story of the vacuum cleaner.
And maybe thought I was a complete idiot, but that’s OK: objective is to get the billing straightened out.
It’s all an adventure 😉