He’s a big fellow. Uniformed for instant ID as an Aurora field officer, he moves up my steps onto the balcony and I can’t dismiss that ancient instinct of space invasion.
He’s here to check my meter.
“It’s a Pay As You Go meter, mate, it doesn’t need checking.”
He’s not been apprised obviously by the Aurora PR team, that an Aurora smile is really the skeleton key to most households…and grim-faced and determined, he enters my humble, slightly unkempt castle, my study and a work-late sleep-out.
His work is silent and efficient, but never-the-less an intrusion. I have “Boughey tapes” strewn across my desk with classified files from an uncompleted publishing project. ..and an invisible DO NOT ENTER sign on the doorway.
He informs me that quarterly checks will be made and I reiterate my welcoming speech: “it’s Pay As You Go, mate,” and I tell him that I’m not happy with the sudden need for regular checks. Perhaps he’s just new on the job, geographically disorientated and far too big to throw out on his ear.
This was three months ago. Fast track to the present. This time a woman, uniformed identically materialises in my front yard, levitates swiftly up the steps and appears at the door in the presence of a household friend.
“I’m here to read your meter?”
Is it the new utilitarianism, with roots in Arianism that sees an army of Utes whizzing to and from houses and water-pumps and poo-pumps with cloned unsmiling super-efficiency at the wheels and doorsteps?
“I don’t think so. Its a PAYG meter…I prefer you…”
And Madame Aurora turns rapidly and is gone. The meter is unread but still processing use-wattage pre-paid from a magic plastic card inserted into its gluttonous, nymphomanic nether-regions
And so in her wake, I’m half expecting by some secret magic switch known only unto electricity utilities, to have my power cut off. But no, I check my conspiracy-monitor and decide to write a nice letter to Aunty Aurora instead. But it’s a bad time of the year for ether-based communications. So many baby photos and beach photos and dogs-on-beach photos are being i-phoned out of Orford, it’s a wait-until-late syndrome before I can email a long letter that translates into these basic points.
When we succumbed to the Aurora siren-song of PAYG, NO MORE BILLS, NO MORE SURPRISES policy, at great expense we converted from the old to the new. This meant no more regular visits by meter-readers…disappearing into the dust of yesteryear when the HEC was regarded as the fourth-tier of government.
The old meter with wondrous whirling silver CD wheels was replaced with the new PAYG ... yes, a little black box that gets its regular sustenance from a little thin plastic card, that converts at the local post office, dollars into power. Yes! We have come of age. The carport that housed the meter-box was converted into my private studio cum-sleep-out…and I thrive, castled in self-exile ... until I received a response to my letter that translates simply as being genuinely apologetic at the change of policy. And that the Minister for Energy, Bryan Green has sent you back to the dark ages…and that’s what’s gonna happen if you deny quarterly access to your PAYG meter…and he doesn’t give a rat’s arse about your Utopian visions of privacy and intrusion by the New Tasmanian Reich. And yes, by the power vested in us, we have no option, nor discretion to vary the sentence, but to cut your power off, pal…make that Paul, a former HEC PR man still with good mates trapped inside the new-look Bryan Green Beast now back on my doorstep.
Well, for the sake of peace and goodwill at time of writing on this wonderful jingoistic flag-waving, beer-swilling, dog-barking Australia Day, I will reluctantly open the door to the regime of PAYG meter-readers, but only on ONE condition…that the skeleton key also contains a password ... please…and with a smile of course.
Watch this spot…for an election is just around the corner. Maybe Bryan, the ministerial Nong. From Woolongong, might just get that smug smile wiped off his face…and we’ll be back to stand-alone non-intrusive PAYG meters again.
But then again he’s from the Bible belt. Just mention Jesus on the hustings and you’re elected. But in this age of techno-miracles, perhaps his Bass constituents have learned to read between the smile-lines ... with their own take on this new policy…Pray As You Go back to where you came from Bryan Green.