Death by a thousand cuts is not a new phrase, or title; in fact it is an old form of Chinese torture though I understand Caligula was partial to this form of amusement as well. That being said, this is what I am feeling right now.
In the past couple of years I have suffered an unending stream of financial woes brought on by various utility companies. First was the electric reseller that locked me into double the current rate for five years and I could get out of it by paying a mere $800 or something like that. Now before you think I’m totally stupid, I had been fed a line that the amount I’d be paying would actually be less than the current monthly rate due to another line that would rebate a certain amount. You have 30 days to cancel contracts like that after signing, but when your bill comes two months after the last one, well, you’re screwed. As I was. It took two painful years of bills that at times were in the range of $1200 and fighting to get it canceled – to their credit they did lower the amount to around the average rate but with the provincial benefit that gets added on to such accounts, it was high for the one year I suffered with that before I was legally able to tell them to stick it.
I did tell them that. And life was good. For one month. The next month the time of use hydro meters came in and my bill went from my happy $400 (this was the summer bill) to $770. Why? Who the hell knows but we’re walking around in the dark a lot these days, and laundry and dishes don’t happen until after 9:00 p.m. The next bill was about 2/3 which is better, but still very high.
Now comes the gas bill. I paid off my air conditioner and thought, yay! Here’s $100 a month less I’m paying. Am I? Nope. Like one of thousands of equal billing customers I was slammed with a $500+ gas bill because “oops, we made an error and it seems we underestimated something so sorry, you have to pay.” So I did and they recalculated my monthly bill to an amount that is, strangely enough, the same as what I was paying before when I was purchasing the air conditioner. And gas rates have gone down. How can that be? Who the hell knows.
I live in a town that up until a couple of years ago had reasonable water rates, much better than the neighboring big city. Then eegads, the system was substandard and had to be replaced immediately which would cause an increase in water rates. Then they put in new meters as well. My water bills doubled. Then last summer I got a bill of over $500 to catch up for a year and half worth of estimated bills. Seems their accounting system wasn’t working so they just guessed. There’s a big kerfluffle over that one so I, like many, haven’t paid the exorbitant mysteriously appearing bill while the town decides what they can do with themselves about this. My last bill was double the estimated double bill from before because it seems I have a leak. After the huge summer bill I did a bunch of replacing of flappers and leaking taps etc., and it seems that out of the goodness of their hearts they will give a one time rebate for people who’ve done repairs. Provided they give all the receipts. Now I don’t often hang on to all my assorted Canadian Tire receipts, especially when it’s for stuff I know I can’t return so I don’t have them. What do I do now? I fill in the form and say what the eff, how do I prove this. In the meantime my water bill is now as high as my hydro bills (and isn’t the similarity in names interesting?) so how do I deal with this? Who the hell knows.
Last night I came home to a lovely little pamphlet, beautifully printed and compliments of the provincial government explaining why they are increasing rates and helpful hints on when to live your life. We, according them, now need to be vampire bats in order to do such horrible energy hogging things like washing dishes and laundry and cooking and heating the house and reading and using appliances. If I want to live a normal life, well, there’s always a rock and pail of water and candles and a wood-stove to suit my needs.
There’s been a big hoopla in the news the last few days about a cap being put on internet usage so I thought I better check on our unlimited account. Effective today my unlimited account has a 25GB cap. I checked last month’s usage. Uploads and downloads combined, for 4 people using it, came to 167GB. At $2/GB over, well, if we do the same this month we’re screwed. That’s getting into hydro bill territory. So I phoned. There’s a limit they can charge more, that being $60 so then that merely puts the internet into water bill territory. I can add an overage amount for $15 more a month but that won’t take effect until next month. So how do we deal with this month? Who the hell knows.
If there’s anything I do know, it’s this: all of these bills are not being caused by extreme shortage or the weather or anything other than somebody signing something into effect without any recourse by the people who not only need these things but have no choice but to swallow it. I want solar, but apparently the one plan that allows people in my area to purchase by paying for it from what’s generated doesn’t work for older houses with trees nearby.
The problem with swallowing it is that even if I turn off all the lights, spend my evenings and nights huddled in blankets and only take baths once a week, my salary simply isn’t going up enough to deal with this.
I’m at my wits’ ends and I’m not the only one. I watch with a mixture of curiosity, hope and fear at the situation in the middle east, most particularly Egypt. We’re seeing a nation of fed up people. We’re seeing people made even more angry by the controls on their communications. The government clamps down, but enterprising people are finding a way to get the word out, and equally resourceful people are hearing those words.
My country, the one of which I am so proud and thankful to live in, is making it nearly impossible to use what are considered by most rational and sane people as necessities and now, as of today, the extent of my words are being limited on the internet.
What am I going to do, now that my utilities are effectively more than half my take home pay?
Who the hell knows. But what I do know is that add enough of me together, let a few people die of the heat or cold in this very extreme weather country and you have the makings for some pretty serious business. Just ask Egypt.
Sign the petition! http://openmedia.ca/meter
An American company offers to download stuff for Canadians and ship it to us on CD: www.canadiandownload.com