Paying the Water Bill Round Nine Hundred Seventy Six

May 31st, 2011

I struggle with paying the water bill. I used to write about these struggles on a semi-annual basis, but sometimes in life it really is best to move on.  However, a few short months ago, I received yet another letter from my Rural Water Department, chastising me for once again not sending them the proper funds. Evidently I had miscalculated and wound up under-paying my bill by quite a significant amount.  This oversight resulted in the usual letter written in angry red ink with lots of arrows and exclamation points and circles and double underlines emphasizing my error, from the person at the Rural Water Department whom I refer to as ‘the red ink lady at the RWD’.

Why do I struggle so with paying the water bill?   It’s a long story, but let’s just say that our local RWD places far too much responsibility of the monitoring and reporting of household water usage on the actual inhabitants of said households. Also – in order to get the correct numbers to send to the RWD (along with the proper remittance) a long uphill hike is involved followed by reaching into a spidery hole, followed by trying to read numbers inside of a spidery hole, followed by writing down those numbers in a shaky spidery hole panic, and since none of those things are particularly pleasant, I usually opt to guess the amount of water we have used for the month.  Turns out – I am not a very good guesser.  And then I get another letter from the ‘red ink lady at the RWD’.

In protest of the latest red-inked letter  I received from the red ink lady at the RWD, I actually included a note with my delinquent payment and asked why the corrective letters are always written in red ink? Why not the more calming blue… or the more understated black? Even a peppy purple or a soothing mint green would be better than the caustic red that makes one feel like one has miserably failed an essay exam.

To this she replied in our next bill – “Red ink is the color typically used by accountants.”



Maybe I will send her one of those fancy pens with all the different colors of ink for Christmas. Then she can quickly switch from ‘angry accounting red’ to ‘not at all antagonizing blue’ when she scratches out the next letter of reprimand to me.

Which brings me to my latest chapter in my personal RWD wrestling match.

I sat down to pay bills on Monday, but I ran out of 44 cent stamps before I got to the water bill. Fortunately I had a huge collection of one, two and three cent stamps accumulated over years and years of stamp price raising. I decided to use them all up on the water bill. I wonder what the ‘red ink lady’ will think? Maybe I should have drawn a smiley face somewhere to make sure she knew I meant no harm?  But as you can see… there really wasn’t room for a smiley face.

The Country Doctor was horrified that I sent this letter.

But the Country Doctor has never reached his hand into a spidery hole after an uphill climb has he?

So his horror is somewhat pale in comparison to mine.


  • 337mom:

    Now that is funny!

  • How does the RWD know that the numbers are wrong? If it involves hauling their tushies out there and reading numbers in the spider hole themselves, then why don’t they just do that instead of having the land owners do it? Even if they only did it twice a year, they could bill quarterly or even monthly based on the prior year’s water usage, with adjustments based on the actual numbers. And then your water bill would be a somewhat consistent number all year long, with the high usage months offset by the lower usage months.

    Or does this just make too much sense and consequently explain why I’m not in government?

    • Rechelle:

      They do check once a year. They also are better at adding than I am.

  • poppy:

    I bet you get a letter from the postmaster written entirely in red ink.

  • barb:

    Hilarious!! You had me at the spidery hole. This is why I don’t live in a rural area. It is also why I own leather gardening gloves, I have been known to clean rooms and sort laundry in them. I have a thing about spidery holes.

  • susan:

    LOVE IT!!!!! Every time you pasted one of those blasted stamps hopefully difused some of your frustration. Now if you had cable and had to deal with the abominable COMCAST that is another matter. NO customer service that is accomodating. Over the years I have ended up in tears numerous times due to apathy and incompetance on their part. My adult daughter called me last week after talking over 2 hours, taking down names, about her plight with internet and cable problems. when she called me here at work to vent her voice broke due to frustration. This is NOT the norm for either one of us, but COMCAST somehow evokes this . About a year ago when they changed things that required a cable card, I called 5 days straight and was given a different story each time. They hadnt worked the bugs out yet and on day 3 after a long day at work I found that the system was still not working and when I called ended up cursing the apathetic woman out. I even said FU – and hung up and poured some vodka into some lemonade and gulped it. I rarely, rarely drink too! Here I am over 60 too. Not good.

    • Rose:

      You are my new BFF! I am over 60 also and I just said FU! to the receptionist at the air conditioning office. We called yesterday a.m. to request a service call on our AC unit. Today, at 5:00 p.m., after two calls in two days questioning WTF is going on and how come we have heard NOTHING, we got service. I would have been so happy with a phone call stating that they were backed up, but have no fear, they were going to service our AC. Just an acknowledgement would have satisfied me. BTW, it has been over 90 for the last two days and we have not had any AC!

      • susan:


        I can so empathize how necessary A/C is. I live in Houston and it can be a living hell with heat and humidity. I grew up here and have never, EVER, gotten used to the heat. Supposed to be a record temp today for June. Heller! !!!!! – whats new with that crap. It’s not even July or August. Wait. September is just as horrible and most of October. Hope you get your A/C working and write a letter to the company. If nothing else it may ease some anger. Its the apathy of these companies that is so horrible. They dont give a shit.

  • LucyJoy:

    You go, Girl! Killing two birds with one stone: Protesting the red ink lady & the USPS stupid postal increases with one fell swoop! Awesome-ness!

  • Erin:

    Nice! I would be in trouble if I was responsible for reporting our water (or any other) usage…fortunately our RWD does read our meters. And I was actually impressed with them – we’re getting a meter put out on our new property and they were really willing to work with us on where it was going to be placed so as to not cost us TONS of extra money on our personal pipe that runs to the building location. I figured they would just say “it goes on the side of your driveway, end of story.” But they were actually very accommodating!

    I have also discovered why people build so close to the street…running utilities costs $$$!

  • Maggee:

    I wish I had the nerve to use up all my small cent stamps like that!

  • Love it! And have been tempted to do the same to a company that won’t let me pay online though they have every capability to do so.

    Is it not possible to install a meter gauge on/near your house to avoid the whole spidery hole? Our small town also makes us read our own meters, but being in town the meters are typically on/in the house. One bill I was very glad to get rid of when we moved out of town and onto our own well water. Of course when the power goes out…

  • Sandy:

    our neighbor used to pay his water bill at 4:55 on a friday…in pennies. after a while, they just stopped counting them!

    • Sara:

      Sandy – Maybe your neighbor was my dad. My brother was born prematurely, and before the hospital would discharge him from the NICU they required a ‘down payment’–regardless of the fact that our family had insurance. My dad was so mad about that that he paid the couple hundred dollar bill all in pennies!

  • Spinny:

    You should have put all of the stamps on upside down. Shirley Feeney taught me that means, “I love you.”

    • Lgirl:

      My Mom taught me an upside down stamp means kiss the Queen’s a$$.

      • p:

        Haha, I guess if you’re Canadian, it’s a bit rude to put the QEII stamps on upside down!

        • p:

          (And if you’re American, you wouldn’t /have/ QEII stamps.)

  • Sue from UK:

    Green ink is reserved for the use of crazy people. I used to work at the Churchill Archives Centre in Cambridge, it has all of the great man’s papers, plus Lady Thatcher’s and assorted royals, heroes and politicians, trust me, the crazies all write in green.

    • Kait:

      Was it really green ink they used or has it just faded to green?

  • Kathy from NJ:

    I used to use my old stamps on alimony envelopes (from husband to ex). I may have even purchased small denominations for that purpose….

    And to Susan re Comcast – I have Cablevision (they’re just as bad) and solved the problem by going to their office IN PERSON and talking to a real live English speaking person.

  • I do the stamp thing when I get a parking ticket here in our urban environment. That sort of passive-aggressive behavior (of which I am quite supportive) crosses all environmental barriers. I have a friend who sends his parking ticket fees in on a check that he has torn apart and taped back together. They still cash it. Another friend uses a sharpie to cross out all identifying information on their ticket so that some clerk has to go searching for it. I am on the fence about that one.

    I am glad I don’t have to stick my hand in a spidery hole to pay my bills.

  • I don’t live in a rual water district and thankfully don’t have to deal with dark, spidery holes, yet I still have issues with our water bill. Specifically, I have issues with the fact that the county has set up two separate entities to deal with incoming water and outgoing water (wastewater). They have nowhere near the same billing cycle, so it’s inevitible that while I pay the water bill, I always forget the sewer bill. Whether it comes to my house or leaves my house, it’s all water, why can’t it all be on one bill? My tin-foil hat wearing-conspiracy theory-believing side is convinced that this is all a ploy by the county to get more money out of its’ citizens. My more rational side just thinks it’s a big pain in the tutkis.

  • Deb:

    I think I’ll do this when paying my cable, internet and phone bill. The local company was purchased by a co. from Georgia not too long ago. Hate, hate, hate, hate, hate them!
    Thanks for the good laugh! Can’t wait to hear the response from red ink lady.

  • Cat McKenney:

    I only recently discovered your site. I’ve enjoyed following your adventures and reading about your world. Today’s entry was hilarious! Please, oh please, give us a follow up when you can. I can’t wait to hear what the “red ink lady at the RWD” has to say next!
    Do you think she might feel that RWD stands for “Red Woman Doodling”? Or “Red Writing Danger”? “Or “Red Warning Doodler”?Or maybe “Really Whiny Dignitary”?
    Thanks again for the chuckle.
    (the New Yorker who misses the country, but not the spidery holes)

  • OMD I so feel your pain on this one. I sent a ‘like’ letter to my utility company. Their response – nothing. They simply cashed my check. Why oh why can’t the bureaucrats play along???

  • Kait:

    I will comment when I have finished laughing.

  • Irma:

    Red ink = poor taste in this day and age. Our accounting department isn’t even allowed to order red pens or print anything in red, for heaven’s sake, because it is so negative. Me no likey your water department, send them a bunch of purple pens with your cheque!

    • JJ:

      But then wouldn’t purple be associated with negative? I like purple better than red – I would rather it stay cheery – red can keep its negativity!
      Why put that stigma on another color?

  • My dirty rotten secret is that when our rural power company is an asshat to us I purposely over pay the bill by one cent or under pay by one cent. That way it is automatically kicked out of the automated process and then it has to be hand processed which they hate.

  • farmgirl:

    I never heard of having to read your own numbers on the water meter. What a strange foreign concept. Here we have our own well but the power and light comes to read the meter on our house and sends a bill accordingly. IF they know you got it wrong…..why don’t they send a bill and tell you the correct amount so you can pay it???? They’re just asking for trouble letting people go look in a spider hole themselves……

  • DirtyKSmama - Nikki:

    Thanks, I needed this laugh! (and all the laughs from the comments -best people around!)

    We have our own water well. No choice. Big $ up front, no bills later. But twice a year, when it’s too wet, too dry, a squirrel farts in the wheat field, or something, the aquifer releases a bunch of mud, it overwhelms our filter, and I get brown, opaque water coming thru my pipes. Last night was one of those times, and the husband and I were up until 2 a.m., cleaning the filter and flushing water until it was clear, then draining the mud out of the hot water tank, scooping it out of the toilet tanks, etc., cussing country living and longing for the water system to be someone else’s problem. We would just write a check. But I have low tolerance for desk ladies with red pens. And I would rather scoop mud out of the bottom of toilet tanks once or twice a year than stick my hand in a spidery hole every month.

  • Martha in Kansas:

    I once put so many small stamps on an envelope, it kicked it up to the next weight and required even more stamps. I ran out of room and they refused to consider stamps on the back, so I hung them over the edge.

  • oh, I hated having to do our own water usage and send it in. I was always late on the bill. Our Rural Water Dept has changed over to them reading the meter, but honestly I don’t think they have been here in months. I think they only come every couple of months and use some sort of algorythim or other accountant trick to figure out what your bill is, because my bill is almost always the same amount. One of these days I will look in that spidery hole and verify the bill myself.

  • Good point! Why not soothing blue ink?!