why lying is a bad idea and other life lessons

It takes a lot to make me angry. And I don’t mean a bit annoyed or somewhat discouraged. I mean seething. Fighting mad.

Life is filled with unexpected circumstances. We never know if we will be in a fender bender on the way to work or if a tree will fall on our house. Because so many situations are out of our control, on some level we learn to accept this as part of our daily challenges.

Bills come and go and if we’re smart, we set up a budget so that we are prepared to pay them. When one has lived in the same home over a period of years, let’s just say 20, it stands to reason that one’s water bill may remain a constant amount. In fact, when one’s children leave home, it should actually go down.

Imagine with me, if you will, the surprise I encountered when the February water bill had a total amount due of $387.51 when the January bill was only $29.92. Water bills reflect the activity of the month before, indicating that it was life as usual during December when everyone was home but suddenly when my husband and I went back to work in January, leaving only our dog at the house, something went terribly wrong.

We were told the meter had to be replaced in December. Ok, water company, change your meter. We don’t care. We were then alerted that the new meter recorded our January usage at 62,500 instead of the regular 1,900-2,000 gallons of monthly water usage. Wait a minute.

What I would imagine many gallons of water to look like.

We did our own meter test and called it in. As if they were going to take our word for it. Right.

What I would imagine the gallons of water we actually use looks like.

So this is when I called the water company and had a lovely chat with a customer service representative who said she would need to speak with her supervisor since something was way off with the amount of water the meter read. She got back on the phone, said she had reviewed the history of our water usage and her supervisor said he needed to go to corporate with this issue and she put our account on hold for 30 days. She then did the absolute worst thing anyone can ever do: SHE GAVE ME HOPE THAT THIS ISSUE WOULD MOST LIKELY BE RESOLVED.

Though we have not reached the 30-day mark for the hold, we received a new bill adding the $32.08 we owe for March and the $30.33 we owe for February to the original amount! I could not believe we now had a bill for over $440!

Certainly there had to be an error. That nice customer service lady had assured me . . . oh, I see what happened. She made up an answer that would end our discussion nicely. I would have hope. She would feel better about her job. With any luck, she would never have to speak to me again. There would be no day of reckoning.

Today I called and spoke with a different customer service representative who was not going to budge. “Yes, ma’am, I see the notes on your account. You are responsible for the bill.” She would speak to her supervisor and return to our call more determined than ever to let me know that my only recourse would be to have the water company come out to test the meter. If the meter is working correctly, guess what? Yes, I would be responsible to pay a bill that in no way reflects any amount of water we could ever possibly use during a one-month period!

Because I am not afraid to fight for what is right, I got to speak to the supervisor myself. I was told that our toilets were most likely leaking. Just during the month of January and then they miraculously healed themselves? Yes, she said. This sort of thing happens. Who knew? Or maybe the outdoor spigot was left on. In January? Yes, she said. I told her this was an outrageous error they had made and it was morally wrong to make us pay for it. She carefully moved along to the payment plan. I told her that amount of money was an impossible sum. She asked me how much I could pay. $30, you know, the amount of a regular monthly bill. Ok, so what about a payment plan? What about it. Our budget is what it is. I told her we could double our payment and start to pay off their mistake. She said it would take 14 months at that rate. Good. She said if ever we could pay a larger sum, that would be helpful. I have no intention of being helpful.

This toilet is not leaking either.

There are a couple of things at play here. One is obviously our lack of funds to handle much in the way of an unexpected bill. We have had enough of the unexpected to prove this theory. The other is false hope.

False hope is telling someone something that is either a lie or empty promise.

Being lied to or about is what always makes me angry. It is how my last two jobs ended: one after 11 years; the other after only two years and a half. Pretending that things are fine when they are not is deceptive. Making up stuff is also wrong. Telling someone one thing and doing another is unconscionable. We can always hope for a brighter future but making someone believe that future is most likely going to happen, well, that is why my breathing has not yet returned to normal. Call me naive. Call me whatever you want. Just don’t actually call me. I generally do not answer my phone. Yes, I forgive, even when apologies are not forthcoming. But that is not the point. The point is that the road to hell is paved with good intentions, so even if you don’t mean to lie, you are still going to hell if you do!

(Of course, I also believe in repentance and I’m not in charge so there is still hope for those who choose to lie. This is not false hope either, at least according to my belief system. In any case, handle your business.)

Truth is a tricky thing. We each have our own perspectives and opinions. We may all arrive at a different truth, the validity of each point intact. Sometimes it takes a court of law to come to a truth, and well, that isn’t foolproof either.

Maybe I should take some part of the blame. Maybe I should have never believed that the first customer service representative had any ability to do anything. For all I know she may never have even consulted a supervisor. It may have been customer service procedure to get a customer off the phone before anyone gets angry. The calls may be recorded and this one ended ever so nicely with false hope.

And the supervisor I spoke to today–well, she is getting paid to do just what she did. Listen to the raging customer, come up with an explanation regardless of how improbable, and set up the payment plan. Because at the end of the call there is only one thing that is going to happen: a payment will be forthcoming.

Like so many situations in life, there comes a point in which one is just simply screwed. Lies are believed for reasons that will never be fully understood. Lies are told and lives uprooted because some people just cannot be trusted. Gallons and gallons of mysterious water apparently come splashing out of an unbroken pipe to be measured by an unbroken meter so that someone other than the water company can be made responsible for them.

Maybe Nessie drank the water.

In the end, I’m grateful that I now work for a school and because of the coronavirus have some much needed time off to contemplate my life. I am grateful to have indoor plumbing and clean water, as much of the world does not. I am thankful that I have somehow again found my voice in the midst of adversity and can stand up for what I believe to be right.

One final note: I am looking forward to receiving compensation from our president during this time of pandemic, though believing that this will happen is problematic. No, I will not be using it to pay the water bill. I will instead apply it directly to what the Internal Revenue Service says we owe on unpaid taxes with calculated interest since 2016 we did not find out about until two years after the so-called fact! We paid our taxes and I fought with customer service representative after customer service representative for nearly a year. Can you imagine a worse job than working for the IRS? Can you even conceive of someone calling in who is not upset? I sent in processed checks proving we had paid. We had our accountant intervene on our behalf though he warned us that in the end they will never stop until the bill is paid. In full. Whether or not we actually owe the money. He did not give us false hope. He told us the grim reality and though it doesn’t sound pretty, I am always grateful for someone who respects me enough to tell me the truth.

There are just some things in life that cannot be helped. Death and taxes, false hope given by people who cannot seem to keep themselves from giving it, and water bills that just flat do not make any sense.

Breathing normally now. Rant over. 

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