Wed | Jul 18, 2018

Gordon Robinson | Playing the mule!

Published:Tuesday | August 30, 2016 | 12:00 AM

I've always harboured feelings of sardonic superiority (accompanied by supercilious sneers) over those who abuse access to column inches whining about personal commercial travails.

Not anymore. The No Water Commission (NWC) has forced me to appreciate a good moan. We've been captive customers for 35 years, suffering through extended periods of non-existent water but regular billing. We've watched north coast floods from vantage points close to dry pipes.

"All day I've faced a barren waste

without the taste of water, cool water.

Old Dan and I with throats burned dry

and souls that cry for water;

cool, clear, water"

Recently, The Old Ball and Chain (who doubles, well, alright, quadruples as accountant; bearer; personal assistant; and banker) allowed a mild expletive to escape her dainty lips while perusing a document retrieved from one of those envelopes with translucent panels that scream "Bad news!"

"What's up?" I enquired compassionately. Since her expletives are usually reserved for my perceived transgressions, I was overjoyed to accommodate venting about somebody else.

"It's the water bill" she replied "it's more than twice the usual."

"Possibly a leak," I suggested helpfully. She stared at me darkly. "Don't be stupid. I regularly check for leaks. Obviously, something's wrong with the meter."

Oddly, before receipt of that big bill, an unsolicited (now considered suspicious) visit from a NWC technician had resulted in a meter inspection that pronounced it fit. Undaunted, Old BC sent NWC two unanswered email complaints. Frustrated, she called a plumber. Her trusty plumber, known to us only as 'Dandy', had recently joined the mass exodus of Jamaican tradesmen to Canada (as had Richard, her carpenter, handyman and general contractor), leaving her with a skeleton staff of butler, footman, housekeeper (and, of course, old faithful landscaper and jack-of-all-trades 'Mr White') to tackle the daily hustle and bustle of a 1500 square-foot town house. Dandy recommended a successor before bolting, but Old BC wasn't yet accustomed to him. However, he arrived after about a day (Dandy would appear almost supernaturally as she hung up the phone) and advised NWC's meter was leaking slightly. "Look" he growled "wata bubbling up right beside the ting. Any heediat can see sey it a leak."

So she personally delivered a letter to NWC, including one year's billing history; reporting the leak (with a concession it wouldn't account for doubling the bill); and concluding the meter was defective.

Two more trips from NWC technicians later (saw no leak) and a third trip this time pre-arranged as a joint inspection with Old BC's increasingly irritated plumber, finally resulted in the meter's removal "for testing" and a new meter installed. Meanwhile, Old BC wrote letters of gradually increasing testiness; made more visits to NWC, resulting in agreement that she pay her normal monthly amount in exchange for a "hold" on the account.




"Keep a-movin, Dan; dontcha listen to him, Dan.

He's a devil, not a man

and he spreads the burning sand with water."

Magically, the next two monthly bills returned to previous levels. Just as Old BC was about to breathe sighs of relief, she noticed a "carry forward" of the "outstanding" amount. Certain this was a clerical error, she collected her documentary proof (again) and limped down to NWC to collect her credit note, only to be told there was no mistake.

"What the fork?" she exhorted (simultaneously disowning her polite Finnish ancestry and switching to full Jamaican fabric). "The meter is defective. Have you tested it?"

"No," was the reply, "but you must pay the full amount."

"WHY HAVEN'T YOU TESTED THE OLD METER?" Old BC asked furiously. The young man (customer service) effectively admitted NWC never tests meters because they're considered defect-proof. Then he threatened disconnection if Old BC didn't pay.

"I know it sounds logical something was wrong with the old meter," the stand-up comedian disguised as customer service agent advised, "but our meters aren't defective."

"Dan, can ya see that big, green tree

where the water's runnin' free

and it's waiting there for you and me?

Water; cool, clear, water."

Bob Nolan wrote Cool Water in 1936 about a man, his mule and a mirage. The song has been covered by many greats, including Marty Robbins, Hank Williams, Frankie Laine and Tom Jones. NWC never tires of playing the mule. Its perennial promise of service is a mirage. So, when passing my home, you'll spot a red, rotund figure puttering around with a divining rod. It's me. I'll have the last laugh yet!

Peace and love.

Update: Bureaucracy strikes again! Old BC wrote to NWC's president and OUR making official complaints. One Ms Liana Haffenden from OUR phoned Old BC to say OUR won't act while customer is communicating with NWC. She must readdress her NWC letter to OUR before they'll proceed. DWL!

- Gordon Robinson is an attorney-at-law. Email feedback to