A young professional’s take on the trials and tribulations of everyday life in New York City.
I love Con Edison.
Is that weird? It’s kind of weird. I mean, who loves Con Edison? People only complain about their electric companies—bills are too high, power goes out, bills are really, really high. But that’s not on my mind. It’s on my husband’s mind, since he’s responsible for paying that bill each month while I prefer to remain “in the dark” on the matter (har har), due to my extremely bad habit of forgetting to turn lights off when I leave rooms. But that is neither here nor there.
I love Con Ed because I love my friendly, neighborhood meter reader.
Honestly, I don’t think I’d ever met my neighborhood meter reader before I lived in my current building. Perhaps it’s because it’s an old structure, but every apartment has its own meter. Ours is in the kitchen, taking up valuable cabinet space. And once every two months or so, our Con Ed lady comes along at about 8:30 a.m., rings all the doorbells on our floor and yells “CON EDISON” extremely loudly so we and all the neighbors can hear her from the bathroom where we are drying our hair. She goes into the first door that opens, but I’ll still stop what I’m doing and leave my door ajar a crack so that she can come in when she’s done at the previous apartment. The first time this happened, I was extremely terrified.
Thinking about this now, it sort of seems like a recipe for home invasion, and perhaps I should wait for a second buzz so that I can be sure she is who I think she is. Moving on.
You might think that a stranger ringing your bell and coming inside at 8:30 on a weekday morning sounds like an unbelievable imposition. But my Con Ed lady is so nice, so friendly, so personable without being annoying, that I am perfectly thrilled to have our little bi-monthly chat despite the fact that I’ve almost never finished a cup of coffee beforehand. She genuinely inquires about how I’m spending my holidays and tells me about where she’s spending hers. She makes little jokes and then asks about Gus, who has gotten so used to her that he often doesn’t budge from the couch when she walks through the door. She likes to say he’s watching the news, which he kind of is. It’s weird. Anyway, last week, she noticed him limping a little, and I explained that he may have early symptoms of hip dysplasia, a common condition for Labs and Lab mixes. She got very concerned. But not for fake. For real.
“What can you do for it?” she asked gravely.
“I’m not sure there’s a whole lot,” I said. “But he doesn’t seem to be in real pain.”
“Well have you taken him to the vet?”
“Yes,” I said.
“And what did they say?”
You get the idea. It was an actual conversation. Not an uninterested remark from someone who is trying to politely wrap things up and move on with her day.
I like to imagine that my Con Ed lady is kind of like the closest I’ll ever come to that 1950s experience of having a milkman who everyone knows by name and who comes in during breakfast to say hi to the kids and tip his hat to the missus. It makes me feel like maybe we haven’t gotten so far ahead of ourselves that these types of consumer relationships can still exist, even though they’re few and awfully far between. A service that could be a mundane chore for the employee and an uncomfortable inconvenience for the customer has become . . . nice. It’s just nice. Nobody is disgruntled. Nobody is annoyed. How often does that happen? Roughly never, I think.
The whole interaction never lasts longer than five or six minutes, which is the perfect length of time for it never to get annoying, too. Then she wishes me a happy whatever month is upcoming, gets in some early holiday greetings, and goes on to the next apartment. Gus and I continue about our morning routine, watching the news and mindlessly walking in and out of rooms with only a vague idea of what I’m doing and what time it is, leaving all the lights on as I go.
Dear Readers: While I am rarely at a loss for words, I’m always grateful for column ideas. Please feel free to e-mail me your suggestions.
Nina Pajak is a writer and publishing professional living with her husband on the Upper West Side.
The Nina Archives: