The future again, with one hand she gives and with the other she takes
In the mother’s household there is a request to read the electricity meters, of which there are two in this household, a single one (for normal electricity consumption) and a double one (for high tariff during the day and low tariff at night for the electric storage heaters). This is what it looked like in 2021.
I scan the QR code on the request letter and show the mother how beautifully her address is entered in the form that appears. Okay, it used to be printed on the cards that you could or still can send in, but there’s still one of those at the bottom of the form. But still: nice!
Then I go into the basement and notice that the fuse box doesn’t look the same as it used to. One of the two meters was replaced by a new digital device while I was away!
It shows all sorts of things, but I can’t figure out what I have to enter. I grumble and wonder if I really need to go look for the instructions for the new meter just to be able to read it.
First I enter the information from the first, still mechanical meter. This is as simple as always.
Then I slowly understand that everything it knows is shown one after the other on the digital meter’s display. I’m not allowed to press the device’s single button, but I have to wait until the information I need appears on its own at some point and then write it down, first the one for the high rate, then the one for the low rate.
Now the only thing standing between me and successful submission is an error message:
The question “Do you want to continue?” It’s purely rhetorical here, because I want to continue because I entered the number correctly and the counter doesn’t show anything else. But that’s not possible, the only option is to change the number.
The meter with the indigestible number is the one that counts the daily heating consumption. However, this heater has not used any electricity during the day for the past year, it heats up at night.
With the help of my algorithm* empathy, I sense that someone has confused a “greater than” with a “equal to or greater than” and increase the meter reading by a fictitious kilowatt hour.
It still does not work.
I delve deeper into the algorithm, sense that it might find a consumption of just one kilowatt hour per year implausible and add another fictitious kilowatt hour.
The form can now be sent.
The mother is not happy with my report of success. “But then I have to pay for your made-up kilowatt hours!” – “It will even out over the years,” I say, “at some point we will turn the heating on during the day and then everything will be fine again.”
* Here I think for the first time I use the word “algorithms” where I would have previously said “software”. Unfortunately, but the language change.