I recently decided to switch energy providers – I’ve done it loads of times so surely it wouldn’t be a big deal to sort out. My new provider asked me for meter readings. Simple enough but my current provider decided a while back that I should have a smart meter.
Smart would surely mean better. Smart means I don’t have to submit readings. Smart means a simpler life for me!
The problem was the new smart meter doesn’t actually give you a meter reading and the meter itself was blank. The provider’s app was no help and wanted to direct me towards a web chat thing, which seemed like a pain so I rang them up.
Once through I had to punch in my account number, date of birth and postcode, generally a couple of times as the automated voice kept saying it hadn’t got it. I then got put through to that nice Michael Bubble who serenaded me a song until I got to a real person.
I told the real person that I needed them to give me the reading that the meter was beaming to them but wouldn’t share this with me. He said he would need to transfer me. I got more of Michael and a song about being unstoppable.
The second person said that they weren’t the right person and would have to transfer me again.
Michael was once again imploring me to give him one good reason why he should never make me change but I was going to change provider if it killed me. Another lass was warbling against how unstoppable she was but she was not going to stop me getting to my new energy nirvana.
By the time I got to person three I was steaming. She asked again for all of the information I’d punched in thrice. She said she was sorry with all the sincerity of Theresa May. Then she saved the best till last. She told me that to get a meter reading I needed to press 9 on the meter and hey presto it lit up with the information. She told me the information about this was available on their website and could have been accessed by me using the help feature. In essence, she told me I was an idiot. It was all so obvious. I felt weary and a bit dim.
Only if it was so obvious why couldn’t the smart meter tell me that? Why wasn’t it clear how to get the ‘oh so simple information’ on the app? And if it was so bloomin’ obvious why couldn’t call centre muggins 1 and 2 tell me before I spent half an hour mostly listening to Michael and the unstoppable lass?
All of this stuff – increasing computerisation, time saving systems, labour saving devices and self-service – is sold to us for our benefit. It will make our lives easier, save time and be less stressful!
However the cynic in me believes this is not for our benefit, it’s to minimise staffing, to help the firms bottom line. These sorts of encounters are a sign of the times. Last week I was struck by a quote within an article about stretched mental health services – one mental health trust representative said: “More people of all ages are becoming ill as a result of the pressures of modern life.
”So that’s it – modern life is bad for you”. Our supposed advances often leave us frantic and stressed. If modern life is the problem then increased funding and better services whilst necessary and helpful won’t be enough – for better health and balance we need life to be fundamentally different.
For me the heart of our flawed modern life is the myth and illusion that life is something for mankind to conquer and control – it’s this approach to life that leads to life as struggle as some get ahead and many fall by the wayside.
We’ve all known situations and relationships that are fractious and drain us. However, we’ve also all experienced kindness and generosity, empathy and co-operation. A better life is a life where we contribute to the world by investing in our – relationships, workplaces and communities.
Over the years I have found my faith to be the solution, the counter balance to an overly busy, pressured life without space and time. Romans encourages us “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will” and indeed Ecclesiastes 3 reminds us that there is a season for all things. But if you read on in chapter 3 is also says “know that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to do good while they live. That each of them may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all their toil – this is the gift of God. I know that everything God does will endure for ever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it”.
May you have space and time this Christmas to celebrate, reflect and connect with God, family and friends.Tags: Dial M, Magazine